Tim's images

You’ve Got to Jump

Feb 27, 2008

by Tim


jumping_off_top.jpg“I can’t. I’m scared.”

Skyler Dunn, three years older and infinitely wiser, looked at me with a kind smile as I stared nervously toward the water nearly thirty feet below. The surface of Lake Washington had never appeared so green and ominously dark.

It was a brilliant Seattle today in the summer of my twelfth year. I’d long before completed my rite of passage by leaping from “Top,” the white steel diving platform at the end of the Laurelhurst Beach Club dock. But budding hormones now goaded me to plunge headfirst–to dive, like the teenagers.

For an hour, Skyler had been egging me on, in a supportive, sympathetic way—my first one-on-one coaching session. I was thrilled that the bigger boy had taken such an interest in my dilemma.

“You can do it,” he insisted. “Once you’ve dove, you’ll wonder why you were ever scared.”

Again and again he pleaded my own case for me, persistent but positive. After what seemed like hours of agonizing, I edged to the brink of the platform, then flung myself headlong toward the water, moments later bursting with joy to the surface, to return triumphantly to Top for another dive. As Skyler had said, now it was easy.

It’s easy for me to know this now, because I’m a lot older, and when you get older it becomes easier to understand that risk is what makes life fun, what pushes you ahead. I love the Van Halen tune:

Might as well jump. Jump! Might as well jump. Go ahead, jump. Jump! Go ahead, jump.

My father died a couple of years ago, and your father dying is the universe telling you, “you’re next.” And when you’re next, you start to realize that—given the new big picture that’s just been handed you—few things in life are truly risky.dad_and_charlie.jpg

During my first six-year stint in Tokyo, I talked to a guy who told me how he got started on an impressive business career. It was like talking to Skyler Dunn twenty years later:

“An acquaintance’s father, an electronics company executive, asked me if I could go to the U.S. and research the battery market. ‘Sure,’ I said.”

Ever cautious, I asked if he’d had any market research experience when he made that bold reply. He snorted. “Hell, if I always had to have experience before trying something new, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning!”

His confidence bowled me over—and I winced at my own timid thinking. Of course! Just dive, like Skyler said! It’s the thought of trying the unknown, the fear of it that holds us back. It’s not that we’re incapable. We’re all capable of doing what we can reasonably imagine ourselves doing.

What Skyler taught me at the Beach Club so many years ago, and what I keep struggling to apply, now has the clarity of age. So I say: Dive, young man! Dive, old man! Dive!

The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously. Frederich Nietzsche

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2 Comments to You’ve Got to Jump

On Feb 28, 2008, RetiredSyd commented:

Thanks for that post, it was perfect timing for me today. I’m retiring tomorrow, and while I’m very excited, it is a bit scary to leave the comfort of the place that has been my employer for 17 years. What will I do with my life from here, I have ideas, but I’m not 100% sure, I’m just seeing where things take me.

For me, not trying to control every single minute is kind of like diving off that high dive. Now you’ve reminded me that when I come up for air on Monday morning, I will probably feel that same exhiliration!

On Feb 28, 2008, by Tim commented:

Congratulations, Syd! I know the feeling. After selling my company I was (and still am) in a financial position most people would consider completely adequate for “retiring,” but to what purpose?

Regardless of one’s financial situation, life’s essential question remains: What will you do with your days? For many, having an employer removes that difficult question.

You’re moving on to bigger and better things now, and to more enjoyment and fulfillment than ever. Stay in touch!

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