The Story Economy Blog

The Leaving is the Hardest Part

I have a magazine assignment to scout the upcoming 127 Corridor sale (otherwise known as “The World’s Longest Yard Sale) in Ohio and Kentucky. I’m bringing my sisters and niece with me for some color commentary (by “color,” I mean insanity), and I can’t wait to junk it up along the old north-south highway. (Yes, I know, it’s rough to get assignments where the main directive is: “Shop and have fun with some of your favorite people, please.”)

To start plotting our journey, I got out my old bag-o-maps. But before I landed on the Ohio map, I glanced at my collection of scruffy-looking maps from the various places I’ve visited: Scotland, New York City, Toronto, Rome, Seattle, Arizona, Pittsburgh (yeah, I know Pittsburgh doesn’t quite fit on that list, but I did have a great time there once . . .).

Thinking about my upcoming trip and the maps in my history led to three observations.

(1) I hardly go anywhere anymore.

(2) I love to travel.

(3) I hate to travel.

The first observation only needs one explanation: children.

The other two need some explaining. It’s this:

I love the thinking about the trip and the planning of the trip. I love the experience once I’m in it. But I hate the moment before it starts. I’m terrible at walking out the door. I’m anxiety-filled every time, and always ready to cancel at the last minute. In those minutes before leaving, all I want to do is stay home.

I’m not a nervous flier or a bad traveler. Home just has such a claim on me that it’s painful to break through it. Even as a kid, I would get super excited about our camping trips, as my older sisters would help me pack and plan the games for the car. And then, the morning we were set to leave, I’d wind up crying in my room. But by the time I was eating my salami sandwich at the rest stop picnic table, I was all about the trip, and giggling with the gang.

I’m a sucker for familiarity, so leaping away from it is excruciating—for a moment. But once I do, I am great at following where things take me.

I’m a good traveler. I’m just a terrible leaver.

Is it the Jump, or What Comes After?

Panic about startingthe thing and panic while doing the thing are very, very different. When you’re confronting any sort of journey (starting a business, creating a brand, and signing a contract are all journeys), you need to know if you’re just afraid of the moment of starting, or if you actually don’t want to do the thing that follows the leap.

For example, I would be terribly afraid to make the leap into being an accountant. But I also have no desire to ever help anyone figure out their money, and I would be super terrible at it. So both the leap and the thing that follows are bad. Negative-negative = Don’t leap.

By contrast, a leap I need to make is to no longer take on clients I want to be right for me, but who aren’t. It means saying no to someone—right to their face (or to their inbox). “No, I like you, but I can’t do this thing you want for that amount of money.” That’s a scary leap for someone who has a hard time saying no to nice people. But the thing that follows—not doing the wrong work anymore so I am free to do the right work—is great. Negative-positive that wipes away the negative = Get over it and leap.

This is really quite basic, but we often forget to differentiate. The leap, or the experience after the leap: which is stopping you?

Most of the time, it’s the leap.

Because once you’re into the thing, you’re just into it. Jumping on the ferry, sneaking onto the guided tour of the cave, stumbling upon a great market, or running a business you told yourself you were afraid to run, but really you were just afraid to shut the door on your job.

Journeys have to start. Even if you spend a few minutes crying in your room before you walk out the door, know that the thing on the other side is worth it.

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