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May 8, 2015

Leap Before you Look!

Keith Jackson


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There are many occasions in life when it seems easier to stay on a familiar, risk-free, but ultimately unsatisfying path, rather than to strike off into uncharted territory.

And it's easy to understand that position. If you have a family or a mortgage, or economic conditions are tough, the risks of change can appear to be overwhelming. As the U.S. author Timothy Ferris put it, "People will choose unhappiness over uncertainty."

But sometimes you just have to take a massive leap of faith – and hope for a soft landing.

I once found myself with just such a choice: stick with an organization where I had spent the previous 16 years, or hit the road in search of new opportunities and a total change of scenery. The advice I received, often unsolicited, was overwhelmingly, "Stay put, keep your head down, and think of your pension pot." But the people closest to me knew I was unhappy and disillusioned, and they urged a bolder course of action.

So, with Christmas just around the corner, with no job lined up, and with the pressure of paying the mortgage and child support suddenly increasing ten-fold, I became an unemployed, middle-aged, middle-ranking "suit" in a difficult job market populated by super-energetic, commitment-free, young go-getters!

Only one sensible course of action presented itself to me at that time: I got on my bicycle and went for a ride. Halfway through the ride, I was convinced I had made a monumental mistake. By the time I got home, I realised I'd made one of the best decisions of my life. And I was determined not to fall into the same trap again. I didn't want to change the name of the company, but still carry the same baggage on the same long commute.

Of course, as a team leader, if you are considering a new adventure to take your organization on to the next level of growth, you will have many more things to consider than how it will impact you personally. But there are tools to help you make your choices, such as The Ansoff Matrix.

Had I known such resources existed, I might have conducted a proper decision analysis, or plotted my situation across some relevant matrix, and weighed up all the pros and cons. But, as I had done on many previous occasions - with mixed success - I opted to go with "gut instinct" and leaped before I looked! For me, the trade-off boiled down to whether I valued my own happiness and well-being more than being able to buy cool stuff!

However, after a few months of pride-denting unemployment, I found work with sensible hours closer to home, and most of the time actually at home, for a company whose boss knows my name. My suit might be getting dusty, and I've got a selection of tired, unfashionable ties going begging, but so far I'd say my gamble has paid off.

When have you trusted a major personal or business decision to a leap of faith, and what was the result? Join the discussion below!

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7 comments on “Leap Before you Look!”

  1. Sounds like me when I decided to start my own business. Sometimes I literally trembled with fear; I didn't even tell my parents about my plans until two weeks after I left my job. They were completely panicked!

    Much like the writer here, I was disillusioned and unhappy where I was. I had prepared myself to go on my own for a long time, but I lacked the courage. A specific incident made me ask myself, "How much more are you willing to absorb?" My reply to myself was, "Nothing!"
    Today I'm glad that I took that leap of faith. It's worked out pretty well and I've been given other amazing opportunities along the line. Sometimes, you really just have to do it!

    1. Thanks Rebel for sharing. I really like your question "How much more are you willing to absorb?" as it makes me think of 'how bad does it have to get before you do something about it?'

      Taking those leaps of faith, much like Keith did and yourself, often tends to work out for the best. Things do have a way of turning out fine and often times we are better off.

      Even if financially we may make less money, we are happier and healthier for having made the change!

      Who else has found the courage to take that leap and how has your experience been?

  2. I think one of the fundamental questions to ask here is 'what drives the move'? Is it office politics? Is it unsatisfactory salary/benefits? Is it family issues, etc.? It might be helpful to understand this underlying motive, as the general discontent is just an outcome or manifestation of something more rooted, that "negative force" or constraint that drives you away or compels you to explore charting new territories.

    1. Hi Safy,
      I agree that it is important to reflect upon what is driving the desire to move. Are you running away from something uncomfortable or running towards something positive?

      Sometimes it might start off as a 'negative' and running away from something, yet if you can find the 'positive' and find something to run towards, then it can all work out fine!

    2. Yes Midgie,the important point is that one has to find what is it to run towards, after knowing what one is running away from!

  3. Hi Shanker,
    I always think it best to find the 'towards' reasons in any situation where a move or change is to take place.

    Whenever we 'run towards' something, this can act like a strong magnet pulling us towards that goal. Whereas when we 'run away' from something, as soon as we are far enough away from the 'discomfort' everything seems ok and the 'pain' is no longer unbearable.

  4. Many thanks to Rebel, Safy, Shanker, and Midgie for your comments.

    My situation was definitely about wanting to leave a particular environment. Although I had no new employment lined up, I have a personal, not work related goal I want to achieve. And to be honest, a few months of unemployment was a great help in that. So I had that positive aim to focus on while I searched for a new job.

    Now I'm in a new working environment I do feel happier and healthier, and that more than makes up for the tighter financial situation.

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