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jump-school 384d6I heard of a recruiter for jump school, the name given for military parachute training, who explains the training this way: “Jump school is three weeks long. The first week they separate the men from the boys.” (Presumably, they also separate the women from the girls.) He goes on to say, “Week two they separate the men from the fools. And week three, the fools jump.”

We once visited friends and sat outside where we watched  paragliders and hang gliders soaring overhead, suspended from colorful wings. They rose up into the sky upon invisible warm currents of air and floated effortlessly by -- trusting in their equipment and their ability to keep them from crashing into the earth. But isn't that risky? Maybe a little. But what a thrill to experience!

My son is a rock climber. Using toeholds and fingertip holds he makes his way up the shear face of a cliff. Though he fell once and broke his arm, he's back out there again. Why? Isn't that risky? Perhaps, but he likes the feeling of satisfaction of conquering the mountain and succeeding at a difficult endeavor.

Of course, one doesn't have to participate in sports to experience risks. Just buy stocks and bonds. I've been told that October is one of the riskiest months to buy stocks. The other dangerous months are January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, November and December.

There is risk in all of life. But aren't some things worth it? Artist Vincent van Gogh put it this way: “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” There are good and valid reasons to take necessary risks. In fact, I am sure we cannot experience a full life and shy away from all risk at the same time. We usually have a choice...we can choose to live boldly or we can choose fear. But be sure of this: the one we pick is all important.

Especially when it comes to major life decisions. Deciding to pursue a compelling idea. Going back to school. Changing vocations. Marriage and family. Moving to a brand new location ... these can be chancy life choices. We can listen to our hearts, or we can decide not to take risks, not to do the scary thing and, perhaps, not to fully live.

May Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Inc., once remarked, “Most people live and die with their music still unplayed. They never dare to try.” Is that true? If so, I think that is sad. Is it because most people are afraid? At the end of my life, I don't want to say I always played it safe, I want to say I played my music. I want to say I attempted to stretch my wings and jump. I want to believe I took reasonable risks at the right times.

I have not always chosen the safest path. I've made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I've learned something important along the way: I've learned to heed the call of my heart. I've learned that the safest path is not always the best path and I've learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted. I've also learned that, if I am to live my life to the fullest, I must not let my music die inside me.

Will you just play it safe? Or will you play your music?

Steve Goodier