How to Take the Leap and Change Your Life

The following is excerpted from “Jump: Dare to Do What Scares You in Business and Life” by Kim Perell, pp. 3-7 (HarperCollins Leadership, November 2021).

It’s scary looking down. Especially when there’s a lot at stake. You know those decisions that make your heart race and your palms sweat? The ones that are so overwhelming you start asking yourself, how in the world did I even get into this position in the first place? I do. I’ve felt that way many times before. I’m a successful entrepreneur now, but that wasn’t always the case. I had to take a lot of risks and leap off a lot of cliffs to get here. Every great story starts with a jump—a risk, leaping into the unknown, not knowing exactly how you will land. Whether you’re jumping from a place of greatness, from rock bottom, because you’ve hit rock bottom, or you’re simply stuck, you can absolutely create positive, transformative change in your life. You just have to be willing to trust yourself and take the leap.

Three reasons to jump

As a seasoned jumper, I’ve noticed that there are three main reasons people take big leaps.

Reason #1: You Have No Other Choice

The Survival Jump. You are forced to change. You’ve been fired, bankrupted, or had a life-changing event, or some other environmental force has you in its clutches. This is less of a choice and more of an emergency exit.

Reason #2: You See an Opportunity

The Opportunity Jump. You want to change because you have a vision. You see a way to improve your life through bold action. You feel certain you are meant to do something bigger.

Reason #3: You’re Stuck

The Stagnant Jump. You’re considering a change because you’ve stagnated, are bored, or feel unfulfilled. You stay put because that feels easier than jumping into the unknown.

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.

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Survival jumpers

The Survival Jump I was forced to take early in my career felt like the worst thing that had ever happened to me, but it turned out to be the best.

Picture this: I’d just landed my dream job at a new tech startup. It was the peak of the internet bubble, when any company with a “.com” was a hot commodity. I was on top of the world.

Unfortunately, the fantasy and promise of this new job and incredible company didn’t last long. The company was a precursor to Dropbox (just a decade too early). Data storage costs were high, customer adoption was extremely slow, and our expenses outpaced our revenue. I’d worked tirelessly building and running our digital ad sales team, but our success wasn’t nearly enough to keep that sinking ship afloat.

Suddenly I was unemployed, broke, and devastated. I was convinced I’d reached my lowest point. I went home, turned off the lights, crawled into bed, and cried. I ate more tubs of Ben & Jerry’s than I’d like to admit. Every day, I questioned what I was going to do with my life and wondered if I was a complete failure. I’d hit rock bottom.

Even in the face of all that bleakness and disappointment, I knew if I stood still—if I let my fear and disappointment consume me—my entire future would be in jeopardy. I needed to get my life back on track and take control of my destiny.

Up until this point in my life, every jump I’d taken had been a proactive choice—Opportunity Jump. I was accustomed to taking calculated risks when I saw opportunities or felt ready for a change. But the jump I was about to take was different. It was completely reactive: a Survival Jump.

Knowing myself, I recognized that letting this setback derail my life completely would cause me more fear, angst, and misery than gathering my courage and taking a big risk. One late night, eating pizza with my roommates, I made a joke about starting my own business. But my two best friends didn’t laugh; they thought it was a great idea. Which made me genuinely ask myself, wait, what if I did?

It wasn’t an easy journey, nor was it a straight line to success. It was the wild and winding path that shaped me, taught me, and turned me into an entrepreneur—and human being—who embraces opportunity and always chooses to jump rather than stand still.

And it all started because I hit rock bottom. That lonely, hopeless place is where so many find themselves at some point in their lives. I’m sure many people around you have felt this way—during the recessions of the dot-com bust in the early 2000s, the 2008 financial crisis, and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic that caused an unprecedented global shutdown. Rock bottom is a place that plenty of people have been before.

And if there’s just one piece of wisdom I want you to take away from this book, it’s this: if you’ve got to jump, rock bottom is a great place to start. After all, there’s nowhere to go but up.

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