The most dangerous thing in the world is to try to leap a chasm in two jumps. – David Lloyd George
I was watching a TEDx talk by Dr Benjamin Hardy who talked about his research into wannabe entrepreneurs and actual entrepreneurs.
The one difference between the two, he said, was that the actual entrepreneurs had experienced a point of no return – something from which there was no going back, while the wannabes hadn’t.
This is an interesting concept – an appealing one and a dangerous one – a concept you should approach with caution.
On the one hand many of us are in jobs that we’d like to leave.
Maybe we want to start a new business or pursue a different career or talent, and surely it’s only by taking the decision – committing to a new way of life – that you’ll make any progress?
After all, is the only memory you want to have of your life one of regret?
So, if you’re in that situation, don’t you have to believe in yourself – believe in your ability to take the leap and get to the other side?
We read so many stories of just that happening – but at the same time we need to remember that stories are written only about those that reached the other side.
The rest fell, and were forgotten.
Survivorship bias stalks such stories.
Hardy’s research probably controls for this bias but it’s hard to imagine that there are many entrepreneurs who take part in interviews to talk about how they failed time after time.
But then there are other kinds of leaps – after all, not all leaps have to be ones that show up in dramatic announcements.
You don’t have to quit your job, move to Silicon Valley, invest all your savings or mortgage everything you own and go all in on your dream.
A leap can happen just in your mind.
In her book, Thinking in systems, Donella H. Meadows writes about an experiment she does with classes.
She takes a slinky out of a box, holds it from the top in one hand, resting it on the palm of the other.
She them takes away her hand and the free end of the slinky drops, bouncing up and down until it comes to rest.
She asks the class why the slinky behaves the way they did.
The answers come fast – “Because you took your hand away.”
She then picks up the box the slinky came in and does the same thing with that, holding it in one hand, resting it on the other.
She takes her hand away and nothing happens.
Her point is that it’s the nature of the slinky that makes it act the way it does – not the hand.
The behaviour is a property of the system – not of its environment.
And this gives us a hint off the kind of leap we need to make in our minds.
If we want to change things then we have to start by changing ourselves.
Changing things that are outside us amounts to fiddling with the environment.
If we change our jobs, locations or investments, we’ve changed the things around us but if we are no different aside we’re heading for failure – because the chasm still exists when we take the run up.
When we’re ready the chasm disappears – maybe just because we’ve now found where the bridge happens to be.