FindYourNextFoothold (1)

Find Your Next Foothold

Find your next foothold is good advice when you are climbing Mount Everest and when you are climbing through life. That concept was recently put to the test in my own life. For the last four years, I have been based in Springfield, Illinois. As my business has grown I have found myself in the car driving to work with my St. Louis-based clients on a regular basis. Additionally, St. Louis is the closest major airport. I knew at some point I would need to move to St. Louis to continue to grown my business, to be closer to my St. Louis clients, and to be near an airport for my clients who are outside of my driving distance.

A few months ago I asked a Realtor to give me some advice about what I needed to do to my condo before I tried to sell it. She came over, suggested a few changes, and told me to let her know when I was ready to list it. I was in no rush.

My Realtor recently called and said she knew of someone looking for a two-bedroom condo in my Association. She also said there were no two-bedrooms for sale and she wanted to know if I was ready to list my place?  I said, “Sure, why not?” (Note to self: Answer your own rhetorical questions.) She came over the next day and I signed the listing paperwork. The following morning at 9am we had a showing and from that one showing, I had an offer that I couldn’t pass up – when does that happen?!

For about 24 hours I celebrated and then I had my, “oh no” moment when I realized I had about 30 days to pack up and move and in that process, I needed a new mortgage lender, a St. Louis Realtor, and I also had to find a new home.  I got in my car and headed to St. Louis to work on my to-do list. For about 48 hours I was convinced I had made a tragic mistake. Nothing was going as planned. When Plan A failed I moved to Plan B, and then Plan C, and then Plan D… the next day after I had left my own self-pity party I found myself on the phone with a close friend who I think was more stressed about this than me. She said, “so WHAT are you going to do?” I simply replied, “find my next foothold.”

I am not an expert at mountain climbing, but I do have a lot of experience at overcoming mountains and walls in my own life and here is what I know:

  1. Footholds matter: A foothold is where you place your foot in order to leverage your next move. People often assume that climbing is all about your hands and arms since those are the parts that reach the top first but without a foothold, your hands and arms have too much weight to carry. When you are planning to move you need to find a foothold before you try and push yourself forward. If you want to reach forward in life you first need to find a foothold that will support you securely.
  2. Know where you are: You cannot plot a course until you know where you are. While the temptation may be to always look forward there is a time and place to look at your feet to gain a clear understanding of where you are. This will also help you to determine what your next move needs to be. You can’t move forward until you know where you are. 
  3. Climb with silent feet: When you climb with silent feet it forces you to be intentional about every step you take. You can’t climb a mountain, literally or figuratively, with loud feet. When you think about keeping your feet silent you have to think about every step you take which forces you to be intentional. No matter where you are headed be intentional and climb with silent feet. 
  4. Take small steps: Any expert climber will validate the idea that we need to take small steps. Our bodies can only cover so much ground at once. When a climber gets near the summit of Mount Everest they don’t run to the top because they know they are pushing their bodies to the brink of death, so they take slow, small, deliberate steps. The same is true in life, the more we push ourselves the more we need to focus on taking small steps. 

Climbing is all about your feet. You need to find your next foothold, know where you are, climb with silent feet, and take small steps.

And last but not least, your feet, move them often.


Emergency Evacuation

It wasn’t my intention to write on this subject this again, but this is the question that keeps showing up in my life. The question is in regards to what it feels like the moment you let go, the moment you leap, the moment you leave one thing and move into liminal space having not yet reached your next destination.

I have never jumped out of an airplane. The only way I will ever jump out of a plane will be for a life-saving emergency evacuation. Honestly, that is what leaping into liminal space feels like. Sounds great, huh?

At some point on your journey, you discover that your plane isn’t headed to your desired final destination and the only way to be where you are supposed to be is to get off the plane as soon as possible. But you love the people on that plane, they have been so good to you, it’s been a great journey, but they are headed to a place that isn’t for you.

You make a decision. You stand up, baby steps. But even in the small steps people begin to question you. Everyone is looking at you. They whisper, they point and offer disapproving looks. They begin to tell you all the dangers, all the reasons why you should settle for the final destination of that aircraft even though it is the wrong destination for you. But what they are saying cannot silence the voice inside you that is calling you to get up and move.

You walk towards the door. One foot in front of the other. You think, “What am I doing? This plane is going to a nice place with nice people. I could survive there. But is living and surviving the same thing? What am I doing?” But in your heart you know, you just know, that destination isn’t for you. You put on your parachute.

You check and double-check your parachute. You know you have to do this alone because the parachute can’t handle the weight of multiple people and we are all being called to different places anyway. Getting multiple people to the wrong place isn’t the goal.

You look back from the door and see those who have been a significant part of your journey. You are grateful for their concern and even more grateful for your shared journey to this point.

Again, you think about your options, you know that plenty of people will be happy when the plane lands because it is taking them to where they are supposed to be. You could go with them, you’ve been flying high with them for a long time, why not continue the journey?

You stand at the door questioning everything. What is below is calling to you but it feels like such a risk. What if your parachute doesn’t open? What if you are the only one who ever jumps? What if people question your decision? What will life below really look like? But what if you don’t jump? What if you stay the course of the predictable flight plan and you end up in the wrong place by choice?

And so you jump.

Here is what you need to know; your parachute isn’t going to open right away. If it did open it would get tangled in the airplane and you would die. The vessel that you treasured for so long would kill you. One way or another, it would kill you.

And so you free fall because you have to get away from where you were to get to a new safe place. As you fall it is loud, so, so loud. And you can’t make sense of anything and all you know is that you are falling, and falling fast. And then, once you are a safe distance away from the plane, that thing you loved for so long but needed to get away from, you pull the ripcord and “whoosh”… silence, stillness, peace. You are floating. You did it. You left the thing you needed to leave, you survived the chaos, the world is coming into clear focus again and now you can steer to your new landing place, that place that speaks to you.

So what does it feel like to leap? It feels like a life-saving emergency evacuation. If your life is moving in the wrong direction, thank those around you for the journey, walk toward the door, put on your parachute and jump. Free fall into the chaos and then pull the ripcord and enjoy the silence, enjoy the stillness, enjoy the peace, embrace the clarity, prep for your landing, be grateful for the journey and begin again.

Your life may require a life-saving emergency evacuation. And if you listen to your life closely enough you might hear yourself saying as you stand up and walk towards the door, “Oh, this, again? Ok, here we go.”


It happened again…

Well, it happened again. It seems to happen at least once a week, yet it always surprises me. Three months ago I was offended by it. I felt threatened. I worried that I had done something wrong. So many people were asking me this one question and I was certain that the entire world was right and I was the one, the only one, who couldn’t see what everyone else could so clearly see. While the surprise of the question hasn’t changed, my response to it certainly has evolved.

Let me explain.

I came home this afternoon after running some errands. As I walked to my front door my phone started blowing up with funny texts from a good friend. Instead of going inside I sat down on my patio, propped my feet up on my table and laughed out loud as we continued this text conversation. A few minutes later my next-door neighbor, who has been gone all summer, walked up our shared sidewalk. This was the first time I had seen her since May. She stopped at my gate and I asked her about her summer away with her grandson. After filling me in she asked, “How’s your team doing?” I shared with her that I had resigned from college coaching and started my own business. (Her face dropped.) I explained that I was now doing the part of coaching that I loved that most. (She didn’t move.) That every day was focused on developing better people and better leaders. (She didn’t blink.) I shared with her that I am now working with high school and college teams as well as corporate groups and that I am really enjoying it. (She was now turning pale.) I was excited to tell her that I’ve written some leadership development curriculum and I’ve been working hard to create an online version as well. (Now I wasn’t sure she was even breathing.) I finished all this with a smile and she blankly asked, “But isn’t that scary?”

With my feet still propped up on the table and a huge grin on my face, I simply replied, “Yeah, yeah it is!” And she walked off like she had seen a ghost ….

Once she was inside and I heard her front door close I said just loud enough to be obnoxious, but not loud enough to be heard, “We can do scary things you know?!”

The reality is I didn’t wrestle a grizzly bear and survive to tell my story. I didn’t do an emergency landing of a commercial airplane. I didn’t fight a life threaten illness.

I changed careers. I followed my heart. And yes, that is scary, but it isn’t crazy.

So much of the good in life is out there just beyond our self-imposed boundaries. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate your boundaries… ’cause we can do scary things… we really can.