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Saturday, July 26, 2014

You've Got To Take The Leap

Lessons Learned

The Leap

The month was June and summer vacation in Wisconsin had just begun. All of the kids in our neighborhood exuberantly and together trekked seven blocks daily to the city pool. Summer paradise, unquestionably. Every minute at the pool was perfect from the first plunge to the banana popsicle we’d each buy for the drippy wet stroll home.   Something at the pool, however, had me thoroughly captivated.  It was the high dive. I was seven that particular summer.  Only the bravest of the brave ascended those metal steps leading to the bouncy plank which seemed to catapult divers first through the clouds then into the deep end of the pool. I was mesmerized. To want something so badly, yet at the same time to be so absolutely intimidated by it, left this curious youngster in a very perplexed, very conflicted place.  Come on, try it, urged the older siblings and neighbor friends. It’s not that hard, and we all will be right here. Right here? What exactly does “right here” do to help when you are ascending those steps alone, walking the plank alone, and mustering the courage for a leap through the clouds alone? Smiling to affirm their sincere encouragement with unbudging feet seemingly affixed to the poolside concrete, I continued to longingly watch the leaping. Even though just seven, I was a good YMCA-trained and competitive swimmer who understood the steely nerves required when poised on the starting block waiting for the starter’s gun to sound and the swim race to begin. I had a growing collection of swim ribbons and a strong shot at being a Junior Olympic participant. But the high dive was different. Day after glorious day with friends at the pool flew by on the wild wings of summer but with the issue of the high dive looming unrelenting on the edges of my young mind. I had to make the leap. The question was when. Gathering courage is no small or easy task, for it demands a daring charge of the will, a very deliberate choice to sidestep fear and reserve believing that the gain is worth the cost.  Watching others leap did not evoke increased bravery, it simply taunted. It was time. Without fanfare, pomp and circumstance, or any salubrious pronouncement, I crossed the poolside concrete to the metal steps, ascended them unflinchingly but with a few butterflies, and walked the bouncy plank to the end where I curved my toes around the fiberglass edge, took a deep breath and leaped. The older siblings and neighbor friends didn’t have time enough to amass a cheering section, but they all did pause in their playing to witness the splash. There. I did it. I took the leap, pierced the water’s surface with pencil straightness, submerged, and then re-emerged with a quiet victor’s grin. Life was never quite the same after the leap because there was a new confidence, a new boldness that from then on kept a bit of a bridle on those things that attempt to intimidate and subsequently paralyze action. I learned to leap that day, that summer when I was seven, and it has been a lesson of greatest significance throughout the next fifty years. Learning to leap benefits all learning as each new topic, new chapter, new unit, new school year, new skill, and on and on demands a willingness to set aside “I can’t” while reaching instead towards “yes.” With a month until the new school year begins, with a new job prospect on the horizon, with a dream itching to be chased, with a relationship whispering for more effort, with a need crying for your giftedness, with these and infinite others tickling at the edges of your awareness, perhaps it is time to practice and prepare for some life changing leaping. Take the leap. It is time.