Taking Big steps forward.
New opportunities can be intimidating.
It feels like you are walking up normal stairs in life, but then they double in height and depth all of a sudden, making you have to pick up your pace and take much bigger strides to get over them.
This is what I’ve been experiencing in the last two weeks. Opportunities for big growth have opened up to me that seem crazy, much bigger than I’ve had before; but at the same time, when I look back at how far I’ve come up to this point, I believe that I am ready.
These types of big steps take discernment, because of the level of commitment involved. You have to lunge forward and commit to a direction if you’re going to make it. If you’re going to jump over a gap, you have to get a running start, otherwise you won’t make the distance to the other side.
Preparing for and chasing these big opportunities has taught me a lot in a short amount of time, so I’d like to share some of the lessons/process that I’ve learned through recent experience so that you can have some insight into taking the opportunities that are in front of you.
Here are 3 steps to approach big decisions:
Before you take the running start toward the opportunity, you need perspective.
To have clear vision on these things, we need to reach out to others for counsel.
It’s easy to be excited about an opportunity ahead, and that excitement can blind us to only seeing the Pros and not the Cons.
Before I make big decisions, including these recent ones, I’ve sought out counsel from trusted people like my wife, mentors, and close friends. These people love me and have my best interests in mind, so it gives me great perspective on the situation when they ask me questions about the opportunity. It forces me to dig for more details, find the facts, and learn more about what’s at stake. Also, I trust these people’s opinion and their instincts, so I take their responses and input into account when choosing what I’m going to do.
In addition to getting counsel, take time to self-reflect:
- I evaluate how the opportunity influences my purpose: Can this help accelerate my momentum forward? Can I learn new things from this opportunity? Will I be aligning myself with people/situations that strengthen my character? Does this align with my passions/gifts/strengths?
- I evaluate how it affects me and my family: Does this align with our goals? Will there be a positive benefit financially, relationally, through opportunities? Does this support my core values (faith, family, relationships, priorities, etc.)?
- I also evaluate what my gut says about the opportunity: Does it excite me? Do I see this being something that I can be passionate about for an extended period of time? Do I like the people involved? What are things that I may need to be cautious about?
I also have done research for my opportunity. A lot. Because the best decisions are well-informed decisions. It’s important for me to go out there and learn from others’ experiences– so I read books, I read articles, I’ve taken courses, I’ve gone online and dug for information and insight.
Use the resources that you have at your disposal to help you make decisions. Learn potential pitfalls, gather questions to ask. Get guidance on paths of action that you could take. And learn from more-experienced people's knowledge to mark out a path ahead. Your situation is unique of course, but the principles shared by others in similar situations prove invaluable in making big decisions.
The next thing to do is to actually commit and make a decision.
Opportunities are moving targets, they are doors that open for a time then close. So it’s important to take the time to prepare, and then to eventually make a decision, “Do I go for it, or do I pass?” If you don’t make a decision, you pass by default and miss the opportunity.
“It’s either a ‘Hell Yes!’ or it’s a ‘No.’”
If you’re excited about it and you’ve considered the variables, then you go for it. But if you’re on the fence after Step 1: The Prep, then you pass. You can’t be fully committed if you’re only 50% passionate.
It’s like sorting through your closet to decide which clothes to get rid of and which to keep.
Chances are you really only wear like 10-20% of the clothes you own, while the others are things you’ve had for a while and are tired of, or something you bought because it might fit you some day, or because you bought it because it looked cool even thought you didn’t really need it.
Opportunities/projects/decisions are like those clothes: you’re better off getting rid of the 80-90% of ones that don’t excite you and make you feel/look awesome, and fully invest in the ones that do. The most successful people don’t take every opportunity in front of them, they actually choose to ‘pass’ on many “Great” ideas so that they can commit to the “best” ideas.
Committing is a step of faith. It’s not possible to be fully certain of how something is going to play out. That’s why life is an adventure. But what you can do is to evaluate the decision as good as you can, before you jump. Don’t just take risks, take calculated risks. Target your efforts. Focus yourself. When you find something that you feel is what you need to do, regardless of how big/intimidating it is, you need to give it a shot.
Once you commit though, give it 100%.
Don’t ever let an opportunity fail because you didn’t give it everything you had. Desiring to succeed isn’t enough, and deciding to chase a goal isn’t enough, you have to commit to consistent action. The outcome isn’t the goal as much as the process of pursuing the goal. For me, I’m successful if I’m pursuing something fully and doing everything I can to grow from the experience, regardless of the outcome. That gives me freedom to take the risk of committing.
Success isn’t a destination, it’s the constant state of progress.
When you start running toward that cliff to jump over, your instincts may work against you. Your desire for safety may scream, “Stop! This is a bad idea!” But true security isn’t found in the pursuit of safe circumstances, but within yourself.
Security is as fluid as water: the tighter you try to hold on to it, the faster it slips through your fingers.
So instead, learn to swim.
Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Solidify that your identity isn’t what you do for a living, what you have, what you’re good at, or what you’ve accomplished. Your identity is independent of all of these factors. Your identity is that you are who you are, and that you are unconditionally valuable.
Having a strong sense of value will give you confidence in yourself to do things you’ve never done before. This confidence reduces the feeling of risk and helps you challenge the biggest fears that stand in your way. When you do that, you can run toward the chasm edge knowing that even if you fall down, it won’t be the end of you.
An even better method than taking a flying leap to clear the chasm between starting and success is to build a bridge.
It still takes commitment, and still requires that you are crossing over a gap, but instead of making luck your only strategy (i.e.:“I hope I make it over this thing!”), you make a more solid path over the gap with a bridge by learning as you go. The bridge is knowledge, focused work, and experience.
Jumping requires a lot of luck: you might make it or you might not.
And those chances are equal every time you try. 50/50. – Some of us have the risk-taking part down, but never stop to plan out the risks. You’re the “Leap first, then look” types. And while guts are good to have, you can increase your odds of success a lot greater than 50/50 if you take a little more time to build a bridge.
Building bridges is repeatable and scalable.
If you build a bridge, then once you’ve crossed the gap, you know exactly how you did it and can repeat that process over and over in the future. A person who wins the lottery is wealthy, but if they lost it all they wouldn’t have a clue how to earn it back. These are the ones who take a flying leap and hope they make it. A person who built their fortune could lose it all and rebuild it again because they understand the process of how to bridge the gap. And when you learn how to bridge small gaps, you can apply that same knowledge to bridge bigger gaps.
Leaders Build Bridges.
If you build a bridge, you not only get across the chasm yourself, but you make a way for others to cross it too. You know how you got there and can teach them. Jumping depends on if you’re individually strong enough – only certain people can do it and everyone else gets left behind. But building a bridge is what leaders do. Leaders don’t just reach success on their own and then tell others to ‘figure it out themselves’. Leaders take the steps of faith, gain the knowledge and experience and build the bridge piece-by-piece so that others can follow behind them. They pave the way where there was no way, and this multiplies their influence, success and momentum exponentially.
You build bridges by educating yourself, trying, and testing.
Gather materials. I’ve been reading books, taking courses, and asking tons of questions from smart people. These are essentially the support beams, boards and bolts that I will use to build the bridge and the blueprints for building it.
Then I build the bridge. I apply what I learn to my situation, which is how I take those materials and begin putting them together into the structure of my bridge.
Then theres the step of faith: after I’ve taken this knowledge and applied it to my opportunity, then I have to stand on it to see if it will hold my weight. That takes guts and it takes faith. But with each consecutive support put in place, I get further across the gap and can connect more pieces.
If ever I run out of supplies (knowledge/know-how/resources), then its’ my job to learn more: read more books, research more, ask more questions. This is the nature of going into uncharted territory: you have to learn as you go. If there is no path already, you have to make a path. It’s called being a pioneer, and that’s what you are when you chase your dream.
Into The Beyond...
Bridging the gap between starting and success is an exciting process.
It can be intimidating, but remember that other people are doing the same thing as you all the time: they are taking steps of faith forward, they are believing, they are learning and growing, and they are staying diligent.
- Evaluate the opportunity in front of you. Take a look at the chasm you’re trying to cross. Think about it, get counsel, get informed. Then make the decision to commit.
- After you commit, then start running: gather your supplies, learn more to get tools, lay out your plans based on experience and insight from others who have done similar things. Build the structure for your bridge one step at a time, learning as you go.
- As you do this, take consistent steps of faith. Test out your structure. Step up to the edge of your bridge and put your weight on it – that’s commitment to your vision. Then if it holds, build the next step and repeat.
This diligence pays off.
In time, you will get confident living on the edge, and eventually you will live for it. The thrill of pioneering and challenging your limits will make you feel alive and deeply fulfilled.
By deciding to chase your dream, you have already done more than what most people will ever do. And by taking action to cross the gap between starting and success, you will have already accomplished more than most people will ever accomplish. Beyond that, if you stay diligent, stay committed, and actually cross the chasm and reach the new territory, you will be part of a small group that few others are members of: those who not only decide, not only chase, but those who bring their visions to life.
Most people quit.
Most people get discouraged. Most people run toward the chasm but stop at the edge. Most people start bridging the gap to their dream but never complete their bridge. Most people turn back. Most people stop when they’ve reached the limit of what they know. Most people quit when they look down. Most people stop before they even get started.
But you’re not “most people”.
You’re a Frontrunner.
You’re making a way where there was no way. You’re pioneering new things that have never been done before. You’re in a relentless pursuit of your purpose.
Take the step of faith forward. Cross the chasm.