I want to share a story with you this morning story about the first time I went cliff jumping. I was about 16 years old and went with some friends to Sequoia National Park. We went just inside the park. There was a place known to high schoolers in my area in California as a spot where you can jump off cliffs. This was early summer and the water we're jumping into was actually ice melt. It had snowed the day before and it melted off and it was now rushing down the mountain. There was a spot where we could jump off a cliff and I hadn't gone there before.
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This was silly, this was ignorance, this was stupidity. This was before everybody had cell phones. I didn’t even tell my parents. They just knew I was hanging out with friends that day. We drove about two hours from home and went to the area where there were cliffs. I remember going to the cliff for the first time. I have a little picture illustration in my video above. What we do is climb across a rockface. Then, you kind of take a little slide down a little short rockface about 6 feet. Then you land on this platform where you can jump about approximately 50 feet or so into the water. There is another side that was about 70 feet. It was higher. I didn't know how you could get there. I saw the guys do it, but I never did it.
I remember getting to this point and I was right there with my friend who had been to this place before. He jumped off and got in the water and was fine and had a good time while I was up at the top. I was kind of starting to feel that fear of heights, that anxiety, when I'm standing here looking over the edge and he's down at the bottom. He's like, “come on, Drew, just jump.” In the meantime, I see guys jumping off a 70-foot one doing gainers. I mean, they're just jumping off doing back flips. They are between two sheer rockfaces and they're just going for it.
I've watched these guys and my friend, John. I watched my friend jump from right where I was standing and be fine, but your mind begins to play tricks on you. I was there and I'm like, “hey dude, you're like two feet shorter than me,” or “you’re a water polo player so you know how to swim better.” All these different things in my mind are coming in and how can I make my way back? But there was really no way to make my way back. I was stuck here. I found myself right there on the edge and I'm looking down. I'm looking down at the water and as I'm looking down, I see a bee. A bumblebee; a mean looking bumblebee. It started to swarm around my legs. It’s going back and forth really fast. It’s hanging there. It’s looking for a spot to land. I know this guy is about to land on my leg and it's going to be no good. For most people, a bee is an annoyance, right? It's an irritation. For me, it was something more serious because just four years prior, I was stung by a bee. I was a chubby kid, a fat-faced kid, but let me tell you, my face swelled up so big that I didn't have any wrinkles in my ears. My breathing began to get shallow and constricted. So, bees were no good for me.
I was in that moment where I could jump off a 50-foot cliff that was very scary or I could stay where I'm at, with a bee swarming around. It wasn't until the consequences of the known, the consequences of what I already knew would happen if that bee landed on me…that the consequences of known became greater than the fear of the unknown, that I went for it. I'd like to say that I jumped in a cannonball or I did a flip or something like that. I couldn't even get my body physically do that. All I could get my body to do was take a step and I let gravity do the rest.
We have a saying in a group (The John Maxwell Team) and a sign that I hang that says: “Jump and build your wings on the way down.”
I want to add an extra wrinkle to that because you might find yourself in a situation where that fear of the unknown is so powerful in your life right now. You know the consequences of the known.
You know what'll happen if you stay where you're at right now, but I want to encourage you with this: STEP and find your courage on the way down.
Today, wherever you're at, whatever that next step is for you, step and find your courage on the way down. I hope that helps you today. I hope that helps you in your personal growth and your leadership.