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power points

Entrepreneur Kim Perell says every great career story starts with a jump – taking a risk, and leaping into the unknown, not knowing how you will land. “Whether you’re jumping from a place of greatness, from rock bottom, or because you’re stuck, you can absolutely create positive, transformational change in your life. You just have to be willing to trust yourself and take the leap,” she writes in Jump: Dare to Do What Scares You in Business and Life.

Is 2022 the year for you to dare such a leap?

The reasons why you shouldn’t take that risk probably immediately come to mind. But as a seasoned jumper, she urges you to consider whether any of these three factors that propelled countless others might fit your situation:

  • You have no other choice: This is a survival jump, after you have been fired, your business bombed, or some other life-disrupting event occurred. This is usually an emergency exit rather than a choice.
  • You see an opportunity: You have a vision of how to change your life through bold action. Things are stable now, but you feel you can grasp a bigger life by following a dream idea.
  • You’re stuck: You’re stagnant, bored and unfulfilled. The situation may be comfortable in many ways, but you’re not challenged. It’s a plateau where you have been staying put because it’s easier than leaping into the unknown.

Ms. Perell faced a survival jump after her dream job at age 22 when a tech startup ended with her being forced to fire others and then be fired herself. It taught her not to rely on others for a job because it gave a false sense of security. She had been taking opportunity jumps until then, but says a survival jump has its advantages. “If you’ve got to jump, rock bottom is a great place to start. After all, there’s no place to go but up,” she writes.

That’s dramatically different from the stagnant-jumpers situation, making it hard to leave the comfort they are experiencing, even if that comfort is deceptive. She says if you are stagnant you probably know it – you find it hard to go to work on Monday because you are bored or not progressing. It happened to her after 10 years of running her own company when she knew in her gut it was time to move on, and so she started a new company – during the COVID pandemic. “There is never a perfect time to take a life-changing jump,” she observes. “You will never feel perfectly ready.”

And she adds: “Here’s a little secret: Your reason for jumping doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is that you have the courage to take the leap.”

Of course, you need to look before you leap. She cautions that it need not be an all-or-nothing proposition. Perhaps it can be staged. A back-up plan and safety net can be helpful. And you need to assess the risk, rewards, and repercussions of what you are planning.

Ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen (without driving yourself into panic). Then ponder the best outcome. Consider who else your actions affect. It’s usually easier if you’re young, unmarried and without kids, although having a partner with a healthy income can also make it easier. Think about who has done something similar and try to connect with them.

She writes it’s helpful if you can see the first steps in this journey. “You don’t need to see the end of the road,” she says. “All you need is a rough sense of your first few related actions and enough confidence in yourself to choose the next ones when the time comes.”

An ability to navigate unpredictability is helpful, because things will go wrong if you jump. But that’s no reason to stay where you are if it’s the wrong place.

Quick hits

  • Three simple things to consider for the year ahead, from effectiveness blogger Donald Latumahina: read more books, learn a new skills, and connect with new people.
  • You can have anything you want, as long as you are willing to make the hard choices and tradeoffs to get it, says Shellye Archambeau, one of Silicon Valley’s first Black chief executive officers. If you’re faced with a difficult decision, she suggests asking three questions: What is it that I want? What has to be true for me to achieve it? And how do I make it true?
  • UYBJ is a clunky acronym but one that entrepreneur Seth Godin says carries a vital idea: Use Your Best Judgment. “Don’t wait for someone else to take responsibility. Don’t wait for perfect. Don’t wait to find this exact situation in the manual or in history. Use your best judgment,” he urges.
  • The most common strategy for a group of 150 experienced negotiators facing four rounds of bargaining was to decrease their price equally in each round, an INSEAD study showed. But PhD candidate Kian Siong Tey and a team of three professors found it’s more effective to decrease the size of your concessions in each round if you’re in a zero-sum bargaining situation, where one person gains what the other loses.
  • When considering a new project or opportunity, author James Clear recommends asking yourself, “How do I want to spend my days?” Make as few choices as possible that violate your answer.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He, along with Sheelagh Whittaker, former CEO of both EDS Canada and Cancom, are the authors of When Harvey didn’t meet Sheelagh: Emails on Leadership.

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