Embracing the precipice

Lisa Frank

Feb 3, 2022

I’m twelve years old and sensibly terrified as my toes clutch the thin, wooden board hundreds of miles above the diving pool at the Town of Hempstead Franklin Square Pool. I don’t like this feeling at all and with quiet, young determination, I decide to conquer my fear. And so, the next day, just as terrified, I intentionally climb the industrial metal stair to the diving board, which juts out from the ladder and hovers over the blue, gently wind-rippled water. Other kids are behind me, some kindly encouraging me, others cruelly ridiculing as they impatiently wait for their turn. Despite the overwhelming fear and desire to do anything but, I jump. Submerged, nasal air bubbles lay out an improvised escape route. Miraculously, I rise from the deep water to its surface, swim to the ladder, exit the pool, and immediately queue up for the next terrified ascent, plunge, swim, exit, and the next and the next. During my fourth attempt, while once again trembling on the fluttering board with no discernible decrease in terror, the solemn decision is made to reconcile myself to a life without high dive jumps.

In the intervening decades, though I haven’t once jumped from a high diving board, I have jumped. In fact, since July 2020, when I engaged a coach and began to build my business, jumping has become a regular and frequent activity. And each jump is terrifying. The difference this time is what I am building is more important than the fear I experience. To progress forward, even when every part of me is screaming or silently whispering all the reasons not to, I build and continue to strengthen and expand what I call my surround sound. It’s a supportive structure, community, and network of mentors, coaches, and amazing solopreneur women to guide and keep me accountable, along with webinars, courses, and books to continue to learn. My surround sound provides me with courage, strategies, tools, and resources to walk my camino, i.e., road.

Sometimes, in my life coaching and consulting practice, I use tarot cards as a tool. The illustrations on the cards often help clients recognize their situation, a person, a solution, a truth. One of these cards is called The Fool and depicts a carefree young man with a knapsack in one hand, a white flower in the other, and a small white dog at The Fool’s heels. As he sets out on his adventure from the top of a cliff, The Fool looks up at the cloudless blue, sunny sky while the dog seems to smile up at The Fool and jump in excitement. Neither is looking ahead at the next step, which will surely cast them off the cliff in a literal leap of faith.

As I build my business, I identify daily with The Fool and his leap of faith. And I Iiken my surround sound structure to the ever present dog, offering support and enthusiasm. Fear may cause me to hesitate or delay, but it does not prevent me from acting. Just like the diving board, I suspect I will never overcome the fear; it will never go away. But because taking action through the fear is in service of something I believe in, a business that serves both as a vehicle for personal growth and a vehicle for service that empowers others to realize their dreams, I am willing to endure, to act through the fear. Like its less intense relative, discomfort, fear is becoming familiar and I have changed my attitude toward it. Rather than discouraging or preventing me from action, I greet fear or discomfort as a sign of personal and professional growth.

In his book “15 Invaluable Laws of Growth,” John Maxwell describes three types of people when it comes to having direction in life: 1) People who don’t know what they would like to do; 2) people who know what they would like to do but don’t do it; and 3) people who know what they would like to do and do it. Which are you? If the thought of your next step produces fear or discomfort, take up your knapsack and flower, call on your coach, mentor, or community, smile at the sun, and keep moving.