Image credit: Leap of faith by neil roger, on Flickr. Used via Creative Commons licensing.

“Leap, and the net will appear.” ~John Burroughs

Once upon a time—not that many years ago, in fact—I leapt in a big way, and a net really did appear. This net not only caught me, but has also brought many unexpected, unlooked-for gifts that I didn’t even know I needed.

And yet, despite this personal experience of net appearance that has made the leap better than I could have imagined, that oft-repeated quote makes me squirm with discomfort.

You see, I’ve also leapt at times in my life when no net appeared. Or perhaps what appeared to be a net turned out to be nothing more than ephemeral cobwebs that I crashed right through on my way down.

I’ve been lucky in that even my hardest crashes have been ones from which I have been able to recover without catastrophic damage, but I’ve known others who were less fortunate.

Despite the way the phrase sounds (and despite the way it’s often used), there is no promise of a net. No one—not God, not the Universe, not karma, not fate, not destiny—no one gives us the guarantee that a net will always be there when we leap.

Nets often do appear—if nothing else, the amount of passion and commitment it takes to make the leap in the first place gives us the motivation to work harder and take advantage of more opportunities than we would otherwise. Our ability to see possibilities is heightened by the risk we are taking, and our focus is sharpened by the high stakes.

Our dedication to our course often invites offers of assistance, support, and collaboration because people are drawn to that kind of courage and commitment to one’s passion.

But the net is still not guaranteed, and we do one another a disservice when we make it seem as if one is. It can not only lead to unwise leaps and to a lower level of commitment to the hard work that a leap entails (since we are waiting for that promised net), but it also leads to unnecessary and unwarranted blame toward those for whom a net doesn’t show up.

Am I saying that leaping is bad? Absolutely not! I think many of us would do well to leap more often, to take more risks, to stretch ourselves more fully because all growth happens in the form of leaps into the unknown.

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.” ~Henry Miller

Leaping is good for us in many ways. Taking regular risks, even small ones, keeps us engaged and fully alive. We grow and expand and blossom as we push our boundaries to try new things.

There are also times when we’ve gotten so stuck or so backed into a corner or have had things collapse so thoroughly around us that leaping is the only way forward.

“Things can fall apart, or threaten to, for many reasons, and then there’s got to be a leap of faith. Ultimately, when you’re at the edge, you have to go forward or backward; if you go forward, you have to jump together.” ~Yo-Yo Ma

Between my writing and my creative work and my choices about how I live my life, I sometimes feel like I’m leaping (in small ways) all the time. I’ve never experienced a time of so much growth and of feeling so alive.

I am committed to making leaping and risking a regular practice, but I do so with the very clear recognition that each leap is a risk precisely because there is no guarantee that it will all work out.

When I’ve done my due diligence of looking first and preparing as best I can, chances are actually good that each leap will go better than fear would have me believe as I stand on the edge of that cliff. But there’s no promise of a net. There never has been.

If there’s something you’ve always longed to do, I would encourage you to do everything possible to make that leap. Find ways to work more risk into your daily life with constant stretching and growth. Embrace a life of commitment to your passion!

Give it all you’ve got, but do so without expecting that a net is guaranteed.

What is your experience with leaping? Have you had nets appear when you needed them? Have you ever blamed yourself when a net you expected didn’t show up?

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