So you’ve found your life purpose – or it has found you. But now it all seems rather daunting and scary. It’s going to require (gasp!) change – and this makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

Getting out of the comfort zone - Roz at Burning Man

This is understandable. There is a primitive part of your brain that doesn’t like change. It reckons that you have survived for this long by doing things a certain way, and if you start doing them a different way, bad things might happen. But by being afraid of death, too many people get to the end and find that they have never lived.

But here is the truth: The only sure thing in life is change, whether you embrace it or not.

Just how secure is your security anyway? Jobs can be lost, houses can burn down, spouses can die, pensions can lose their value. The best security you can have is to be comfortable with insecurity. As the wise one-legged Welsh sailor, Tristan Jones, once wrote, “The only true riches in life are to be found between your ears”.

When I first did my obituary exercise and realised that I was not on track for the life I wanted, I was scared. I knew that it would require radical changes – giving up my job, my salary, and quite likely my marriage and hence my home. So I put my dream away, both literally and metaphorically, and tried to forget it. But it wouldn’t go away. Once I knew it, I couldn’t un-know it. And eventually I had to let go of everything I had ever held dear before I found the freedom to get myself back on track. I had to jump out of the plane and THEN start making my parachute.

Sure, it was scary. Terrifying, in fact. Rowing an ocean pales into insignificance by comparison. But I have never regretted it for a minute. Well, maybe a few minutes here and there, early on, but increasingly I got comfortable with my new lifestyle. What had once seemed like insecurity soon felt like freedom.

And while we’re on the subject, here are some more inspiring quotes:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ~ Helen Keller

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” ~ John A. Shedd

“Nobody ever died wishing they’d spent more time in the office” ~ Anon

And to sum up:

– The only sure thing in life is change, whether you embrace it or not.

– “The only true riches in life are to be found between your ears”. (Tristan Jones)

– Sometimes you have to jump out of the plane and THEN start making your parachute.

– What initially seems like insecurity soon feels like freedom.

20 Comments

  • Hi Roz,

    You put the challenges of change and their impetus very well. Glad to hear that the work of change continues to unfold. Norm of the prairies

  • Thank you SO much for coming to Abbotsford, BC. I’m thinking very hard about things that have been on the periphery of my mind for some time.

    Yes, change. Welcome and terrifying all at the same time.

    Be encouraged and assured Roz. The talks make a difference. Really. Thx.

  • Roz, one way I find helps to internalize your message
    is to summarize in a twitter-sized haiku … hence:

    purpose sets the course
    embrace change headlong
    jump into freedom

    Thanks, Roz!

  • A clever sounding turn of phrase doesn’t necessarily make for truth or good advice.

    I’ve read variously that “the only true riches in life” are “friends” or “health” or “the love of a good woman”. Clearly, riches come in many forms. Including wealth, to name another!

    Knowing one’s personality type is crucial to recognizing useful advice.

    For me “What initially seems like insecurity soon feels like freedom” couldn’t be further from the truth. I walked away from a great job under the delusion that people who can afford to should start their own business. It turned out I didn’t have the personality for it. One bad life decision cost me lots of money and terminated my career. What seemed like freedom soon turned to years of failure and depression. Luckily for me, I made some good (unrelated) decisions in my life, so it hasn’t all been bad, but, on the whole, I wish I’d spent more time at the office.

    “Sometimes you have to jump out of the plane and THEN start making your parachute.” Really? I mean, really?? That’s more of a recipe for winning a Darwin Award, don’t you think? I’d also point out that it’s the philosophy that got Earth up to 388 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Most of the time, it’s better not to jump out of the plane in the first place.

    I’m glad (well, thrilled, really) that there are people with your personality, but I think you’re special, and what’s good advice for you isn’t going to apply to most people.

  • Hi Roz,
    I belive in change, and in fact believe that even though we “plan” it is the ‘unanticipated’ life that we really live. It comes often and turns out even better than something we may have ‘dreamed’ up. Sometimes it may be worse than we hoped for, but more often, it provides new avenues that we did not know that existed. Being aware of these opportunities is the uncanny part. You demonstrate this nearly everyday. I think Asian cultures have a better sense of ‘change’ and the cosmos. Cheers, Currin (still in HK)

  • Christopher – I wasnt going to respond to your comment, generally believing that everybody is entitled to their opinion (including me!), but curiosity has got the better of me. How could this attitude lead to 388ppm? Seems to me that’s more connected with thoughtlessly shortsighted consumption rather than consciously choosing to take challenges one day at a time. I kind of see what you’re saying, but the context is all-important.

  • I recently sent a card to a friend, who has had much change the past few years, and is now facing ‘what next?’…The card encouraged: “Leap and the net will appear.”

  • Isn’t life strange? Work at something that may hold no real meaning and get paid a bundle. Figure it out, set a new course, and put your back into finally living as a human being at the risk of becoming a pauper, wealthy “between the ears.” The choice is easy, once you’re ready. But to wish you “spent more time in the office”? Oh, boy, that’s a tough one!! I mean, seriously.

  • How you were able to contain all this energy until your mid 30s is amazing! There is truth here in what you have written.

    A curious side effect of change is other’s tend to dislike it. They like “You” to fit their definition of “You”. If “You” step out of this definition, the dynamic changes which can make people uncomfortable.

    Sometime they will attempt to block your change for their own security and they may not even realize they are doing this. You may have to take a leap of faith, even if it only serves to get you out of the dynamic which has held you back.

    Glad to hear your tour is going well, was great to meet you in Asheville N.C. and again in Greenville S.C. curious how the presentation has evolved as you have traveled!

    As to the parachute metaphor, My grandfather rebuilt an airplane, Then he learned to fly. He can be found online at the S.C. Aeronautics Hall of Fame, I liked your metaphor!

  • Greetings Roz,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.I do enjoy and learn .
    I think I know what Christopher is suggesting about leading to where we are now?

    For example plastics water bottles. If the manufacturer had thought the product all of the way through… the planetary costs, human, and health. Would they still make them? Did the manufacturer (create the bottles) jump out of the plane. Then start to make the parachute ( attempt to fix the products faults) ? I believe Christopher is suggesting we have a world filled with processes, products and leading to our troubled environment . Because business folks proceeded without having the end in mind. Jumping to begin to soon.

    I believe Roz is suggesting if we wait till we have everything figured out. Color within the “lines” of old solutions. We will not ever begin to do, to create, the new solutions to heal our planet. Let’s not wait till everything is just perfect before starting to fix what needs fixing. Being bold enough to go and do what others have never done before. Take a leap (jump) of faith and often forces the mind to laser in. When the world has focus on each individual daily activity. Then the process to create a healing solution develops as needed to solve the problem, on the flight down.

    Both your great minds are correct. We need a little and a lot of both. Fearless innovation with factual / honest assessment. We also need NEW ideas and methods to create the future world we all can live in. On a path to healing, with help from every human. We might well return to old methods that where simple, teachable and sustainable?

    To sum it up. What we used / lived to get us here today. These methods will not work in our future life. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Repeating patterns that did not work well the first time around. Will only waste time, life and increase the bragging rights of continued pain.

    On the last part- giving advice. I believe it is the sharing of knowledge and wisdom with each other. That helps takes any human beyond their false limits. Some folks use a hammer, others a feather to open another mind to possibilities. One size solution is not for everyone. Waiting never solved a problem. Life is short, get moving.
    bill savage

  • The basic greenhouse effect has been understood since the 1850’s. Since 1960, when regular direct measurement began, atmospheric CO2 has been increasing steadily. (And probably has been since 1750.) And there’s no serious doubt that the primary source of the increase has been the burning of fossil fuels.

    Yet governments the world over continue to promote the increased burning of fossil fuels (including the “clean coal” Obama administration).

    The world’s leaders have been conscious of the growing problem of global warming for decades–yet continue to enact policies that push us ever closer to the point-of-no-return. Why?

    Although many (most?) play dumb on the subject, I suspect that their irresponsible policies are based on an unstated faith that eggheads will be able to “make a parachute” some time after they leave office, but before we go “splat”, –without recognizing that eggheads are not magicians. It is increasingly likely that we will hit the ground before making a parachute. I’m calling for more “parachute making” and less “jumping”.

    And that’s why I hate to see “leap and the net will appear” flavored epigrams touted as universal truths. If our leaders continue to embrace such thinking we are doomed.

    P.S. to Bruce: The office job I left was not the best paid, but was in a university lab doing research that was meaningful to me. Roz’s situation was different.

    Risk acceptable to an adventurer isn’t acceptable for Earth as a whole. As Roz’s sign said “There’s no Planet B”.

  • Christopher – context is all-important. I would no more advocate living for the day environmentally than I would leave port with only one day’s food on board. That is why I prefaced my parachute remark with the word “sometimes”. Obviously, intelligent application of the principle is called for!

  • Timely post Roz. I got the book “Callings” from your ebay store and just began reading it yesterday 🙂

    I’m one of those who embraced change. I ‘jumped out of the plane’ three years ago, and have been making my parachute ever since.

    Sometimes change is a very long process, I can see how many people could get discouraged an ‘go back’ before they ever see the rewards of growth.

    One thing I know for sure is, to have a dream and not pursue it, is a terrible thing to live with. But, it’s particularly tragic, if a person never tries simply because of fear.

    To embrace change, you must first embrace fear.

  • Yeah, David, I agree: To have a dream and not pursue it, is a terrible thing to live with.

    And I think Roz correctly identified Step 1 (find your life’s purpose) which speaks to my mistake.

    In my case, I sought to start a business because “everybody knows” that’s a programmer’s dream. My actual dreams were otherwise, and if my 50-year-old self could advise my 30-year-old self, I would tell him to leave a good job only to pursue one of *his* dreams.

    I think I erred in arguing that Roz’s parachute metaphor was bad advice. Rather, I think it was just a bad metaphor. I hold that it’s equivalent to “Sometimes you have to drink poison and THEN start making your antidote.” (FWIW I don’t think adding the word “sometimes” to a bad metaphor fixes it.)

    But enough sniping from me! I look forward to the next post.

  • Hi Roz. Glad to see the discussion is lively as ever. When a person does make that leap, it doesn’t always work out as planned, as you know. So, you modify, you adjust, you adapt. I feel sympathy for anyone who makes the big leap, fails and then sinks into depression not to rise again. But it doesn’t negate the leap. You’ve done well, and speaking as an experienced leap-er myself, I say always follow your passion, no matter the risks.

  • Hi Roz,
    I have a question maybe not so related to discussion thread. So please ignore if such. I’ve been reading the blog archives (incredible reading, especially the Atlantic crossing insights—so very rewarding for me to read—I still don’t think you realize just how COOL you really are :0. I know you don’t like the pedestal, but tough noodles. The archives are reminiscent of Beryl Markham’s West With the Night but probably better). I am wondering why you didn’t you ride the trades across the North Pacific between, say, 10 and 20 degrees latitude? I understand the Tuvalu importance symbolically, but wouldn’t making the crossing “with the flow” be a bit easier? This would also be effective across the Indian, only using the southern trades, no? Always a fan, Bruce
    P.S. I’m working on the JFDI aspect of something relevant to the cause—let you know if it pans out.

  • Here’s some more quotes for you…

    Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs. – Henry Ford

    Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. – Goethe

    Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, Would you capture it or just let it slip? – EMINEM

    Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. – T.S. Eliot

    There’s only one rule: the guy who trains the hardest wins. – Floyd Landis (except, for him, sadly, it seems there are two rules…)

    Our greatest battles are with our own mind. – James Frank

    Everything is in the mind. That’s where it all starts. Knowing what you want is the first step toward getting it. – Mae West

    Eighty percent of success is showing up. – Woody Allen

    It is better to live one year as a tiger than one hundred years as a sheep. – Buddhist saying

    The longest journey starts with a single step. – Lao Tze

    Years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. – Mark Twain

    I don’t know if I can do this. Then again, I don’t know that I can’t do it. – Ffyona Campbell

    If think you can’t, you can’t. If think you can, you can.

    This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time. – Fight Club

    We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort. – Jesse Owens

    Failing doesn’t make you a failure. Giving up and refusing to try again does! – Richard Exely

    Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting: “Holy Cow.. What a ride!”

    To be a champion, fight one more round. – James Corbett

    Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. – John Lennon

    It is better to be a little over-bold than a little over-cautious. – Apsley Cherry Garrard

    That which does not kill us, makes us stronger – slogan for Egyptian Stella beer

    Life is too short for second-class ambitions. – Sir Ranulph Fiennes

    Pain is temporary. Quitting is forever. – Lance Armstrong

    (see – http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/2008/10/a-bit-of-troop-rallying-enthusiasm-for-a-sleepy-thursday-afternoon/)

  • When you pass the edge of all that you know and understand
    Faith is believing in one of two things
    There will be something solid for you to land on
    Or you will learn to fly

    I paraphrased Patrick Overton’s original quote as it was a tad too froo froo for me…But I think it serves a purpose here and I (imho) believe it may serve instead of the “parachute” analogy. I believe sometimes and somethngs, take a leap of faith and that, is truly scary. Note that leaps of faith indicate exploring unknown territory (to you) and not blindly jumping where no one else has jumped before. It incorporates risk management, consequence management, research as well as timing. My only suggestion is to begin with “hops” of faith first. Small steps until you are a tad more ready to lean forward and free fall with a smile. The size of each step is extremely personal and can only be gauged by you. I do welcome you to write about what ever became of your adventures so that you can pass that knowledge along to others on your path. With language and technology merging into such great accessibility, it would not be difficult.

    Cheers!
    Jay Gosuico

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