Jumping Off Cliffs: Remembering My First Big Risk as a Young Adult

It must have been my third job after college. I was earning a good amount of money. With my responsibilities, I expected to be promoted within a year after starting.

There was a catch, though. I had to resign.

The alternative was to keep working until late at night every weekday. Then on the weekends, I would attend meetings, do the work in my other pursuit–being the national president of a church youth organization in the Philippines.

I lost a lot of sleep–not because I engaged in too much thinking. There was just too much work in my good-paying job and in the non-paying one.

I tried to make things work for almost 5 months. But I ended up calling in sick several days in a row. I also missed a crucial meeting or two at work. Something had to give.

On the one hand, I really cared for the work I was doing. It was helping me pay for my bills. I started learning about responsibility and what it meant to be an adult. My parents also needed my contribution to the family budget. All in all, my job was a good deal.

But on the flip side, I truly cared for the non-paying work I was doing most weekends. I knew that I was serving God through the programs and services of the organization I was in. We pioneered a number of new initiatives, which I thought were cool and exciting.

I was totally passionate for that non-paying job.

And that was the problem. I didn’t receive any salary from the organization. Sure, I received reimbursement for some expenses related to doing the work. But it was not something I could live on.

Still, after a few weeks of praying and weighing my options, I took a big leap and resigned from my paying job to fulfill my responsibilities at the church youth organization.

Crazy, right?

Yes, it was. But I knew what I was getting into. I was young and idealistic. And I thought that I had nothing to lose. My term as president would last for two years. If it didn’t work out, I would lose two years, but I could get back to the job market and start earning again.

The upside of taking the risk was really good, though. I learned a bunch of things.

I expressed my faith in a concrete and we conceptualized and implemented a bunch of cool projects.

Taking the risk meant that I trusted God to provide for my needs and for the bills I had to pay.

This was not a passive kind of trust. It meant being creative with the kinds of work I do and managing my time well. I landed several freelance gigs and odd jobs here and there. I wrote for an online publication, albeit anonymously. I learned about blogging and earning money online. And I also learned to be really frugal. That’s an awesome skill to have at any point of life.

As President of the national youth organization I headed, we worked on several projects–campus ministry, a newsletter for the organization, a songwriting competition, and started talking about and tackling ministry with out-of-school youth in the Philippines.

It was busy, busy, busy. But it was one heck of a ride and I would not trade anything for those two years of my life.

I learned a lot about myself, my faith, and my place in the world.

Who would have thought that I had the capacity to risk and take the plunge into the unknown. I got jittery and nervous. Heck, a few months before I resigned from my job, I had a girlfriend. It was awkward for her to be paying for our movie and dinner dates at that stage of our relationship. But even then, we managed to make it work. (Spoiler alert: we’re married with two kids now. :D)

The people I love also supported me in many ways. My family and friends became a big part of me trying to make it all work. And in the end, it did!

Risk-Taking When I was Single and Now that I’m Married with Kids

Now in my mid-thirties, I realize that it’s easier to take risks when you’re young, single, and not having a lot of financial and other responsibilities. With a wife and two kids, I could not easily resign from my job to pursue a project. There are more constraints.

And yet, I am so glad I took that big risk then. It’s something I could look back to and be reminded — of God’s goodness and faithfulness; and of the courage it takes to risk something and win in so many ways.

Jump Off the Cliff and Build Your Wings on the Way Down

Ray Bradbury, the celebrated Sci-Fi writer once said

“You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

It sounds scary and it is. But entrepreneurs, changemakers, and innovators take this approach all the time. In fact, Reid Hoffman, founder of Linkedin has an even crazier quote:

 “An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down.”

That does not only apply to entrepreneurs, but also to other individuals who want to make a difference in their lives and the world around them.

Resigning from a good-paying job when I was 23 was risky and scary. But it was also a bold move that changed my life.

This kind of risk-taking strengthens the heart and gives you the courage to approach other jumps in the future.

I remember the agony of indecision as I considered my options.

I remember the worries over my future IF my decision will turn out to be a bad one.

I remember the pounding of my heart as I wrote my resignation letter.

But I also remember the adrenaline and the excitement of venturing out into the unknown, putting my heart out on my sleeve, and pursuing a path and a call that I truly, deeply cared about.

Most of all I remember the courage in the midst of my fears, worries, and anxieties.

You don’t know just when you’ll need that level of courage again. And when the opportunity to jump off a cliff comes again (have no doubt it will!), remember that jump–the fear and anxiety, the rush of adrenaline right before you jump, and the courage driving you up as you lift your feet, and launch yourself up in the air.

And build wings (or an airplane) to fly… or hit the ground running.

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