Last summer I cashed in my 401K, sold my car, and moved from Lafayette, IN, to San Francisco to launch a public relations firm. I'm risk-averse by nature, so uprooting my life and cashing in all my chips was not something I did lightly. But San Francisco is home to one of the most vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world, and it seemed like the best place for me to learn business by osmosis. So I made the move.
During the past eight months, I've found that life as an entrepreneur is invigorating, empowering, and vastly more educative than it was before I stepped into business ownership. I've learned how to build websites, run QuickBooks, draft contracts, run a crowdfunding campaign, publish books, and manage a successful sales cycle.
The entire experience has been nerve-wracking, joyous, and wonderful - sometimes all at the same time. More than once, I've looked at my bank account and wondered how I'm going to make it, but I haven't questioned the rightness of this leap for one second.
The impetus for all of this risk came during my last week of college classes in 2013. I was a 29-year-old Marine veteran gazing into the yawning maw of adult life without any idea of what to do next.
I considered several possibilities: settling in my hometown; pursuing an advanced degree; hunkering down to write a book; or finding a job in a big city somewhere out West.
I talked over these options with everyone in my inner circle: friends, professors, pastor, mentors, and parents. Finally, my friend and mentor William Treseder tossed this challenge down: "You, Lydia, want to live in the bounds of control. Having control requires no faith. Risk faith."
His challenge riveted me.
For all of my 29 years, I had lived within the bounds of control. Of course, I'd taken some risks - like joining the Marine Corps, earning my pilot's license, and volunteering to be a turret gunner in Afghanistan. However, those risks were highly calculated. I was almost certain that the outcomes would be worth the fear.
Carving out a new life and business half a continent away didn't seem so predictably awesome. What if I wasn't good enough? What if I couldn't convince people to risk their marketing dollars on a startup? What if I couldn't learn fast enough? What if....?
Living out these questions, instead of just asking them, has been one of the most empowering things I have ever done.
There is tremendous power to be found in stepping into the great and uncomfortable unknown. Uncertainty forces you to adapt, create fluid structure, forge unexpected connections, and embrace failure as a necessary part of learning.
Certainly, I've stumbled. I have been unsure many times during these past few months.
But I've also found my voice.
Because I've risked faith, I've grown a brand from a dream; I've improved my skills and expanded my confidence considerably; I've built a company culture that deeply reflects my values, and I get to wake up every day and work on projects that I'm passionate about.
I've also discovered an interesting correlation between risk and faith: my faith has grown in proportion to size of the risks I take. I would have missed out on it all - the adventure, the growth, the failure, the joy - if I had made the safer play.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Pastor and author John Piper says that if we're sufficient for our tasks, they're too small, and I agree. I believe we're meant to dream big. For me, in this season, dreaming big means entrepreneurship. What does it look like for you? Does it mean finally writing that book? Looking for a new job? Buckling down and creating your own YouTube channel? Launching a business of your own?
What dream have you been unwilling to risk? What might your life look like if you took a leap of faith? I'd love to hear your thoughts!