“Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.” – Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury and the golden age of science fiction are synonymous, and is one of the titans of the genre. “Fahrenheit 451”, “The Martian Chronicles”, and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” are all considered among the classics of the genre. Bradbury’s idea of jumping off the cliff, and building your wings on the way down is quite imaginative and daring, but can also be useful for motivating and challenging yourself in a professional manner.
Not a literal interpretation, obviously, but his idea is appealing. Sometimes we all can get into a good comfort zone. We know the job, and are proficient with the skills required. We know the environment and the people. In these situations, a week turns into a month, months turn into a year, and soon, years have gone by. We may be happy with our position, and hopefully have worked up the hierarchy of the organization. But in the end, the years may become routine and time has a funny way of blurring together, rushing into the future in a blink of an eye. Is this a recipe for greatness? I do not believe so.
Exactly what does Bradbury mean? Should be jump into the unknown, and figure it out along the way? Should you walk out of the office today, and start something new without any preparation or planning? Realistically, most of us are not in a position to do this. Family and financial obligations often dictate what we need to do, but Bradbury makes a great point. That is, to challenge yourself. To shock your system out of a comfort zone. In times of strife, turmoil, and sometimes failure, we can grow to great extents. Comfort zones are not known for creating dynamic careers.
Should you leap down the cliff, before giving any thought on how to build your wings? I would argue this would be a resounding ‘no’. Should you learn about what makes wings fly? Should you study the flight of birds, or how airplanes fly? Yes! Perhaps you should have some knowledge of atmospheric pressures and the physics of lift. If you spend time learning and growing, only then when you leap off the cliff, you will have some degrees of knowledge to build your wings.
Anyone can make a leap into the unknown. The rocks at the base of the cliff are littered with the corpses of those who jumped before they were prepared for the change. They wanted change too much, but were not prepared for it. Spend enough time to have a good foundation that can adapt to change, and you will greatly increase your odds of success. Do not spend too much time preparing that you never take the chance. Leap off the cliff with confidence and determination, and know that through preparation, you will build your wings and soar into the skies above. The sky is the limit.