Do you jump off the side or take the stairs?

Sometimes we have opportunities to examine who we are in a new context that is a metaphor for how we approach life. Recently I had such an opportunity to see if I was more likely to take an exciting path or a more mundane one.

A few months ago I spoke on an 11-day Caribbean cruise. I love snorkeling in clear, warm water so all of my excursions were in or on the water. On one trip with several dozen other passengers ages 30-70, the catamaran captain said we could either jump off the side 15′ into the water or we could take the stairs in the front.

A line began to form to take the stairs. If I stood in line, it would take at least 10 minutes to get into the beautiful water that was beckoning me. I wanted as much time communing with the fish as possible, so decided the quickest route was over the side.

No one else had jumped. I confirmed that this was OK and the captain said to hold onto my mask now on my face.

I jumped. There was no hesitation at my concern about the height. It was exhilarating! I hit the water holding my breath and my mask and quickly emerged to the surface. I was immediately snorkeling . I had more time enjoying the fish, turtles and stingrays than had I cautiously stood in queue. A few of the men followed my lead.

It made me think of this as a metaphor for other times when I’ve taken the slower route and missed out on fully enjoying something I loved. Sometimes there are perfectly sensible reasons for taking the stairs in life — injury prevents you from jumping, you want to escort someone else who cannot jump, or you’re uncertain about what may lie underneath the water.

But when I have jumped in life, after ensuring it was safe, it has infused me with an energy and delight I wouldn’t have received if I’d taken the slower route.

As an entrepreneur for over 3 decades, I have to be comfortable taking calculated risks. This means jumping even when the outcome isn’t clear. I have to be confident I can figure out whatever is required to make my leap successful. Sometimes it’s not as comfortable as I’d like. But it is a thrilling ride.

What about you — are you more of a jump-over-the-side person or a take-the-stairs kind? Why does your choice work for you?