60-second story: Four friends wander a woodsy path to find the ocean. Their goal: wade through warm, crystal waters and gape at neon sienna sunsets. Once they reach the Coast, of course. But not now. Not yet. First there’s a trail to follow.
The forest byway buzzes with the everyday hide-and-hunt of insects and animals. Along the way, Ranger Dan hails the foursome as they pass below his perch amidst the treetops.
All is glorious. Until it isn’t. Until the trail reaches an unseemly, untimely, unwelcome end at an unpassable crevasse. Now what?
The other side—the route to their golden sunshiny dream—is a mere stone’s throw away. And if any of the friends were stones, perhaps they could be thrown across. A quick review confirms: none are stones.
Four friends, four choices:
The first friend walks to the dizzying edge and trembles at the inhuman leap required. Quakes at the precipitous fall. The danger is clear and present. By all rights, a warning sign should be posted to save others from choosing this untenable path.
With a wave and an admonition (“Be safe out there!”) the first friend turns back for home. It’s best to leave now, before dark descends or the thunderclouds deliver on their threat of rain. This friend is… Fearful.
The second friend peers across the gap, and knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that others have made this improbable leap. After all, their legendary photos of frothy breakers and teeming tide pools inspired the group’s journey.
He wraps himself in the certain knowledge that others have vaulted the gap; in confidence that he is strong of leg and fleet of foot; in faith that the universe delivers miracles to those who commit and believe.
Taking a running start, he leaps. Hurls himself toward the other side. Contrary to promises in self-help books, suspending disbelief does not suspend gravity. The friend crashes ungracefully into the far wall then tumbles down the long, steep, rocky face. This friend is… Foolhardy.
The third friend is shaken and no longer intrepid. A quick analysis reveals erratic wind and inconsistent footing at the cliff’s edge. It’s now clear that those few who successfully hurdled the danger and sent back enticing photos were lucky. Their leaps were propelled by fortuitous foot placements and unreliable gusts of wind at their backs.
However, the vast majority of valiant jumpers were not so fortunate. Enlightened and wiser, this friend ventures off to find a way around the obstacle. The path along the edge winds its way to a delightful, inland city; a fine, comfortable place where the third friend settles down. Dreams of the coast soon fade into memory. This friend, having never reached the dream, is… Sensible.
The final friend retreats a ways down the path then hollers up to Ranger Dan, “May I borrow your axe?” “Sure,” replies Dan, ever the helpful employee of a quasi-government agency.
By sunset, two sturdy trees span the chasm, and our friend is watching the tropical sun dip below a wet horizon. A few miles back his hand-carved sign reads, “Beautiful beaches straight ahead. Feel free to use the bridge.” This friend, basking on the dreamed-of waterfront and opening the way for others is… Audacious.
Eight Steps to an Audacious You
1. The entire point of audacity is to end up somewhere better. But where is better? Only you know where your tropical shores are. Without a picture of coral reefs in mind, you’re likely to sit snug as a bug at home.
The first step in Audacity is dedication to a dream—a vision of your future that is far superior to your present.
2. Very quickly, however, you realize that wishing for the tropics is quite a different matter from deciding to leave the comforts of home. To be audacious, you will have to commit to your course, step across the threshold and leave the comfy couch behind.
The second step in Audacity is letting go of where you are now.
3. Many people confuse audacity with courage. They’re different. It takes courage to face the dangers that come upon you unbidden. The dark of night, the armed enemy, the store shelves empty of pralines. Audacity, however, is required when you make choices knowing they will create new dangers you must overcome.
You walk out the door knowing it’s rainy outside. Plus, according to the internet, the road is rocky and you may encounter gorilla-sized mosquitoes. And gorilla-sized gorillas.
The third step in Audacity is creating scary situations, then facing your fears.
4. A world of difference exists between audacious and foolhardy. Anyone can leap from a plane, claiming the universe provides parachutes to those who open themselves to floating. Preparation and forethought are critical, oft overlooked, components of achieving bold ambitions.
The fourth step in Audacity is creating a plan that connects you to your dream.
5. Also overlooked is risk mitigation. The audacious consider risks then set up soft landing places and safety chute mechanisms that deploy in case of emergency. This separates them from the lucky.
The fifth step in Audacity is preparing for the inevitable dip or bump along the way.
These first five steps can be boiled down to a handy, two-by-two matrix that neatly describes our four, fabled friends:
6. Unbridled planning and preparation looks an awful lot like procrastination. There’s a time to conform to the Department of Transportation’s bridge regulations, but it’s not when you’re being audacious. Most of our decisions don’t pose a risk to life or limb. Cut down the trees, span the gap, and go!
The sixth step in Audacity is moving—quickly—once you reach 80% confidence.
7. Occasionally an audacious individual is a loner. More often, though, the pioneer stands on the shoulders of giants or holds the giants’ hands. Lewis and Clark had Sacagawea to guide them to (coincidentally) the Pacific Ocean. Our hero turned to Ranger Dan for an axe.
The seventh step in Audacity is seeking help.
8. Audacity will pick you up by the scruff of your neck and deliver you to the land of your dreams. Sometimes. Sometimes you end up in a trailer park with a sore neck. The key, however, is how you view botched attempts.
The eighth step in Audacity is equating mistakes with learning, not failure or a measure of self-worth.
The eight steps above are your guidebook to audacity. Your road map from your current, comfortable home to a sparkling, white beach where beautiful, sunbathing clients pay you handsomely to spread lotion on their backs. Or something like that. Metaphors go astray sometimes.
What audacious journey will you embark upon? (Your first audacious act should be to post a comment below. I want to hear from YOU!)
Text and images are © 2021 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.