Jul 15, 2013

The Leap of Faith

(Credit: Central idea inspired by this article)

A short while back, I wrote about the spark early in a relationship, and how I thought it was not nearly as important as people usually believe. I did not mean to suggest that its presence is always misleading, or its absence completely immaterial. I just meant that one should give things time to become clearer and only then can they be sure whether or not something is meant to be.

The reverse problem is people waiting forever to be 'sure' and never quite getting there. In relationships, as in many other things in life, one can never be 100% sure they're making the right decision about the future because it is - and always will be - the great unknown. Getting to know another person is a life-long process and it can't be completed before you make a commitment. That's actually a good thing, because it leaves you a lot to look forward to later. But at some point, you just have to trust you know enough about the other person, and take a leap of faith!

While in college, I was in a great relationship with an extraordinary girl that lasted many years. When I graduated and had to leave for another city, we had known each other long enough and well enough to be as sure as was possible - that if we decided to be together, things would work out well. Unfortunately, we were both very young and just couldn't take that leap and commit to a future together. Things fizzled out, we moved on and grew up to become very different people. Today, I hope I will have a better future than I could have had, but the odds appear long.

After finishing B-School, I didn't like the first job I got. The company was great (both reputation and reality), the money was very good and I did fairly well, even achieving some records, but it was a manufacturing operations role which I just didn't enjoy and wanted to do something else. I resigned after ~10 months, without another job offer in hand. I was offered several tempting options by my manager who was desperate to retain me, and I wasn't having much luck with my first few job applications elsewhere. But I stuck to my decision, and took a leap of faith. Nearly 3 painful months later, I landed a job with a start-up in Bangalore and everything worked out brilliantly after that. I loved my new job, new company, new city, new life - everything!

It doesn't always work out, otherwise it'd be a walk in the park and not a leap. I recently took another one and ended up bruising my knees. That's a story for another time. But even when things don't work out, you just have to pick yourself up and motor on.

The simple truth is - if you want to achieve something great, you will at some point have to take some risks. Playing safe, having backup plans etc. can provide you security, but will also lull you into mediocrity and irrelevance.

To land on one's feet and not in the abyss, one must know the difference between irresponsible, mindless punts and well-informed, calculated risks. Faith must never be blind. This is the secret of successful businessmen like Richard Branson. They take many risks and not all of them pay off. What they ensure is that the potential downside of any risky venture is limited. When they fail, you don't really notice it because the loss is small. When they succeed, it makes the headlines. The mistake most unsuccessful gamblers make is getting carried away with the potential size of the bonanza, but not covering their backs for the scenario when things go wrong.

When you're standing at the edge of the cliff, you must be able to see where you want to land. You must have good reason to believe you can cross the chasm, preferably from your own history. When in doubt, it's often helpful to seek the opinion of a good friend who knows you well because it's easier for them to be objective in their assessment.

But there will come a point at which no more information will be available. You could be reasonably confident but not certain, and you'll find yourself standing at the edge with a choice. You could stand there forever and let life pass you by. Or you could turn away, and always keep wondering about what might have been. The best thing to do is to just jump and pray...

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