I leaped into the dark abyss. Wind whipped by me, and the velocity of my jump picked up. With my eyes popping out of my head and a joker smile, I managed one thought: “this is either going to turn out really cool, or really shitty.”
Many things came easy to me early on – sports, academics, girls. But jumping out of an airplane, well that one was new. On that first jump, it hit me: I’d been taking the easy road with my life. My soul challenged me to step up and strike out. I was simply not satisfied with sitting idly by as my growth stalled and stagnation set in. I was twenty-five, and too young to live a life of quiet desperation.
Yes I was living the American dream, and was capable and successful in the eyes of most. Yet I was stuck in a rut already. I hadn’t learned yet that every human must challenge themselves in a manner proportionate with their capabilities. The more capable you are as a person, the bigger the challenge you must bring to yourself. Otherwise, things come easy, complacency sets in and you regress. Ugh.
You see, failure is not an option, it is an imperative. Jumping into the abyss teaches you so many things about yourself regardless of whether it turns out really good or really shitty. But if you don’t jump, you don’t learn, or grow. You slide further into the oblivion of safety, security and stagnation.
With failure comes pain. With pain comes emotional awareness and spiritual depth. Pain is not “weakness leaving your body,” but the key to a hidden door. That door is the passageway to your natural wellspring of internal strength. It is not the punishment of the lash in my youth, or the 1,000 burpees at BUD/s that was my teacher. No, it was the pain associated with my screw ups that earned the punishment.
William Henley’s words ring through to me now: “It matters not how straight the gate, nor how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the Master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul.” Risking failure and learning to embrace it as our teacher, keeps us in the Captain’s chair of our souls.
So don’t settle for easy street – take the risk. Learn to fail. Jump into the darkness of the unknown and experience glorious, loud, messy and abysmal failure. Then thank it for being your teacher and try again. And again.