If you, like me, have ambitious goals for your professional, personal and spiritual growth, then it is very possible that you are faced with the choice of taking a leap of faith into the unknown. Looking back at the last 10 years, I had 4 big leaps of faith: moving to Ireland, divorcing, joining my first start-up and joining a non-tech corporate to trial customer success in a new industry. Not only they were my biggest leaps of faith, but they were also the moments when I went through extraordinary personal, emotional and professional growth. Taking a leap of faith requires you to gather all your courage, toughen up and be strategic, tactical and agile.
I am often asked ‘how did you do it?’. This post attempts to answer this with 6 steps to making your next big move.
My Personal Story
Today is the first Sunday of October. It is early-ish in the morning, I am seating in the living room, the sun is shining through the window and I am soaking it up. I know that as we enter autumn in Dublin this is a rare opportunity. I sit in the physical comfort of my living room, but my mind is racing. I am at the edge of an emotional and professional cliff.
The last 10 years of my life have been filled with adventures, successes and indeed many failures. I recount them in my mind. I am proud of where I stand. However, the feeling I had until recently is that of hiker that climbs to what they believe to be the top of the mountain, only to realise there is another good bit to go. A mixture of ‘no way’, tiredness, pleasure, energy and adventure.
I took the last 4 weeks to contemplate and enjoy the view of exactly where I am, without any concern for where I am going. To be able to sit down and look from a new perspective the mountain I have conquered. And what a journey it has been! My ambition was – in addition to being thankful and appreciative – to get rid of that tiredness and let the energy and excitement for my new mountain flow through my veins.
Sitting in my living room, sipping my tea and soaking the sunshine, I have finally realised that life looks a lot more like a dramatic mountain range, therefore, some of the changes are not new paths within the same mountain. Sometimes we reach the top of a mountain and in order to keep growing, we need to get to the next mountain. At times, the gap between the mountains is small, and some mountains are connected by bridges. However, the further along you go, the only way you can get to the next mountain is by building a connection using a rope to bridge the gap. Despite years of preparation, there will come a time when your next move requires you to build that rope, jump and trust that the rope will catch you.
My next step requires a small leap of faith.
One of the questions I am asked time and time again is ‘How do you do it?’. And my answer is usually quite short: Find a path you want to pursue and commit to it.
Frankly, Nike has verbalised it much better than I ever could. Just do it.
So as I sit here contemplating a better answer for that question, I start to gather my learnings from previous leaps. I close my eyes and focus on the ‘HOW’. While trying to organise my thoughts into actionable tips for those wanting to take a leap, I am reminded of lines from the ‘The Roads Less Travelled’ by Scott Peck, ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell, ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz, and a hundred other books, blog posts, podcasts and white papers that have helped me grow.
Below is my (non-exhaustive) list of how to succeed when taking a leap of faith:
1. Commit to a path: A path is nothing more than a way to get from A to B. If you consider where you are today ‘A’ and where you want to get ‘B’, there will be multiple ways you can get there. There isn’t a right or wrong way, as long as it gets you where you want to go. However, having multiple choices can be overwhelming. My advice is to narrow down your choices and pick the way most suitable for you to get to B. For example, one way of changing careers is to quit your job and go back to full-time education. However, if you have bills to pay and not a lot of savings, this is not a wise path for you. In this case, part-time education or finding a role you can do today within the type of business you want to be in tomorrow are probably better paths to getting to where you want to go.
2. Evaluate your toolkit: The skills, knowledge, resources and experience you have is your toolkit. It is true that some people’s toolkits are better than others. It is also true that sometimes you don’t have the tools to get you all the way across your chosen path. Assess what you have and learn how to make the most out of it. If you are missing a critical piece, find a way to get it before you embark on the journey. If you realise you don’t have the correct toolkit, it might be a sign that you chose the wrong path, or that you are not ready to conquer the next step just yet. In taking leaps of faith, it is as important to be realistic as it is to be courageous.
3. Plan and Prepare: Once you have picked a path and you know that you have what it takes to cross the path, it is time to get tactical. I like making 30/60/90 day plans outlining exactly what activities I am going to be doing for the short term (they should always connect to the end goal). I personally do not believe in more than 90 days planning (even my 60 and 90 days plans are quite loose) as too much changes as you go. So the planning and preparing should happen at every milestone of your path. A plan will keep you on the right track and accountable. For example, if you want to get a new job in a new industry, a requirement might be having a professional profile that matches the new role. Therefore, some of the activities you might do in your 30 days plan is to redesign and update your CV, pimp your LinkedIn profile, and go to key events in your area. I personally keep my plans in my fridge door. Crossing the activities makes me feel good in the short term, and when I need to sacrifice other things to achieve those goals, it reminds me of why I am doing it.
4. Just do it: Achieving big goals require a relentless commitment to the plan. It is old fashion hard work (done smartly). Put the work in and if your plan was well crafted, it will pay off. While you do it, ensure you are observing what works and what doesn’t, wherever possible measure your activities so that you can continuously do more of what yields the best results. For example, if a specific meet-up in your area has allowed you to connect with 5 relevant people in the new industry and sending your CV directly to roles is not yielding any positive responses, focus your time on building that network instead.
5. Don’t quit when it gets hard: Things are bound to get difficult. If they don’t, then I’d argue you were not making a leap in the first place. So go into it aware of the fact that some days will be very hard, and you will feel like giving up. Maybe your friends and family will encourage you to give up as they will only see this journey from the sidelines. But quitting halfway is not going to make you any more fulfilled. After all, you have outgrown your starting point, so going back will never feel good in the long-term. That doesn’t mean you need to keep doing things that are not working. Remember, get smart. Critically analyse what you are doing, and iterate on your plan. There is nothing wrong with taking the wrong turn, realising you did, and course correcting.
6. Surround yourself with people that believe in you: The final point in my list is to find the circle of people that believe in you. They will keep you motivated, they will praise you, they will support you, they will offer to help when you need help.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful. I’d love to hear what big change journey you are looking to embark on in your life.