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Go Ahead and Leap - Nightingale

...of course it's actually impossible to look before you leap, but the greatest discoveries in history by taking it - anyway.

Go Ahead and Leap


Another essay by Earl Nightingale from the How to Completely Change Your Life Series


There’s nothing some people like to do better than give advice.

Unfortunately, a lot of advices dished out would have to be classified as useless information. If I had to pick a winner and the useless information department, it would probably be the advice that goes, “look before you leap”. It is a good recommendation for swimmers and jumpers, but as far as life is concerned, it’s impossible to do.

We can look backward. We can see the results of our past actions and learn from them, but we can’t look into the future. In living, we can guess or try to predict what the future will hold, but we really can’t look before we leap. As a result of this, most people simply don’t leap at all. But it’s a wonderful and little known fact that for those who dare to attempt a new and seemingly difficult leap, the results are often surprisingly successful and rewarding.

Now, this is something that needs some explaining and no little qualification. The leap we take should be in line with two important criteria. One. It should be towards something we want with all our heart and two, it should be in a field in which we have a good background of experience or at least in an area related to our past experience.

Let me give you some examples.

Lindbergh took the big leap when he flew nonstop across the Atlantic, the first one to ever do so, but behind him were years of flying experience, including flying the mail in all kinds of weather with virtually no navigational aids. He couldn’t see into the future as far as his success or failure was concerned, with failure probably meaning his death, but he was well prepared for the leap and it made him rich and famous.

Columbus did the same thing. He wanted to do something that had never been tried before. He believed it could be done, and he was a highly skilled sailor and navigator, and he had the best ships then available for the journey.

All human progress is the result of this kind of thing and on a much smaller scale, the same principle can be applied to our lives. If there’s something you want very much to do, if you know it’s right, and if you’re prepared to try it – the chances are excellent that you will meet with surprising success. And, after you’ve taken a big jump, you’ll probably wonder why you waited so long.

Of course, there’s always the risk of failure. Lindberg could have been killed. Columbus’s little fleet could’ve met with disaster. Einstein might’ve been wrong. Washington might’ve been defeated and hanged along with all the signers of the Declaration of Independence by the British.

But the fact is they were not.

It brings to mind again, the great line spoken by Thucydides in his funeral speech for Pericles. “The secret of happiness is freedom and the secret of freedom. Courage.”

You will never get elected unless you expose yourself to defeat. You will never make it to second base, if you’re trying to keep one foot on first. You will never achieve the dream in your heart unless you take the big jump and are willing to risk everything – even failure – on the attempt. If it’s what’s right for you and you’ve prepared yourself as best you can for the attempt, the chances are excellent that you’ll meet with success.

As Lincoln put it, “Let us have faith that right makes might. And in that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

No, you can’t look before you leap, but you can leap.


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