The Plunge

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Conviction, resolve, commitment – these are the qualities that get us up the mountain. Fear, doubt, hesitation – these are what hold us back. We watch time carefully while climbing. Ascending with reckless, impatient abandon will leave one dangerously exhausted, prematurely worn out and vulnerable. Moving too slowly and cautiously could mean the difference between making it back to camp and spending the night out in the cold. Balanced somewhere between impatience and a sense of urgency is the cadence that we need. This pace is natural yet elusive. In many walks of life, this rhythm is hard to find.

Time is a bizarre, abstract thing to measure. Sunrise to sunset is easy enough to observe. Minutes and seconds are more abstract. Science has more or less validated the adage ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. When immersed in something that really engages us, we seem to lose track of time and distractions. We call this state ‘flow’, or being ‘in the zone’.

While traveling in Croatia, I ventured out to do a little climbing on the limestone cliffs along the Adriatic sea. With the soft landing pad of clear blue water, I was free to climb without ropes or partners. Yet I struggled to find my mojo, that state of happy, flowing movement over rock. After a number of frustrating attempts, I took a Kayak out for one last attempt at the island of Lokrum. I’d seen the spot on our first trip around the island – a deep, narrow cove on the southern tip of the Island, farthest from Dubrovnik. Near the mouth of this cove were the features I was looking for – clean, dry rock jutting out over the water, allowing for a clean line of fall, with little chance of hitting rocks on the way down.

This was late springtime. The air was comfortable, the water still a little cold. A few brave souls were swimming, but for most of us it was not quite warm enough yet. I found the spot and drug the kayak onto the warm, sharp rocks. I pulled on my shoes and started clambering around, warming up. My body was ready but my mind hesitant. I could see the features and lines I wanted to climb. I could see the hand and foot placements, but I kept backing off. I was doubtful and reluctant. Frustrated, I took off the tight rock shoes and stared out at the sea. I would be really disappointed to leave Croatia without some sense of accomplishment – topping out on some small cliff.

After a couple of frustrating cycles, the requisite motivation presented itself. I pushed past my doubt over some sharp rock, to a point where there were two options – up and over or straight down into the water. I reached an overhung point some 20 or 30 feet above the water. The holds were generous but I hesitated to commit, to reach the top some 10 feet higher. Anaerobic respiration left my forearms burning, losing power with every second of delay. I glanced down at the water and dropped. Thus baptized in the cold, invigorating water, my doubts washed away. I shouted and panted, swimming quickly back to the cliff. I began climbing with newly rediscovered mojo. Wet shoes and hands didn’t bother me moving over the warm, dry rock. I regained my highpoint through steep, athletic climbing and pushed past, up and over. I shouted. Without allowing myself to pause and think, I turned around and ran off the cliff top.

The fall lasted long enough for thoughts to creep back in: “I’ve never fallen this far…it’s taking a while.” I had just enough time to second guess the wisdom of taking this plunge. The shock of the cold water tried to take my breath away, the breath I was holding on to so tightly. Eyes clenched shut, I couldn’t tell when I stopped sinking and started back up towards the surface. It was long enough for me to feel some concern, to desperately want a fresh lung full of air. Soon enough I was at the surface, panting and shouting triumphantly.

I am learning a ton through the process of finding a job. Naively, I never thought it would take this long.

I left a pretty good job to go on our trip. Pretty good doesn’t really cut it. I had lost my work mojo. I was stuck on a low cliff, reluctant to leave my relatively comfortable ledge. I need to find work that is truly engaging, demanding, rewarding and meaningful. In climbing, in work, in life – I need new challenges to keep me on my toes, learning and growing.

All the networking, research, applications, interviewing, conversations – taken in total it’s an education of sorts. I’m learning about diverse businesses – from ecological forestry to smart grid, biotech, pharmaceuticals, ecommerce, athletic apparel, social networking, semiconductors, utilities, manufacturers, law firms – even non profits and government.

I expected to learn a lot on our trip, traveling around the world, encountering different languages, cultures, religions, customs, foods, places and people. I never realized I’d learn so much upon returning home.

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