Lean Back and Let Go!
The night before I had confidently hopped up on the boulder that blocks or (depending upon how you view it) enables access to a ledge that juts out beside the mighty Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park. The sound of the Merced river dropping 600 feet into the darkness was tremendous.
You can see both the ledge and the boulder in the picture above. Look just to the right of the falls and to the left of the two trees.
I soaked in the experience.
The noise. The spray. The cold night air. The sheer thrill — of knowing that I was standing in the dark above an epic waterfall. I thought I must be in Middle Earth. In fact, in the morning looking down at the granite stairs we’d ascended the night before, that was exactly my thought. And give the pace we were going we’d have been easy targets for Orks. It was a hard slog.
The experience at the top however, was an exhilarating reward — for having hiked up a wet rugged trail — including the Mist Trail section below Vernal — with heavy packs as darkness descended and the last day hikers scrambled back down to the comfort of their lodging.
This was my first trip to Yosemite and I was soaking in all pleasure of its grandeur.
In the morning, harnessed in, and walking out on that ledge I was confident. I knew I was secure. I’d helped attach the rigging and anchors myself. Our friend and experienced guide, was even out on the ledge with me (my only subsequent regret to be honest).
But this was unnatural. A time for mind-over-matter determination. You need this in large doses when you are out on the ledge and about to do what your brain tells you is insane. I was pushing my limits. Did I have what it takes? Could I do it?
I was certainly going to try.
The goal was to place my feet on the edge of the ledge, lean back, arms outstretched and peer down behind me into the white abyss.
Most people know of Yosemite, millions visit, and thousands venture away from the roads to hike its trails and take in the splendor, but we were experiencing it on an entirely different plane.
With absolute confidence in my guide, the rigging and anchors, the equipment, and my comparatively limited experience of having survived some other daring things…
I leaned back and let go!
Ok, so you’re thinking, he sounds like an adventurous guy. I’m sure this was nothing for him. Keep the following in mind: I’m in my 40s. Ok, I grew up in Autria and Scotland, but I live in suburbia. I’m a book nerd. My first experience of actual rock-climbing was the night before. I had not camped in the back-country since college. This was my first trip to Yosemite. 3 people fell to their deaths at this same spot in 2011. My point? This was not a trivial every day thing for me by any stretch, but, boy, am I ready to go back!! [Update: I’ve been back 4 times since that first visit. What a place!!]
Enough of the story, so what does this have to do with life and business and with you?
What does it take to “go for it” — confidently?
Here are a few thoughts.
- You can do what you prepare yourself for. What you train for — mentally, physically, financially, spiritually.
- You must trust your roots, your preparation, and when it’s time, you just need to lean back and let go.
I think I’m pretty normal. But like all of us, I’m uniquely normal. We have all been given abilities, context, experience, value, expertise, knowledge, connections, resources, sensibilities, heritage, resources, intelligence, will, education. The combination of those things and many other factors are what make us unique. We are responsible then to do something of value with what we’ve been given.
10 years before, I would not have done what I described above. I had a great, but arguably boring office job (most of the time).
However, my life’s motto for that season was “excellence in everything”. Even in the boring stuff. So I stuck it out and kept plodding. I eventually woke up to the fact that I’d settled. I no longer passionately pursued my eternal life and my relationship with my Maker and I’d become complacent. As I looked ahead and contemplated turning 40, I didn’t like the idea that I’d need to make some serious changes once I got there. Plus there is this thing called a “mid-life crisis” apparently? So in my early 30s I resolved to get back on track and make up for lost time. I wanted to be going full steam ahead when I hit 40. And by the grace of God, 40 looked a lot better than it might have, had I not woken up to the reality of my complacency.
From then on, everything became super easy…..
Of course not!
The moment I got back on track it actually got harder. Much harder.
I lost my health and but for antibiotics might have died. I lost my job twice. I lost friends. I got run over by a pick-up while on my bicycle (and thankfully walked away). At one point, I thought I’d lost my mind. I lost my little brother. I’ve been humiliated, kicked to the curb, ignored, betrayed, lied to. I’ve skirted burnout and have failed countless times.
All of these are stories in themselves, but I mention these things only so that we don’t kid ourselves. Doing what is right, is HARD. Making the most of the life you’ve been given is HARD! The high road is HARD! Staying engaged is HARD! Being a life-long learner is HARD! Helping and loving others is HARD! Serving is HARD! Doing what you’ve been called to do is HARD. Not quitting is HARD!
Leaning out and letting over a raging waterfall is HARD.
But it’s in doing the hard things that we grow.
In doing the hard things we truly live.
I started to blog during that season of reawakening from my slumber of complacency. My first blog was called “Training for Life”. It represented my shift in mindset and a return to life-long-learning. I started again to make it my aim, though never perfectly, to live life to the full. To do that, you need to always be training. So when life’s opportunities and challenges arise, you’re as ready as you can be.
Lets be realistic though. You may not be quite ready to lean back and let go in every circumstance. You may not be ready to leave the comfort of a corporate job and steady paycheck and pursue your dream. You may not be ready to settle down and commit to “till death do you part”. You may not be ready apply for that school. To take up that exciting hobby. To take that break. To go on that trip.
BUT, you can start leaning back and letting go in some smaller things as you train, and prepare, and trust the process, your equipment, and your guides.
Take classes. Read books. Get a coach. Try something new. Write down your ideas regularly — your idea muscle is arguable the most important and then apply in small ways what you learn in your immediate context. After all,
“Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.”
— Peter Marshall
You’ll probably surprise yourself. And in a few years, or even months, or less you’ll be taking on things you’d never have dreamed possible. And its never too late.
P.S. One sure sign that you need to lean back and let go more is that when you look back on your life there will be things you regret, and while I don’t advocate dwelling there, think about it in these terms. Don’t you wish you’d leaned back and let go a little more?
P.S.S. When leaning back over Nevada Fall, did my legs knock a little? Sure!
Do I now wish I had pushed myself a little further? Absolutely.
Any regrets? Yes. I certainly wish I had stayed out there a little longer to get an epic shot like the one below.
That’s my friend who two weeks later, got married to his sweetheart, and a few months later, along with our guide and their wives repelled down the side of Nevada Fall over on the left of that picture — apparently the first ever to do so. Carpe Diem!
P.S.S.S It’s much higher than it looks.