Jumping Off the Cliff – Thoughts from the Other Side

2017 Top QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor

Something big happened!

A couple of weeks ago something really big happened in my career. Well, actually two really big things happened. One big thing that happened was that I was named the Top QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor for 2017! I know! What an amazing experience and I am so thankful to the folks at Insightful Accountant, Intuit, Canon and the rest of the sponsors of Top 100 ProAdvisor contest. The other really big thing that happened was that I realized a goal I set for myself – I was a presenter at a national conference for the very first time, Scaling New Heights. Honestly, the past year has been amazing, full of opportunities and many changes that I am so grateful for.

During the conference and during my many travels around the country presenting training for Intuit, I have been approached by colleagues who have asked me, “what did you do to make this happen for you?” or “how did you get here?”. I can tell you in one sentence: I jumped off the cliff.

Back in 2007, I attended the QuickBooks Desktop Advanced Certification training right outside Boston. The instructor was Leslie Cappachietti, a well respected QuickBooks consultant, trainer and author of The Official Guide to QuickBooks. She taught the class with such incredible confidence, knowledge, and grace that by the time I left the class that day, I knew that someday I wanted to be standing where she was, as an instructor. Thing was, I was painfully shy about speaking in public and I had no idea how I was going to get there.

Standing at the Edge

There is something exhilarating about standing on the edge of a cliff or even a high building. I’m terribly afraid of heights, so for me, this is super scary and it takes a great deal of self-discipline to even get me to the edge. Once I’m there, my body starts to tingle and shake and I imagine the fall! What’s interesting is that I don’t imagine my own demise when I hit the bottom, my mind never gets that far, I only imagine the fall. And I feel the urge to jump.

I’ve found that if I go the edge enough times, the shaking goes away – the tingle stays but the shaking stops. But I still don’t jump, why would I? You know what will happen, splat! That’s the end. But at some point, you have to stop and ask yourself, what is it in us that makes us want to keep looking over the edge – it’s almost if the cliff actually draws us to it. The edge represents a drastic change that we want to make and the feelings we experience when we’re standing on the edge are called cognitive dissonance, our brain reacts by making us feel uneasy and we back away, even though we’re not in any real danger.

The first step in reaching my goal to become a national trainer was to overcome my fear of public speaking. I literally hated it, but I knew that if I didn’t find opportunities to present in public, I would never overcome my fear. So, I made my way back to the edge.

Don’t Jump without Preparation!

Deciding to jump should not be taken lightly and it involves preparation. You know what can happen if you jump without the right equipment like a hang glider, you’re surely going to plummet to the ground. Those who have taken the leap come to the realization that jumping is the only option and the smart ones have spent some time learning to mitigate the risks. You can’t eliminate the risks altogether which is why a majority of people edge back from the cliff permanently. They decide that risks are too high to take action and, in some cases, are not the right choice. But the innovators, leaders, and pioneers have understood that without risk there is no potential for growth, so they prepare to jump. And preparation starts small, a hang glider prepares to jump off the big cliff by spending lots of time jumping off small ones first.

It took me some time to realize that if I was going to achieve my dream, I had to start preparing. I started by joining BNI, a national networking group that requires that its members deliver a 60-second elevator pitch at their weekly meetings. It terrified me, I mean really terrified me. In fact, I would spend the entire week thinking about those 60 seconds. I spent time practicing what I would say and took notes when other members would take their turn. And after several months, the fear started to subside and I became more comfortable speaking to my peers. Eventually, I started teaching small classes in the small training room I had in my office in Warren, RI and before I knew it, teaching had become a regular part of my business. Ever since then, I have continually sought out new ways to challenge myself as an educator and speaker and have watched and analyzed other speakers hoping to learn from them.

Find the Courage to Take Action

So I spoke at my first national conference a few weeks ago and coincidentally, the theme of this year’s Scaling New Heights conference was Face the Yeti. The team at Woodard carefully selected their keynote speakers, tracks, and sessions to help attendees recognize and overcome the one thing that is holding us all back from achieving our dreams: fear. The fear of leaving what we know behind to face something bigger, better, and more in-line with our purpose. We need to have the courage to seek out the change we want to be. As Joe Woodard said in his keynote address, “the opposite of courage is inaction”, and “your indecision becomes your decision. Your inaction becomes your action.”

Joe also spoke to us about defining our why, finding the higher purpose for what we do. You can’t live a purposeful life without understanding why you do it. When you are standing at the edge of the cliff, you need to dig deep and ask yourself why you are there. What is it about your current situation that is drawing you? I believe it is your purpose, your purpose is drawing you to the cliff to show you that it is bigger than you and that you have two choices, to stand there or to jump. You can continue to walk down the path that you are on, but likely if you are reading this blog post, you’ve already found yourself standing at the edge. You know what you want to do and here is my advice: Prepare and Jump.