Making the Leap
To create something you must do what you don’t know how to do.
“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience.” — Henry Miller
Experience, ambition, intention will only take you to the edge of the cliff; From there you must leap into the unknown.
Our instinct for preservation warns us of certain death. This instinct is not wrong. It’s a paradox: we want to be safe but the price we pay for continuing to live the life we have known, is that we stay the same.
I have spent a great deal of my life looking longingly out across the expanse at what might be, if only I could just that first step. I know what I have to do. How hard can it be?
The close I get to the making the leap, the more I glimpse the monsters of my fears, lurking in the darkness. So how do we do make the leap?
One possibility: Take one step at a time.
This is the advice Annie Lamott gives writers in Bird by Bird.
This is also the advice given in Alcoholics Anonymous: You can’t undo the momentum of addiction all at once.
You can’t leap into unknown and return transformed all at once.
The emphasis on productivity, results, outcomes, achievement deceives us into thinking we can and should get to where we want to go as fast as possible
But as anyone who has struggled with creative project or an addiction knows, the real work , actual change does’t happen overnight.
The practice of leaping into the unknown begins with one step and then another. It is the cumulative practice of small decisions and resulting actions that leads to real change.
We can take this advice literally, Erling Kagge does in his book, Walking. Kagge argues that the physical act of taking one step and then another changes us.
Instead of being delivered by car to our destination quickly, walking forces us to move slowly and deliberately under our own steam. Walking, as a practice, connects us to our bodies, and to the physical world. “The feeling of being present in my life is in life is stronger,” Kagge writes.
Walking, like meditation, force us to slow down, to connect to our senses and to use them. It makes us practice being aware and available to the what is happening within and around us right now.
The practice of being in the world and in one’s body does something interesting to the monstrous fears looming large in the distance: It reduces those fears to a human scale.
As we practice moving into and through the unknown, taking one step at a time, we experience what it is like to keep going, regardless of our fears. With enough small, steady steps, our fears loses their power to stop us.
Something else surprising occurs: The momentum of sameness fades as the joy of of feeling alive surges. We are carried forward by the excitement of exploration, as each day, step by step, we walk forward and break new ground.