I got inspired going to the dentist.
One of my best friends is a top dentist in Marin County, right north of San Francisco. We grew up together, and once or twice a year, myself and two other buddies drive up, have our teeth cleaned, head over to the gym for a workout and then go out for dinner and drinks.
Not your normal dentist routine, I know. But it makes going to the dentist fun (notwithstanding my new cavity and gum recession, but that’s a different story…) and it’s a great excuse to hang out with friends.
Our latest appointment happened last week. We ate dinner in downtown Mill Valley, a small town with some great restaurants and shops and then walked around, (re)telling old stories from high school and college and just hung out til we decided to head home.
After dinner, we strolled out onto Throckmorton, took a left and walked down the hill, past a few small cafes and clothing stores closed for the night.
One of my friends then reminded me how the last time we were out for dinner a year or so ago, we had acted like the true 12 year olds we are and had a “see-who-can-jump-the-highest-and-touch-the-store-sign-hanging-over-the-street-without-hurting-themselves” contest.
And back then, a year ago, to the surprise of everyone, I had propelled all of my 5’8 ¾” frame and hit a small wooden store sign that hung about 9 feet high over the sidewalk.
And now my friends wanted me to do it again.
Times like this don’t come around that often in life. Chance to impress your friends. Chance to feel young again. Chance to show off. I was loving it.
The sidewalks were empty and fairly well lit. I took off my blazer, untucked my shirt, walked about 20 paces back to give me some running room. I bent over slightly, breathed in a few times, and swung my arms to warm up. I began to move, did my stutterstep, accelerated forward, took my long jump step, bent my knees and felt my legs propel upwards and leap and then swung my right arm to the sky, and pushed my left arm downwards and I arched my back and stretched my forefinger up up up into the air …
And I missed the sign. Pretty badly. By about a foot and a half.
I went back, did the whole routine again. And missed again.
Ten more times I missed. I was (kind of) getting closer, but I was still missing the sign.
Another friend tried. He missed.
I tried again. I missed. Nothing but air.
It was simply impossible to jump up and hit this sign. Impossible. I was not tall enough. I was not strong enough in the legs. I couldn’t do it.
Why couldn’t I do it this year? Was the sign higher than I remembered? Was it a new sign? Were we even jumping in front of the same store?
I had done it a year earlier, and now I just couldn’t do it.
I planned to jump one more time. One more time. Then I’d call it quits. And so I walked up, and breathed in, and swung my warms to warm up, and did my stutterstep, and ran forward, and took my long step, and bent my knees and felt my legs explode and then swung my right arm upwards, and pushed my left arm downwards and I arched my back and stretched my forefinger up up up into the air …
… and I missed.
Didn’t touch the sign.
And I landed.
But this time, before the pang of disappointment could hit me I heard my friends. “Dude, that was so close!” and “Man, you almost had it this time.”
So, I was close this time? Really? On my first jump I missed it by a foot and a half (it felt like I had missed it by a mile). 14 jumps later, and now I’m “close”? I “almost had it”?
Wait a minute …
I’m close. I almost have it. Really.
I’ll try it again.
And I did. I did my stutterstep and ran and leaped and stretched and I missed it again.
But it was different now. I was even closer. My friends’ yells got even louder. Almost there man, they said.
Almost there? Really?
Almost there. Really.
So I went back to my spot. And I began my stutterstep. And this time I knew I was going to touch this sign. I was going to get the tip of my finger higher than I had done on the previous 15 times, higher than I ever have. I was going to do it.
And I did. I grazed the sign with the tip of my finger. 9 feet high. I did it. And my friends cheered.
I jumped four more times, and hit the sign four more times.
And looking back, I realized my turning point: Once I heard from my friends that I was sincerely close, that I was sincerely almost there, I realized that I was finally going to do it because I came to a point where I sincerely knew I could do it.
In other words, it’s all in our head.
Whether it’s running the mile under four minutes, climbing the tallest mountain in the world, winning a case in front of a difficult judge, prevailing in a settlement hearing, hitting 9 foot high sign in Mill Valley or leaving the law, impossible feats become possible once we know we can do them.
We can leave the law. We can make a change. There is a lot standing in our way making it seem impossible, but it is possible.
Come with me, let’s go to that inner core of ourselves and identify what we think as impossible and then show how they are really possible:
- I don’t have time. Don’t think of time as a limited resource. Take small, incremental baby steps that build on each other. Let’s grow our momentum, see some progress and we no longer have to find the time to leave the law, we’ll only look forward to it.
- I’m afraid I’ll fail. Accept that we will fail. But let’s not focus on big overwhelming leaps; let’s focus on small steps, small baby steps, so when we do fail, we won’t fail hard, we won’t fall far, and we’ll pick ourselves up, we’ll learn so much, and the next time, we’ll get it right.
- I don’t know which job to pursue. Let’s not focus on the job, let’s focus on ourselves for now, and let that inform the path we take.
- I don’t know what I’m good at. Well, let’s find out. Let’s ask 10 people to compliment us and provide us with 10 or so traits and compile these into a list and organize them into 3 to 4 main “trait areas” and use this as a structure for our personal narrative, how to retool our resume and which jobs to explore and pursue.
- I’m afraid people won’t hire me because I’m a lawyer. So let’s not call ourselves a lawyer. Let’s apply for that “Content Writing” job by calling ourselves a “creative content writer with an adept skill for meeting deadlines” or apply to that “Operations” job by calling ourselves a “detailed oriented administrative professional with a profound respect for order” or apply to that “Account Management” job by calling ourselves an “engaging people person with the ability to win anyone over and instill confidence that the job will get done”.
Let’s do one thing today, one small thing today, to begin to leave the law. We don’t need to go all the way and leave the law yet, that is a big task. Let’s just show ourselves that we can leave the law.
And once we realize that we can leave the law, that it is possible to leave the law, that we are worthy to leave the law, then we will finally see that we have already taken that first step to leave.
And so now that we’ve begun to leave, where will we go? Sky’s the limit. Surprise us.