How to escape a life of mediocrity

If you feel stuck right now, don’t give up. Don’t live a life of mediocrity. … Be smart about it, but don’t settle for your unhappiness.

Artwork by John P. Weiss

Maybe you are nervous, uncertain and afraid. Perhaps you’re weighing the risks and rewards. Maybe you’re not. But you know you want a change. A different outcome.

Something inside you persists, pushes and cajoles until you can’t ignore it anymore. And so, throwing caution to the wind, you leap. Like a young eagle who leaves the nest for the first time, you leap.

You instinctively know that the comfort of the nest isn’t enough. When the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving, you leap.

Charging that cliff

Think back on the accomplishments and breakthroughs in your life. Some may have been due to good fortune and luck. But the most satisfying and meaningful growth often comes from the leap. From the aftermath of charging that cliff and throwing oneself into the abyss.

Diving into the abyss is scary. At first, it may feel like you’re falling. But then, at some point you experience what the young eagle leaving the nest feels. Exhilaration. Freedom. The thrill of entering a whole new world. New possibilities and dreams.

“Living with fear stops us taking risks, and if you don’t go out on the branch, you’re never going to get the best fruit.” — Sarah Parish

Country music artist Tim McGraw wouldn’t go on stage without a drink. He needed a little “liquid courage” to perform. But it didn’t end there.

He’d get trashed and drunk-call his wife. He’d slur. Then, to hide his inebriation, he’d text her. Except everything was misspelled, and she knew.

Finally, after one last bender and hangover, he flew into Florida to start a new concert tour. And he decided to quit. He took the leap.

It certainly could not have been easy. The superstar lifestyle is not conducive to sobriety. But he took the leap anyway, and never looked back. Today, he is in the best shape of his life and more successful than ever.

My fear of flying

For me, venturing outside the nest and leaping meant getting on a plane. I had a fear of flying and heights. The fear prevented me from taking trips I should have taken.

Then an opportunity came to study landscape painting with renowned artist Scott L. Christensen. My wife shot down all my excuses about expenses, time away from work and upcoming obligations. She knew they were sad facades, masking the real issue. My fear of flying.

Defeated, I packed my art gear, stepped on that big plane and threw caution to the wind. I hated every bump and flashing “fasten seatbelt” sign.

But then we landed in Idaho and I felt it. Exhilaration. The joy of conquering my fear. That turning point led to more painting trips to study with Christensen and significant, personal growth as an artist.

What’s holding you back?

What’s holding you back? Your weight? An addiction? An unhealthy relationship? Depression? Uncertainty and fear? All of these challenges have real solutions, if you’re ready to leave the nest once and for all. If you’re ready to take the leap and soar.

Yes, sometimes the flight is bumpy. Sometimes it’s the wrong leap and we fall. Some falls take longer to recover from than others. But playing it safe and never leaping is its own kind of hell.

An article in Rhapsodystrategies.com noted the following:

“We are inspired by people who go beyond the norm and push the boundaries of possibility. Mediocrity, on the other hand, does not inspire. Nor does it lead to greatness. Success, however you define it, will elude you unless you are willing to push the limits you have placed on yourself and that others have placed on you.”

What a tragedy to not live boldly and pursue one’s passions. If you want to soar, you have to leap.

Nobody knows the magic bullet

Start by weighing the pros and cons. Figure out what the best case and worst case scenarios are. What can you do to limit the consequences of the risk?

There’s nothing wrong with doing your homework. But at some point, you need to take action. You need to listen to your heart. You need to take the leap.

“Don’t listen to anybody. Nobody knows the magic bullet. If they did, they’d sell it and make a fortune. Follow your gut. Follow your instincts. Every once in a while, take a chance.” — Michael Cudlitz

\It’s easier to take risks and throw caution to the wind when we’re young. When we don’t have a family depending on us. But this doesn’t mean we can’t take risks later in life. We just need to be smart about it.

They took the leap

I’ve known people who made major career changes. People who were unhappy in their work, but had a family to provide for. So, they didn’t dive out of the nest carelessly.

They took their time. They planned and prepared. They minimized the risks through proper planning and patience. But then, they took the leap.

For some, the leap meant less money but more happiness. For others, the leap changed their lives for the better. For some, they stumbled, and had to regroup. But at least they tried, and learned from the effort.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” — Helen Keller

If you feel stuck right now, don’t give up. Don’t live a life of mediocrity. Meaningful change may require research, planning and patience. Be smart about it, but don’t settle for your unhappiness.

You’ll know when the timing is right. When you’re ready to leave the nest. When that day comes, draw a deep breath. Exhale.

Then, take the leap. Feel what it’s like to soar. To finally fly, to the better future that awaits you.

Before you go

Cartoons and tools of the trade on my desk.

I’m John P. Weiss. I paint, draw cartoons and write about life. Because I took the leap and changed my career. Thanks for reading!

This article first appeared on Medium.