Leaps of Faith

Posted in How-To, Observations

Jumping off the cliff.
Pulling the trigger.
Taking the plunge.

Whatever you want to call it, I’ve just done it.

As of July 1, I’ve left the comfortable confines of corporate life to make my own mark on the world. I’ve joined the ranks of the willingly self-employed in order to realize my vision of …

Crap. What’s my vision again? If I can’t remember it, it must not have been that important. And if it’s not that important, how can I make any money at it? Oh no. Maybe it’s not too late to ask for my old job back…

And so it goes. From the soaring heights of self-empowerment to the depths of despair and debt in five seconds flat. An emotional roller coaster.

But also necessary. Alan Moore, who wrote V for Vendetta and Watchmen among other popular comics and graphic novels, described his own transition experience:

Quitting my day job and starting my life as a writer was a tremendous risk. It was a fool’s leap, a shot in the dark. But anything of any value in our lives whether that be a career, a work of art, a relationship, will always start with such a leap.

But now that I’ve leapt, how can I be sure to land on my feet rather than my face?  It’s inevitable that from time to time I’ll feel like a fool and regret my decision. That’s fear talking. What Seth Godin calls the “Lizard Brain.”

Consistent action and focused intent are the only ways I’ve been able to overcome it and get things done.  I’ve picked up a little trick that seems to help. I even use it at the gym. Once I’ve picked my goal—let’s say, to run two miles—I ignore it. Instead of focusing on the Big Goal, which inevitably makes me anxious and want to quit before I embarrass myself by failing to achieve it, I focus on the little milestones.

When I’m running, I don’t count how many laps I have to go, I count how many laps I’ve made and only think about making two quick turns on the track to get me to my next half-lap goal. The chatter in my brain sounds something like this:

5… 5… just have to get to 5½.
5½… 5½… two quick turns and I’ll be at 6.
6… 6… just have to get to 6½.

Before long, I’ve tricked myself into running 18 laps and I’ve accomplished by two mile goal.

E. L. Doctorow said that “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Leaping, running, driving.  The metaphors may be a bit mixed, but the advice is still solid: Take a chance and keep at it, and you’ll get there.