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Field Report: What if You Leap and the Net Doesn't Appear?

Tyler’s Note:  This is a Riskologist Field Report by Lynn Hess. Field Reports are written by readers just like you, so be nice, enjoy the story, and take action on the lesson. To contribute your own Field Report, go here.

I’m a huge quote freak, and the inspirational words of others, famous or not, help guide me through my days and my life.

But can they steer you wrong?  What happens when they don’t work out the way you expect?

I’ve been inspired by thousands of quotes, but the one that set me most on fire was “Leap, and the net will appear.”

Wow!  You mean I could trust that if I followed my heart and my instincts, things would just work out?  I didn’t have to shoehorn my life into the same tired mold as everyone else?

Realizing I didn’t have to keep living my life the way I always had felt a rebirth.  It changed everything. I embraced the “follow your passion and the money will follow” mantra and ran with it.

I was newly divorced. Possibilities were wide open.  “The cubicle life’s not for me!” I said, and I believed it with all my heart.  I wanted to do something that felt important!  I was going to help people!  I wasn’t going to settle for anything less!

So, with the bit of money (and open credit) I had at the time, I went to school to become a life coach.  I figured out my mission statement, and what I was put on this earth to do:  show people it’s okay to be who they really are.  I was going to help people and change the world.

Since this was my passion, I just knew I was going to make bucket-loads of money to support myself and my three kids while I did it.

Oh, was I cocky!  I had no idea what was in store for me.

A few years later, broke and in massive debt, I had to admit that life coaching wasn’t my thing.  Honestly, I wasn’t very good at it, and I didn’t really enjoy it like I thought I would.  I certainly wasn’t making any money.  I was in dire financial straits, and ended up filing for bankruptcy.

Shortly thereafter (after a mercifully short stint in a hellish call center job) I ended up… in a cubicle.

WTF?  I had faith!  I had purpose!  I had passion!  Where was my damn net?

Luckily, that’s not where the story ends.  The net was there, but not the one I expected.

I learned that success doesn’t always follow the path I have laid out in my head.  On the way to success, you can meet what seems like spectacular failure, and you can easily become discouraged—doubting not only everything you’ve ever done, but also who you are.

I sure did.  It wasn’t pretty.  The first year at my office job was a dark one in many ways.  Not only did I want to stab my eyeballs out at every instance of corporate jargon I heard and in every pointless meeting, I did a lot of blaming myself.  I felt defeated.  Diminished.  Beaten.  Embarrassed.

But in every failure lies the seeds of success.  Here’s where the rubber meets the road as far as actually living out all that nifty stuff I learned in coaching school, from reading dozens of personal development blogs, and, yes, from all of those awesome quotes.

Was I going to let failure beat me?  Was I going to give up?

HELL NO.

Nobody knows for sure why we were put on this earth, but I refuse to believe it was to shrink, to stagnate, or to settle.

And now I get to be a living example of it!  Words can be empty, but I can live that mission and show it through the story of my life.

Persistence and faith are the keys to every kingdom worth having.  Sometimes “leaping” includes stepping out into the unknown and the scary again and again, even when things haven’t gone right and your faith has been shaken.

The glorious thing about life is that if the net’s not there to catch you, or if you miss it, there will be another net below it, and another, and another… if you’re willing to look at your setbacks in the right light.

And what is learned (and who we become) by the leaping itself is the payoff, the success, the kingdom, the pearl of great price.  You become a better, happier, more complete and self-actualized person for having taken the risk, no matter what the results.

That’s not easy to see when you feel you’ve just crashed to the ground, and you’re cursing whoever took your damn net away (or who tricked you into believing there was ever one to begin with).  But that crash builds you, strengthens you, reveals to you who you are, and turns you into who you’re meant to be.

My challenge to you is to dig through the ashes of your failures to find the precious jewels and dust them off.  Because they are there.  Guaranteed.

What jewels did I find in my failure?

  • What I learned in coaching school changed my life, my personality, my optimism level, and my outlook—permanently.  I can never go back to the half-asleep, unhappy person I was before I discovered this work.
  • I met the most amazing people and became tied in to a tribe of hundreds of people who have enriched my life immeasurably—and who are changing the world.  I’m proud to know and share my life with all of them.
  • I learned a lot about myself and my strengths.  If I ever thought of myself as lazy or weak or selfish or someone who needed saving (which I did at times) I can now take comfort in the fact that I’m not—not by a long shot.  I can and will do whatever it takes to provide for myself and my kids, and to leave the world better than I found it.
  • I discovered my determination.  I’m like a dog with a bone who won’t let go.
  • I learned that money—having it, losing it, living with less—really isn’t the be-all and end-all of life.  It isn’t nearly as important as I used to think it was.  And I’ve discovered that there are some benefits to having less of it, believe it or not.
  • I learned I can trust life.  Even when things look hopeless, somehow, life always provides.
  • I now truly understand that my fears aren’t ever as big as I make them out to be.  As Byron Katie says, “Reality is always kinder than the story we tell about it.”  I never thought of myself as the kind of person who’d go bankrupt, and it was a very scary reality to face. Yet, it didn’t kill me.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought.  Honestly, in the end—as long as I don’t get wrapped up in what other people think, or tell stories about what it means about me—it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
  • I’ve learned to appreciate the adventure in uncertainty and the beauty of a free fall.  It’s really not about the results, but about the journey—and I truly get this now.

There’s always more than one way to look at things, or to tell the story of your life—the version in which you’re a failure, or the version in which you’re still on your hero’s journey.  The version in which the net wasn’t there and you went splat on the ground, or the version in which you’re still mid-leap and it just hasn’t caught you yet.  I know which story I like better, and that’s the one I choose to believe.

This would be an awesome spot in the story to tell you I’ve started a wildly successful multi-million dollar business, become an A-List blogger, cured cancer, or invented a better version of the iPad or something.

I can’t claim any of those.

What I can claim is that I’ve used my time in the cube farm to regroup and recalibrate.  I’ve followed the path my heart has led me on even when it seemed pitch-black dark.  This has led me, baby step by baby step, to a new career as a writer.

Deep down, I’ve always known I was meant to be a writer, but had a lot of fear about it.  It took figuring out what I was not for me to figure out what I am.

It won’t be long before I make another scary leap out of the cube and into the unknowns of the freelance writing world.  The time I spent in my “failed” coaching career was crucial; it helped me figure out my mission. And that mission hasn’t changed; it’s just taking me down a different path than I thought it would.

So when it looks like your net has disappeared, and you made the “wrong” decision—rest assured, you didn’t. 

You’ve taken one more important step toward figuring out what you are not so that you can figure out what you are.

The magic is here and now, not in the future or in the results. It’s the act of leaping and the process of becoming who you’re meant to be that is the reward.  That’s the net that will always be there for you.

And it’s okay to be who you really are.

I promise.

Lynn Hess is a freelance writer who wants to help your business tell its story at LynnHess.com. (And she wants you to know it’s okay to be exactly who you are – always!)