Jump! Just Do It!
By Tim Mavroules
“Are you gonna jump Tom?” a voice beckons from behind the camera held steady on its subject. It is centered on a young man sitting perched cliff-side next to a waterfall cascading into the jungle lagoon below. The instantly recognizable Tom Brady looks back with nervousness in his eyes that seems unbefitting an NFL-MVP quarterback who recently claimed a 4th championship victory. The murmur of his response suggests an internal debate that is yet to be settled. The video cuts to the resolution- (cue the ‘Superman’ theme music). After a few more nervous glances back at onlookers he risks fate, takes a step, and freefalls 50 ft. into the water.
The now infamous video posted to Brady’s to Twitter feed stirred up a bit of a frenzy. While constituents from the NFL’s other 31 markets likely reveled in their hopes for death and horror (HATERS!), hundreds-of-thousands of vested interests shared with the QB a moment of ‘Oh-my-God!…I’m-gonna-throw-up!…And-then-I’m-gonna-die!’
The local news headline might have summed it up best- “Tom Brady Goes Cliff Diving and Patriots Nation Loses Its Collective Mind”. That report cited one fan suggesting that “the best QB in the history of the NFL needs to be tucked away safely in a padded room”- a sentiment shared by many who have rooted for TB12 the past fourteen years. The response from fans and critics alike is understandable, why would someone on top of the world take such a foolish risk?
As I see it, the thing that compelled Tom Brady to jump off a cliff while on a family vacation in Costa Rica is part of what has propelled him to the level of success he has achieved in life. Five weeks after the jump, I attended an event at my university that hosted Brady. He was asked about the things that have set him apart and have contributed to his superstar career. Included was an undying belief in himself to achieve what he set out to do. To paraphrase his words,
“I graduated from Michigan State, I was an English major. But really, I studied football. There was never a Plan B. There are people so busy working on their Plan B that they never end up finishing Plan A. All of their time and attention is spent on Plan B, so they end up having to do Plan B. I only ever think about Plan A. And I do it to the best of my ability every day.”
So what part of that explains how jumping off a cliff in Costa Rica gets you to the NFL Hall of Fame? Probably the most important part. It is the part where you look into the face of risk, fear, and doubt and say “I’m gonna do it!” and then you actually do it. If you have seen the video, the look on Brady’s face does not tell the viewer “I do this sort of thing every day, I’m a natural”. If anything it says “Are you kidding me? I’m going to die! I have kids, people rely on me. And I’ll have to tell Bill! And ESPN is gonna have it on tape!” But, despite all the things that could have gone wrong he still took action. He went for it all the way.
This really is not about Tom Brady or sports or fanaticism. It is something I believe pertains to all of us. How ubiquitous is it for people to suffer through aspects of their lives that leave them feeling unfulfilled? Is it a job? A relationship? An area of the country or the world you live in? How about your health or fitness? How much of those things are really unchangeable? How much has to do with a change or a series of changes that you have yet to make? The things that really cannot be changed must be accepted. But there is a lot we learn to accept because we think it is harder to create the change that is necessary.
In his book Self Matters, ‘Dr. Phil’ McGraw talks about a rationalization people make concerning how difficult or how long something will take. The example he uses is nursing school and if it takes five years of hard work maybe that is a deterrent from becoming a nurse. This may be especially so for someone who is changing careers and has a family with children. But then he says those five years are going to go by either way. If not, you’ll be dead and in that case what you do for work is no longer an issue. But if you are fortunate and live five more years, along the way you are going to be working hard no matter what it is you are doing. So in five years’ time, do want to be a nurse or still doing the job you are doing today that you hate or some other job that you hate? Our perception of an obstacle is often much larger than the obstacle itself. The jump off the cliff is really just a couple seconds of weightlessness and a splash.
I left out a part to the Tom Brady story up to now. It is the part that landed me in the auditorium at Salem State. We have to rewind to about a year ago. That is when I decided to enroll to finish a degree in Psychology. I had spent several years prior bouncing around trying to choose between college majors and possible career tracks. Several things caught my attention and held it for a while before I began thinking about the next thing. Each were something I had a knack for and knew I could do well. I would become enthusiastic for it, but always questioned if it was the right choice. I wondered when something would come along where I knew it was the thing I was meant to do. All the while I was working jobs that were well below my ability level so I could get by.
I was plagued by what is referred to as ‘Paralysis by Analysis’. It is when we overanalyze a decision to the point that we end up not doing anything. Then one day last summer I decided to try a new approach. All caution was thrown aside and I enrolled full-time. In and of itself it was a big step that took a lot of work and some sacrifice to make happen. But it really just opened the door to more work and more sacrifice. The commitment required was not something that can be done halfheartedly. It was definitely a “jump from the cliff”, more so than I realized when I started. But as soon as I did it seems like my whole world rallied around me. And along the way some really remarkable opportunities landed in my lap. All it took was the willingness to expose myself to the risk of failing and the commitment to go all the way with the decision I made.
Life is dynamic. It moves and is meant to involve interaction. We are not meant to be stuck in one place for too long. Stagnation leads to death. Sometimes we are alive physically but a part of us can die mentally or spiritually. The solution is to start moving again. We have to be willing to take a calculated risk and trust in ourselves that we can see it through. The grand scheme of a decision is not likely to come to us prior to making it. Life unfolds before us as we take steps forward. If you are feeling stuck and unfulfilled, ask yourself if you are really just standing at the edge of a cliff. Is life just waiting for you to take that leap? Take action- despite the things that could go wrong. That is what gets you to the Hall of Fame!