Life Lessons Learned Along the Way: Cliff Jumping
When you go to the high dive at a swimming pool, jumping off can be scary. But when you jump off the ledges in the Dry Fork River, jumping off is not the only scary part. When you get to the opposite bank, first you have to hoist yourself out of the river onto a rock. Then, you have to search for hand holds and foot holds. Slowly, step by step, foot by foot, you climb up the valley wall to a ledge four inches wide about six feet above the river. Then, you face the hillside, and inch yourself across that ledge 30 feet farther, until you get to the place where it is safe to jump.
As my son recalled, the hardest part is just getting up there. “You have to walk like this,” he said, and demonstrated how you have to cling to the hillside. He continued, “Once you are ready, you have to think about where you are jumping. You have to jump forward, not just straight down.” He paused, smiled and said, “Once I did it, I knew I wanted to do it again.”
In both our personal and professional lives, we are constantly facing the tension between risk and reward. At home, do we spend our weekends doing the household chores, or do we pack up, get out of the house early and do that thing that we want to do, but never seem to have the time for?
At work, do we stick to our routine, or do we accept that new assignment that lies just outside our comfort zone? Do we settle a litigated case on terms different than we had hoped for, or do we prepare the case for trial knowing that trial brings uncertainty?
There is no single right answer. As General George Patton said, “Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.” We are prepared to navigate the terrain and explore options without compromising our clients’ goals. Often times, the best choice will be the familiar, the routine, the safe. But sometimes, when we have searched for the proper hand holds and foot holds, when we have ascended one step at a time, climbing carefully, we will find ourselves in a place where it is safe to jump. As my son taught me, once you are ready, you have to jump forward, not just straight down.
May we choose those moments wisely, so that when we look back, we will pause, smile, and appreciate all that we have accomplished.