|Letchworth Gorge by J. Stephen Conn, used by permission|
When I was 15 years old I was hiking in Letchworth Gorge in upstate New York. (Here is a picture of the gorge, left.) A beautiful place.
Despite the warnings or perhaps because of them -- I was a teenager after all -- I got too close to the edge. And I fell. I fell for what seemed like a long way and a long time, but in reality it was perhaps just a matter of seconds.
Time dragged, however, like a cartoon character falling off a cliff – think of Bugs Bunny falling, eating a carrot, reading War and Peace, and filing his nails. I was remarkably calm, at peace, really. One with the fall, it was a true Buddhist moment.
And then it was over. Somehow there was a branch or root and my arm reached out to grab it – I remember the jerking feeling like a parachute opening…I was safe. I'd fallen but I didn't die. I had a second chance.
After a few seconds of stunned silence, I climbed back up to the top of the gorge.
That memory has been haunting me lately. I shared this story in my talk at SXSW last month and again with a group of leaders at a retreat last week.
Why am I reminded of this story now? Well, as I wrote in an earlier post on this blog, I think our economy is in free-fall and we seriously need to change.
The latest example of a society in free-fall is the news of a "celebrity marriage" failing after 72 days.
According to Twitter sources that include some celebrities allegedly close to the situation, the wedding earned the bride $17.9 million. Really? $17.9 million for a marriage that lasted 72 days?
No wonder people like Lawrence Lessig think our society could fall like Rome.
It doesn't have to be this way. We can change the outcome. We can adopt a new game plan.
But we can't change the world if we aren't first prepared to change within ourselves and live the lives we know we can live, be the people we know we can be, and take the actions we are compelled to take.
The choice is ours, but we must be conscious as we make our choices. We need to stop compromising in our lives, letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. And we need to deliver lasting value, to innovate, and finally, to inspire and be inspired.
When you're free-falling, you have two choices: keep falling to the bottom or grab the first available branch, scamper back up to the top and create a new path forward. Call it "falling up."
Which do you choose? And what are you waiting for?