Why are we so afraid to jump? I have often encouraged people to take “The Leap.” In all stages of our lives, we stand at some proverbial edge. We will be faced with the decision to take the leap or let our fear hold us back. We will have a desire to do something incredible, to take a daring risk, to step outside our comfort zone, or to retreat to the perceived safety of our normal routine.
Think back to the days of your youth and the first time you stood at the end of a diving board with your toes hanging over the edge as you trembled and you looked down at the big drop beneath you with kids yelling “jump” and the fear welling up inside of you. Would it hurt? Would you look silly if you did a belly flop? Would your swimsuit stay on? Remember the fear we had on that first jump? We wanted to jump but we were so afraid to take that first step. You know that once you take the leap, there is no going back…you are fully committed.
Taking the leap in our youth can be standing on the edge of the high dive wanting to jump. However, this same fear presents itself in different ways all throughout life. Our fears can hold us back from leaving bad relationships, taking a risk to start a new business, getting married, standing for a cause, becoming fully involved in a mission project instead of standing on the sidelines. Fear is the biggest hurdle to success and joy. Some people are in terrible jobs and want to take the leap into a new career but are afraid of the work required to get retrained, obtain a college education late in life, or are scared they might fail…all excuses that hold them back from living the life they truly desire. It is never too late to start. It is never too late to take the leap!
I have seen people in all stages of life standing on the edge of a big endeavor wanting so badly to take action but letting fear hold them back. Sometimes it is not just their fear but the comments and opinions of others that they allow to crush their dreams and thus they don’t take the leap. My dad taught me that the opinions of those on the sidelines don’t matter. “If they don’t have the guts to get in the ring…don’t listen to them.” The world is full of professional critics who don’t have the courage to take the leap. Move on, set the example, and maybe your courage will inspire them to follow you at some point.
Taking the leap requires practice. Once you do it and survive, it becomes easier to make that jump again in the future. Are you afraid to jump off the high dive? Not any more. Are you afraid to climb Kilimanjaro…not once you have made it to the summit. At the summit you quickly start thinking about the other mountain peaks you want to climb. Once you take intentional action towards your goal you build courage for other things in life.
Sometimes the most difficult leap to make is to expose yourself, to bare your soul, to share your thoughts and opinions, to take a stand, and to open up for others to know your opinions and criticize it. It can be scary to take that leap and to be completely transparent to the world. It is always safe to be part of the crowd and to parrot what everyone else says while being a mindless bot mouthing the words that the establishment expects you to say. Those who seek safety in the crowd and stand on the edge and watch will never change the world and will never be remembered. They are not the likes of William Wilberforce, George Washington, Winston Churchill, Marin Luther King Jr., Sojourner Truth, and Rosa Parks. Not everyone will be presented an opportunity like these leaders to take a public stand and lead. However, if you are given the chance, don’t run from it, be prepared to seize the opportunity. You will only be ready if in your daily life you are taking those little leaps of faith and growing each day. It will make a big difference in your life and those around you.
Whenever I have the opportunity to speak to young people, I always encourage them to find their passion, pursue it with reckless abandon, and to never fear but always take the leap. I recently had the opportunity to speak to a class at Lee University and was impressed that a young student, Laura Hensley took the challenge. Not only did she take good notes on my lecture but she GOT IT. Laura got the underlying message to kick fear and apprehension to the curb and to take the leap and that is what she did in her first blog post. You can read it here. I am proud of her! She learned to take the leap and how to avoid stepping on a landmine in life.
In my personal journey I have had to fight fear my entire life. I did not want to run track in high school at first because I thought I wouldn’t be any good. I ended up getting a scholarship to the University of Tennessee. I had apprehensions of joining the military at first and it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I’ve been a young leader both in the military and in the professional sector facing big challenges and often well over my head, feeling unqualified for the task ahead of me but I worked hard and with mentors and guidance made it through. I have come to realize that most of our fears never come to pass.
Recently, as I have stepped outside of my comfort zone into some mission roles I have felt unqualified to the point I wanted to quit until my friend Handre reminded me, “Bob, God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called. You are called. Your job is to take the leap and trust in Him…it is time to serve the people…you can make a difference.” It was great encouragement when I needed it most and it reminded me that we all need people in our lives to encourage us. No matter where you are, no matter your fears, no matter your apprehension, take the leap! You will be glad you did. The journey will be fraught with obstacles and tough days but it is exhilarating and rewarding. Once you do it, you realize living your life in fear is no way to live. Standing on the edge of the diving board looking at the water is no way to spend a summer…or your life!
As a side note, this is my little London at an early age learning the joy of taking “The Leap!”