Forgetting The Safety Net
A lot of people can find that the last few weeks leading up to a big move are rather stressful. Making sure that everything is packed up, turned off, forwarded or transferred… there’s a whole mental list you need to go over before taking the next, hopefully exciting chapter of your life. I made just such a “big move” in August of 2016 when I got rid of a lot of stuff, packed my remaining clothes and belongings, and bought a one-way ticket to Honolulu, Hawaii. It was the first time I had ever really traveled outside of the Midwest, and I was excited.
That is, until the last 3 days before my flight. In those 72 hours, I transitioned from mildly nervous and second-guessing myself all the way to a full-blown panic attack. By the time I had landed in Hawaii, I had fully convinced myself that I had made the stupidest decision of my life and would live to regret it. The first week I was out there I spoke no more than a handful of words to my friend and roommate Steve (he and I decided to make a go of moving out there together, an amazing guy), and just about as many words to the managers at the Walmart I had transferred to. I do not remember getting on either of the two planes I took out to Oahu, nor do I remember the flights themselves. My only memory is a 5 minute “panic-pacing” session I did in LAX where I walked up and down one of the main concourses trying to calm myself down. The rest is a complete blank.
The next thing I knew, I was alone standing under a streetlamp just outside of the Daniel K Inouye International Airport at 11 o’clock at night waiting for my Uber driver to take me to my Airbnb. Thankfully, she was incredibly kind, conversational, and seemed to notice my complete fright and nervousness when I mumbled that I had moved out there and never visited Hawaii before (Casey… I’ll never forget your kindness. Thank you.) By midnight I flopped into a bed and tried to sleep. Alone for the first time in my life, with my family, my “safety net” thousands of miles away.
I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Let me explain.
How many of us take so much time to establish a cushy safety net in our lives, only to never have the chance to use it? That’s not saying that there is something wrong with creating a safety net: we all should have systems or support networks in place just in case things do really go wrong. But my problem is that most of us spend too much time bolstering our safety net and not enough time actually doing the amazing/risky/propelling things that made us build the net in the first place. We spend too much time worried about a day that, thanks to our fears and our reliance on comfort, may never come.
If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at Steve Harvey’s great “Jump” monologue on Youtube:
If you are waking up believing that there is more to life than there is - then there is more for you out there. You…
Granted there’s a lot more to the monologue than what I’m discussing here, but one of the primary thoughts is the same: if you really want to live, you gotta jump. You need to let go of whatever notions of comfort and ease you’re currently holding if you expect more out of your life. And I knew for a fact I was comfortable leading up to that move. For years, I was working in an easy retail sales job that (by that time) I could do with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind me (seriously: selling cell phones was second-nature to me by that time…). I had even gotten a promotion and worked in management for a year leading up to the move, and even that wasn’t enough of a “jump” for me. Within two months of the promotion I was running on auto-pilot and utterly convinced that I had scored an “easy money” management position. But thank my lucky stars I made the “brash” decision to move away from it all: I came out of it stronger, more self-reliant, more empathetic, and with a zest for life that continues on to this day.
So how does one “forget” their safety net?
Every great venture starts with a dream, so don’t hesitate to dream. Make your dreams big enough to find the avenues within them to work on every day. There’s nothing wrong with a “broad” dream or vision to accomplish: use that as the over-arching goal to shoot for, then find the minute plans and “mini-dreams” within that framework that you can then start to act upon right away. If your dream is to travel the world, start looking into travel lifestyles like digital nomads, location-independent income generation, and remote work. If your dream is to become a visual artist, start an Instagram account and just start posting your works online for others to see. If you want to learn more about how to become a great pianist, find someone to give you lessons, or check out online learning from places like Youtube or Udemy. If there’s a dream, there’s a way to start acting on it today without busting your safety net.
Plan. Then Throw It Away. Then Plan Again.
Nobody said you had to follow your plans to the letter. I’ve found that planning is a great way for me to get ideas, dreams, and goals out of my head and onto paper; once I can actually see and digest them, then I can start to act on them, fine-tune them, and (if need be) throw them away to start all over again. Getting a plan going is an amazing way to commit to your ideas without incurring the wrath of your safety net.
Eat Hot Sauce. At Least a Little Bit.
OK, maybe this one is a little more metaphorical than actually eating hot sauce, but hear me out: I was really interested into getting into hot foods but couldn’t always stand the spice. How did I work on that? I started incorporating small amounts of hot sauce into my normal meals whenever possible, and (over time) grew to really love the heat and complexity of a good hot sauce. I may not be “Last Dab” ready (buuuuut if Sean Evans is reading this, I totally am), but I worked on that goal by taking something relatively daunting to my taste buds and breaking it down bit by bit.
This quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do one thing every day that scares you” is another great way to sum this point up: start etching away at the goals and dreams that scare you a little bit at a time. You don’t need to just give everything up and move to a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific all in one day, but you can do it in time if you just start breaking down that wall of fear you’ve placed in front of it bit by bit.
What if it turns out better than you could have ever imagined?
Do. The. Thing.
Finally, JUST DO IT. There will always be a “more opportune” time, a “better” place, a “great opportunity” that will always seem to crop up when you do want to take that leap, and in the end it’ll be your decision to make. But if you do have an amazing vision or goal for your personal or professional life, the only thing to really do about it is to just do it.
I had the dream to move out to Hawaii and live there. I dreamt, planned, and etched away at it, and finally went and did it. Did that remove all of my fears and apprehensions? Not a bit! Panic attacks, second-guessing, and crushing doubt ruled my mind for the first month I was out there. But thanks to the planning and etching away I had done prior to the move, I put myself in a better position to get over the doubt and fear faster, and to actually turn my time in Hawaii into a positive, life-changing experience that I will never forget.
Jake is a content creator, travel photographer, writer, and support consultant. He’s currently taking 2021 to fully transition to the digital nomad lifestyle, and will be documenting the process both on Medium and on Youtube. Check him out at Nomadic Jake