Since I can remember, I’ve always loved to jump — high, far, and into things.
In grade school, it was competing in the standing broad jump at our annual Field Day. On basketball courts in high school, it was setting up to dunk the basketball (although I missed more dunks than I made). When I played high school football, I loved jumping and deflecting passes as a defensive back.
But over the years, jumping into sand (believe it or not) has had the most unlikely and profound impact on me.
When I was just a few years old, I remember watching Carl Lewis win the long jump at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. I was mesmerized by how he seemingly walked through the air. From that moment on, I knew that I had to be a long jumper.
My love of the long jump followed me through middle school to high school and eventually to competing as a NCAA Division I student athlete. This is when I was introduced to my most successful event, the triple jump.
One thing all long and triple jumpers are keenly aware of is the wind. You can’t control which way the wind blows. If there’s a head wind, it’s extremely frustrating knowing that a force out of your control might thwart the distance of your jump. But if there’s a wind at your back, you feel a palpable sense of excitement knowing that same force is on your side this time, carrying you further.
Over the years, I remember competing in those special moments when I felt a nice wind at my back. As a jumper, when the wind began to blow, you knew it was the right time to jump. You only hoped you were lucky enough to be up next so as not to miss the opportunity.
A really good wind could carry you anywhere from an extra inch, to half a foot, or more. It could make you feel like you were flying. It could help you win the event.
But here’s the rub — too much of a good wind could also make a jump illegal. If a certain wind speed was exceeded, the jump didn’t count towards official records because it was “wind aided.” They key was not letting something you couldn’t control stop you from making your best possible jump. Because you never knew which way the wind might blow.
It’s been years now since I’ve taken a long or triple jump. However, in my life and career, I’ve been cognizant of a similar feeling that crops up when I least expected it — a force that seems to propel me forward. You could say the wind is at my back.
When the wind blows in your favor, I’ve learned that you have to jump. This is how you create your own momentum. You never know when the wind might die down again — and eventually, it will die down. Just consider the next big thing that’s now long forgotten: The hot IPO that’s gone cold, the reality star who disappeared into oblivion, or the Motorola Razr unceremoniously replaced by smartphones.
I wish I could say that I’ve always jumped when the wind was at my back, but the truth is, I haven’t. Sometimes fear kept me from jumping. Other times it was pride or a lack of faith.
Over the years, not jumping with the wind has reared its head in many different ways. Sometimes, it has meant not speaking my truth, passing on great career opportunities, not creating clear boundaries, missing important deadlines, not following-up, not purchasing a ticket, not telling someone how I feel, not showing up, not keeping agreements, not completing a project, you name it.
After all, the wind can be intimidating — even frightening. It can take you outside your comfort zone and stretch you. Of course, it’s also exciting for those very same reasons.
Today, when I feel the wind at my back, I do my best to buckle up and ride the wave as long and as far as it takes me. And when the wind eventually dies down, I remember there will always be another one. I just don’t know when.
The one thing I’ve realized about life and our careers, unlike with triple jumping, is that we can help create our own wind. Our own momentum. We can do this, not surprisingly, through discipline, action, and consistently doing the work (especially the work that others won’t do).
Sure, sometimes we can get a little over zealous with a good wind. Even greedy. But in the end, I’d rather jump a little too far than not jump at all.
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