Are You a “Scaredy Cat?” Pt. 1

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– ­By Thirumur David Kiran

 

A few months back, I reached a pretty alarming conclusion: I don’t like risks.

Scratch that…I hate risks!

In fact, I’ll say it again. I HATE RISKS!

I once maintained that “hate” was a very strong word and should only be used for things such as “crimes against humanity” or “cats” (yes, I am a dog person). Yet I came to see that for me, risks fall under this category as well. Do we not do everything in our power to avoid the things that we hate? If this is the criterion, then it is safe to say that I really do hate risks, for I do everything possible to avoid them.

I’ve not been a risk-taker in the slightest! I fear to take risks because of the logical danger that it holds:

  • I am scared of boats for fear of falling into the water and drowning.
  • I am scared of heights for fear that I might fall.
  • I am scared of trying new things for fear of failure.
  • I am scared of reaching out for fear of rejection.
  • In short, I am scared of taking risks for the fact that there is risk involved.

I guess that makes me a scaredy cat!—And I don’t even like cats! (Apologies to the cat lovers out there)

And I am not alone in this.

As soon as this realization set in, I determined to test it. I asked some hypothetical risk scenario-based questions to a group of students at one of my talks the next day. From the answers that I received from the 200 students in that room I realized that I was not alone in my fear of risks.

But that’s not all. Studies have shown that while the average adolescent may be psychologically predisposed to doing risky things, our desire for stability and safety and knowledge of responsibility kick in once we lose our pimples and our initial facial stubble. The average adult human is perfectly happy to go through life without ever having to take a risk.

In short, we are all scaredy cats as well!

But stop for a minute and think about a world without risks. It would be a world without adventure, a world without success, a world without progress, a world without growth, a world without fun, a world without—dare I say it—purpose.

The paradox of life is that, as much as we don’t like risks, taking risks is what brings about progress and growth in our lives. It is also risk that brings us adventure and joy. In fact, scientists have proven that risk-taking in small doses is almost universally beneficial for your brain and mental health.

Risk-taking causes real changes in the brain, which might account for why risk-takers quickly seem to become adrenaline addicts. Major risks release adrenaline, which can lead to a quick rush, and dopamine, which causes intense feelings of pleasure.

Novel experiences can help to ward off depression and reinvigorate a stale relationship. Risk-taking is often a necessary prerequisite for starting a new business or launching a new career, and the excitement associated with uncertainty can be a powerful antidote to boredom and even depression. Because dopamine produces a natural high, risk-taking behaviors can help you get a positive mood and a new perspective without the risks associated with drug use. [1]

Could that by why, at times when you are in a comfortable position in your life, that you feel a bit stagnant and perhaps a bit bored? I know this is the case for me.

Come to think of it, the few times in my life that I have encountered and faced risk, I will admit that it was not of my own choosing. Rather, I was thrown headlong into it—sometimes even literally!

  • I can remember the time that my father stayed back from a performing trip to another city with our show troupe and I was forced to emcee the performance before a huge crowd for the first time in my life.
  • I can remember the time that my performing arts mentor broke his leg a few days before a big birthday party for a prestigious client that we were organizing and I had to fill in as the host in his absence.
  • I can remember when I was a management understudy and my company was organizing a large nation-wide conference. My overseer—and the main manager of the event—pulled out abruptly due to personal reasons and I had to suddenly step up and manage the event without any prior experience.
  • I can remember the time that I was assigned to take a group of teenagers white-water rafting down the Kennebec River and I stood on the bank, white as a sheet and frozen with fear.
  • I can even remember that I had to be cornered for my first kiss…

And the list goes on and on! Yet, looking at these events now from the wonderful vantage point of hindsight, I see that through every enforced risk came incredible reward!

  • From my first kiss stemmed my first real relationship that taught me much about life and love.
  • From being tossed on stage—unprepared and frightened—stemmed a career in public speaking that I relish today.
  • From my first forced event as a host stemmed a foray in event management that led to the founding of two companies and also helped to kick off an event culture in that city that many people have benefitted from and are continuing to do so.
  • From my first stuttering experience at managing a nation-wide conference stemmed another dozen conferences in India and other parts of the world, enabling me to impact hundreds of lives.
  • From sitting paralyzed with fear in an air-filled raft in a foaming and churning river stemmed one of the most memorable and incredible experiences of my life!

And the list can go on and on… All this from risks that I was pushed into!

Now this makes me wonder, how many things have I missed from risks that I have avoided? How many opportunities have I passed up because they looked risky?

A toddler makes faces at the delicious food in front of them because it has green leafy “thingies” on it. They may stick their tongue out and squirm in their seats and profess that it is “the worst food in the world” and that they “know they don’t like it because they’ve never tried it.” But just as the child never knows what he is missing till he overcomes his fear of vegetables, we will never know the joy and success that we are missing until we overcome our fear of taking risks.

Next week, I am going to go a bit deeper into this subject and expose some negative mindsets that we take towards risk. And then I am going to give you solutions that can help you overcome them. I am trying a few of them myself, and I am seeing positive results already.

See you all next week!

 

[1] http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1869106,00.html

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Focus on the Best

Life is busy for everyone–even more so for those of us who are entrepreneurs and business owners/leaders. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the myriad of things to do on a daily basis that we lose sight of the bigger picture and the bigger goal. While most things on our “to-do” list are good things, if they are not the “best” things (ie: planning for the future and creating strategies for your success and making the decisions that only you as a leader can make), then it may be time to let them go or delegate them to others so that you can focus on the best that only you can do! Have a wonderful week ahead!

(PS: If you feel you could improve in this area and you’d like business or personal coaching, I’d be happy to work with you! Drop me a mail to my FB page and I will get in touch with you!)

Only Time for the Best (Mine)

Love Vs Hate

Tragedies, wars, hate crimes, bullying, terrorism, malice–these horrible things are widely prevalent in our world today. The scourge of hate is destroying this planet. Regardless of race, color, religion, creed, gender, sexual preference, political affiliation, or whatever else–each person is a human life with a unique soul, unique thoughts, unique feelings, and a unique destiny and that makes them infinitely valuable! Human life is sacred and whether or not we agree with each other or see eye to eye, we MUST love one another! Along Martin Luther King Jr, I too have chosen love. Hate is too big a burden to bear.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only LOVE can do that. And so I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

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Of Leonardo DiCaprio, Oscars, Overalls, and Shovels

Of DiCaprio, Oscars, Overalls, and Shovels

How Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar Win Shows Us the Path for Success in Our Own Lives.

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Today, something great happened.

Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar.

At last!

In a career that has spanned over 25 years thus far, he has produced innumerable performances that have awed both critics and fans alike. He has played a wide range of characters such as a drug addict, a penniless romantic, a merciless king and his incarcerated brother, a gang lord, a con artist, a playboy millionaire, a troubled millionaire, a diamond smuggler, an undercover cop, a CIA spy, a dream planter, a delusional psyche patient, a racist slave owner, etc. His versatility is truly amazing. He continually sets the bar higher and each movie that he acts in gets better. Just when you think you have seen his best role till date, he surprises you with his next movie.

And yet, he had never won an Oscar.

Despite being nominated for his first Oscar at the age of 19 for his movie “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and following that up with five more Oscar nominations, that elusive trophy (what some would consider the “holy grail” of the acting world) kept passing him by. Award show after award show came and went and with each one the same picture was seen: The glowing and excited face of the latest Oscar winner while Leo stood in the back with a smile on his face—the same smile that adorns the faces of a bridesmaid whose one true love has married her best friend instead.

So stunning were his performances and so equally stunning his award snub that it soon became the stuff of comedy. Millions of memes flooded the internet over the years humouring his misfortune. A common joke was that one day a movie would be made of his life and how he never won an Oscar, and that the actor playing him would win the Oscar for his performance. Even a computer game on his chase for an Oscar was recently made.

Leo, it seemed, was destined to always come up short. Always the bridesmaid; never the bride.

And yet, today, everything changed. On the 28th of February 2016, Leonardo’s name was finally called out and, to his unspeakable joy, he was handed that coveted award. Leo had done it. He was finally an Oscar winner.

But he almost didn’t make the movie that won him the award.

“The Revenant”, the film of the year, the cinematic masterpiece that drew accolades from all corners of society and turned even the harshest of critics into adoring fans, the gold dust film that swept award shows around the country and got 12 Oscar nominations (eventually winning three), the groundbreaking movie that people will be talking about for years—almost didn’t get made!

To put it honestly, “The Revenant” was a movie that no one wanted to make.

The development of the film began all the way back in 2001, with Akiva Goldsman as the producer [1], Park Chan-wook as the director, and Samuel L Jackson as the main actor. [2] Park then quit the project and the development was stalled until 2010 when John Hillcoat came on board to direct the film and Christian Bale was chosen to play the main role. True to the bad luck of the film thus far, Hillcoat left the project in October 2010. [3] The project was left rudderless until Alejandro G. Iñárritu signed on to direct in August 2011. [4] It was then that he began to pursue Sean Penn and Leonardo DiCaprio to play the main roles. [5]

Excitement followed the bringing of Iñárritu on board and things began to happen. Rewrites were made and sequences were fleshed out. Leonardo Di Caprio had signed on to play the protagonist and Sean Penn had signed on to play the other main role. After 10 years, the project finally seemed to be coming together.

Then the film was put on hold in March 2012, as New Regency hired Iñárritu to direct another film, which he accepted. [6] Although that project never saw the light, it had pushed “The Revenant” to the back of Iñárritu’s mind and when he announced his next film in December 2012, “Birdman”—not “The Revenant”—was the word on his lips. [7] Finally, with “Birdman” complete, Iñárritu turned his attention to “The Revenant” once more.

However, financing soon became an issue and their big time financers Worldview Entertainment pulled out in July 2014 due to the departure of their CEO.

Disillusioned, Iñárritu threatened to quit. At this time, actors Leo and Sean Penn were also getting disillusioned with the film. Penn quit the project. Leo almost did as well. Back in 2011 when he sensed the turbulence around the project, he was advised to sign a “pay-or-play” contracts which stated that he would get paid whether or not the movie got made. After Sean Penn’s departure, Leo too wanted to leave the film and focus on his other upcoming projects, but was convinced to stay as he would get paid regardless.

In the end, it was the “pay-or-play” contracts that convinced the producers to finally go ahead and make the movie as they were going to have to lose money anyways. And so they brought Annapurna Pictures on board and began filming in October of 2014. Tom Hardy soon joined in as well. [8]

And the rest is history.

Today, Leonardo Di Caprio stands on the coveted stage of the Dolby Theater, finally cradling the illusive golden statuette that symbolizes his ultimate achievement as an actor—for a film that he almost didn’t do.

I believe there is a profound lesson to be learned here. And that lesson is this: sometimes the things that we like to do the least may reward us in the ways that we desire most.

I’ll say that again. Sometimes, the things that we like to do the least may reward us in the ways that we desire most.

So take a look at your life. What successes are you looking for that seem to be eluding you? What area of your life do you seem to be eternally striving for glory in without success? Maybe it’s time to do something that you don’t exactly want to do in order to get the success that you are after?

We all have things that we avoid in our life’s road that would bring us success if we pursued them. But we don’t pursue them because they often come labelled as “Hard Work” or dressed in the disguise of difficulty. I know I have turned down my fair share of opportunities that have come across my path because I didn’t like the way that they presented themselves. And by that, I mean that I didn’t like the fact that they looked like a lot of work.

One of my favourite quotes of all time was said by the great inventor Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by many because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

What opportunity in your life is knocking on your door wearing overalls and handing you a shovel? Maybe it’s time to roll up your sleeves and join in on the construction crew. Who knows, maybe in the end you’ll find that the house of success that you built—and possibly against your will—might just the be the place that you come to call home.

 

Links:

[1] http://www.ign.com/articles/2001/08/09/akiva-goldsman-mauled-by-grizzly

[2] http://www.slashfilm.com/tom-hardy-leonardo-dicaprio-alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu-revenant/

[3] http://www.darkhorizons.com/news/18531

[4] http://www.thewrap.com/movies/column-post/babel-director-alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu-attached-wbs-revenant-exclusive-30191/

[5] http://deadline.com/2011/11/leonardo-dicaprio-sean-penn-wanted-men-for-new-regencys-the-revenant-191364/

[6] http://variety.com/2012/film/news/new-regency-backing-inarritu-pic-1118051246/

[7] http://deadline.com/2012/12/a-departure-for-alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu-hell-next-direct-a-comedy-384673/

[8] http://variety.com/2014/film/news/leonardo-dicaprios-survival-drama-the-revenant-attracts-megan-ellisons-annapurna-1201261423/

 

One Thousand Marbles!

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Happy New Year, my dear friends all around the world. By now the dust has settled on what has been a great weekend of celebration. And why should it not have been? 2015 was a year that we all made it through. Now, you may not have had a good a year as you would have liked; and indeed, some might have had better than others. But at least you made it through the year and are here today to face 2016. That is in itself is a worthy cause of celebration.

Now that the festivities have died down and each of us are ready to go forward with the year ahead, I wanted to share this beautiful story that I came across a few days ago. It impacted my life greatly and made me make some resolutions that I will try to make last through the year.

I hope you enjoy this story as well and may it impact your life and your living in 2016. Have a wonderful week ahead and indeed, a wonderful year ahead too!

~ Thirumur David Kiran

 

One Thousand Marbles

By Jeffery Davis

You know, the older I get, the more I enjoy Sunday mornings. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, of maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Sunday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the kitchen, with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Sunday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time.

Let me tell you about it. Every Sunday, I listen to the radio as I read the newspaper. This particular day, as I sat down, I turned the volume up on my radio in order to listen to a Sunday morning talk show. I heard an older sounding chap with a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business himself. He was talking about “a thousand marbles” to someone named “Tom”. I was intrigued and sat down to listen to what he had to say.

“Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work seventy or eighty hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital.” He paused and then continued, “Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.” And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a ‘thousand marbles.’

“I too used to be a workaholic when I was younger. Work was my life and I gave everything to it. But then something changed. You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. They say the average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years. Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of weeks that the average person has in their entire lifetime.

“Now stick with me Tom, I’m getting to the important part. It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail”, he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred weeks. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in my workshop next to the radio. Every Sunday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.

“I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight. And get them straight I did! I now spend more time on those things that matter and do my best to make every day count!

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Sunday then God has blessed me with a little extra time to be with my loved ones. But if not, then I know I can die happy, having lived a life with the right priorities. It was nice to talk to you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your loved ones, and I hope to meet you again someday. Have a good morning!”

You could have heard a pin drop when he finished. Even the show’s moderator didn’t have anything to say for a few moments. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about.—And I mean a lot!

I had planned to do some work that morning and then go to the gym. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “Come on honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.”

Her face beamed in the brightest smile that I’ve seen in a while! “Oh, that would be wonderful, darling! What brought this on?”

“Oh, nothing special,” I said. “It has just been a long time since we spent a Sunday together with the kids and that’s not good! I need to make spending time with you and them a priority!”

I gave her a hug and walked out of the room. As an afterthought, I stopped and turned around and called out to her, “Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles….”

 

The Allegory of the Pencils

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The Allegory of the Pencils

By Thirumur David Kiran

One day, the Master Pencil Maker was busy in his workshop creating pencils. He formed, he cut, he shaped, and he colored. All of this he did with a keen sense of precision and joy, for he loved nothing more than creating pencils and seeing them put to good use in a variety of locations for a variety of purposes. Although seemingly small and insignificant, each one was important their own way. The pencil maker knew this and so he put his best efforts into creating the perfect pencils.

Once the pencils had been created, the Master Pencil Maker had one last task to complete before sending them out to take their places in the various shops, schools, business, etc. where they would be used. He gathered all the pencils together and spoke to them saying, “My dear pencils, there are a few things I need you to know before you go out to fulfill your tasks. Always remember them and you will each become the best pencils you can be.”

The pencil maker picked up one of the pencils and moved it deftly in his hand. He placed the tip of the pencil on a paper and began to write with flowing and artistic strokes. Masterfully and beautifully, his hands maneuvered the pencil over the surface of the paper, creating what was sure to be a masterpiece. When he was finished, he laid the pencil down and held up the paper for all the pencils to see. They all gasped with wonder and the beautiful picture that had been created there. Then the Master Pencil Maker said, “You see, each of you has been created for a purpose. Some of you will create masterpieces, some of you will write books, some of you will jot down information, some of you will even go on to change the course of history. However, you will only do these great things if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand. Without that, you won’t be able to accomplish anything.”

The pencil maker then picked up the pencil that he had just been using. He noted that the lead had become dull and pointed this out to the other pencils. The pencil with the dull lead’s face fell and he turned away, feeling embarrassed and useless, for he thought he could no longer be used in any way. The Master Pencil Maker picked him up and placed him in the sharpener and began to turn. The pencil winced from the pain and the other pencils gasped as they didn’t know what the Master was doing. Was this a punishment for the pencil for being blunt and useless? Some shrank back in fear. However, after a minute the Master Pencil Maker pulled the pencil out of the sharpener and held him up to a mirror to look at himself. The pencil gasped with wonder and joy as he saw that his tip was once again sharp and perfect for use! All the other pencils smiled as they now understood. The Pencil Maker said, “Remember, there will come times when each of you will experience a sharpening. Sometimes this sharpening might even be painful. But this is not a sign of failure or that you are useless, but this is required if you are to become better and more useful pencils.” All the pencils nodded their heads in agreement.

The Master placed the pencil down and called another one to come to his side. The pencil rushed forward in eagerness. However, in his haste, he slipped and fell over the drawing that the Master had earlier created, leaving a long black mark across it. The pencil looked at what he had done and then hung his head in shame, tears of guilt streaming down his face. But the Master Pencil Maker picked him up and wiped away his tears. He then turned the pencil over and using the eraser that was attached to the pencil he erased all traces of the mark. He then took the pencil in his hands and touched up the picture till it once more looked beautiful. The Master Pencil Maker turned to the pencils and said, “Always remember, you have the ability to correct any mistakes you might make. No matter how badly you feel you have screwed up, you can fix things.”

He then asked all the pencils to look at each other and tell him what they saw. The pencils looked around at each other and saw that each pencil was different. Some pencils were red; others were black. Some pencils were blue; others were yellow; some pencils were shiny; others were duller by comparison. Some pencils were plain; others were covered with patterns. The Master Pencil Maker explained, “All of you are different in your own ways. Even all of you who are red are different shades of red. Yet it is not the colors or the patterns that you posses on the outside that make you valuable or of worth. It is what’s inside of you that makes you valuable. All of you are the same inside, because that is how you are made. Always remember, the outside can wear out and fade, but the most important part of you will always be what’s inside.

The Master gathered up all the pencils and sorted them out to place them in their respective boxes. The pencils were all deep in thought as they tried their best to remember what they had learned. Before sealing the boxes the Master said to them, “One last thing that you must remember is this: You should always continue to write. No matter what happens, no matter what the condition, no matter how difficult it may be, you must continue to write, for that is your mission. You must always leave a clear, legible mark wherever you are, no matter how difficult the situation. That is your duty as a pencil!”

The pencils nodded with understanding and promised to remember what they had been told. They went into their respective boxes fully understanding their Maker’s purpose. They were then sent out to go and accomplish it. And through applying what they had been told, each one of them went on to become a success in their own ways. Some created masterpieces, others wrote books, others helped to store valuable information, and each one of them went on to change their world for the better in some way.

Each of us is like a pencil from this little story. And however childlike this little story may seem, there are lessons from it that we can learn. We too have been sent into the world by our Maker, and He has sent us with some instructions. Remember them, and you will become the best person that you can be!

One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in God’s hand.

Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, by going through various problems and difficulties, but it’s all to help you to become a stronger and better person.

Three: Never let your mistakes get you down. You have the ability to either correct your mistakes or grow through them.

Four: Everyone is different. Yet on the inside, we are all the same. By the same token, what you wear, what you look like, how you carry yourself are all of secondary importance. The most important part of you will always be what’s on the inside.

Five: On every surface you walk you must leave your mark. No matter what the situation, you should always leave a mark for good by doing the best that you can whenever and wherever you can. That is your mission. Remember, you were made to do great things!

(Excerpts of upcoming book: Allegories for Life)

Take the Leap

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Take the Leap

By Thirumur David Kiran

A couple of years ago, my work took me to California, during which time I had the privilege of visiting a zoo there. Now I am like a child when it comes to zoos. Something about wild animals has always intrigued me from the time I was small. I could—and often would—spend hours at the zoo wandering around and looking at all the animals in their cages, admiring their beauty and majesty. So I was excited about having the opportunity to go.

The zoo was a great experience. We had a wonderful time looking at, feeding, and sometimes even getting to touch the animals in their cages.

We were passing through the African safari section of the zoo when we came across the place where the deer cages were located. There, in the middle of all the other cages, was a cage that immediately caught my attention. It seemed to stand out amongst all the enclosures—not for its size (as it was quite small), but rather for its seeming lack of practicality.

The particular cage in question was about 12 square feet in diameter with walls that were about three feet high. It was an enclosure that housed baby Impalas until they were big enough to join the rest of the herd. What struck me most about this cage was the seeming lack of thought that had been put into it. The question on my mind sprung from hours of watching documentaries about animals in the wild—“Don’t impalas jump?”

Curiosity got the better of me as I walked over to one of the zookeepers who was standing nearby. Reaching him, I pointed out to the cage and said, “Um, those are impalas, right?”

He responded, “Oh yes indeed! And what beautiful creatures they are!”

Okay, so he knows what animal it is, I thought to myself. Perhaps I should educate him as to what impalas do. I turned to him again. “Impalas are the type of deer that jump, right?” I asked him, fully knowing the answer but hoping to educate him.

“Oh, yes!” he said again. “They are known as ‘flying deer’ at times. They can jump a height of over three metres and cover a distance of 10 metres in a single leap! There’s hardly a sight more beautiful in all of creation as a wild impala leaping across a plain.”

I was dumbfounded! This zookeeper knew his stuff. That confused me even further. With a confused look on my face I asked, “So, isn’t this cage a bit too small for them? Won’t they jump out of it without a second thought? How do you keep them in here?”

The zookeeper cracked a huge grin and said to me, “No, they won’t jump out of here. You see, impalas won’t jump if they can’t see where they will land.”

Are we often like these impalas? We have the God-given ability to go great distances and accomplish wonderful things, yet do we often avoid taking the leap because we can’t always see what lies ahead?

May God help you this week to take many leaps into the unknown, knowing that even though we cannot see the future, it is worth the leap of faith to get there.

(Originally Published in “Heart Talk” February 2014; Excerpt of upcoming book)