“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose one’s self.”
Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish Existential Philosopher and Theologian said that. I love Keirkegaard’s work because he explores our emotion and choice when we as people face big life decisions.
“Facing a big life decision” is a fancy way of saying making an choice that will change my life. We say a decision is important because it alters the current balance our life in a substantial way. Once we’ve made a big choice, there is no turning back. Choosing where I eat lunch isn’t typically a life-altering event. There isn’t a lot of risk involved. Choosing to live in Santiago Chile when I was 20 changed my life forever.
Choosing to start a new project, or start a new business carries a great deal of risk with it. If things don’t go as planned, the business could fail. We could fail. Whatever the outcome, it can take time to regain a sense of balance.
Earlier this week, I wrote that I am moving out my parents’ house because it will make my life less stable. The goal is to lose my footing in order to not lose my dreams. I am choosing to take a risk, and I feel afraid because I know that might fail. The fear can get in our way if we bow to it. Recently, I’ve decided that if I’m feeling fear then I’m doing the right thing and pushing my comfort zone. It means I’m making progress.
Here’s another quote from Kierkegaard:
During the first period of a man’s life, the greatest danger is to not take the risk.
When I feel afraid, I remind myself of this. I am 25, and I don’t have much to lose. With each year that passes, I have more to lose. Now is not the time to wait for something to happen to me. Now is the time risk failure in order to make something happen.
Two weeks ago, I was talking about risk with a mentor of mine, and she reminded me that taking a risk is like riding a Segway. Segways won’t move forward until the person riding them risks losing their balance and leans forward. Segways move when rider leans forward past the point of being balanced. Right now, if you stood up and started to lean forward, once your center of gravity passed your toes, your body would fall forward. The human body is programmed to prevent you falling on your face. Once you lean too far forward, your foot steps forward and catches you. You’ve almost fallen, but you’ve also taken a step forward. If you didn’t lose your balance, you would have stayed in the same place.
The Segway works the same way. Only once the rider leans forward and loses their balance the gyroscopes kick in and the Segway moves forward. The farther forward the rider leans, the faster the Segway moves. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable when you lean forward like this. If you’ve ridden a Segway, you know the sensation of almost falling over right before you start moving. After a few times, most people learn to trust that the Segway is not going to let them fall flat on their face.
Instead of a wheelchair, I rode a Segway all 4 years of college. My arthritis was very bad those four years, and I rode the Segway to class every day. I forgot how scary it was the first time I rode it. Leaning into the risk and trusting the Segway became natural. Trust was my segue through the pain of walking and helped me graduate from college.
The YouTube video below is me riding my Segway across the stage at graduation to accept my diploma.
Taking a risk is the only way I know to segue from one stage of life to the next. And once I get comfortable with one risk, it seems like it’s always time to take the next one.
What is your Segway?
I hope this helps.
Austin W. Gunter
PS: Kierkegaard also said that “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” Here’s to your anxiety.