I'm writing this on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, where my wife Shelly and I are visiting our 29-year-old daughter, Blake.
Shortly after she arrived in Hawaii almost 11 years ago, she started surfing. She now surfs waves as big as 20 feet, and she has progressed to the level where there are some real risks in what she is doing.
If surfing big waves wasn't enough, earlier this year she told us that she had started skydiving. She fell in love with jumping out of airplanes and in no time had completed her 100th jump.
Hanging out at the "Drop Zone"
Earlier today, Blake took Shelly and me to the "Drop Zone," where she jumps. Shelly was thinking about skydiving for the first time. Also, Blake wanted us to meet her friends there and see what the sport was all about. As she introduced us to them, one by one, I noticed grins on most of the faces. They seemed as happy a group of people as I had met in a long time. As I talked to them they told me how much they loved their jobs and couldn't imagine doing anything else for a living. It might be a dangerous sport, but you never would have known it from talking to people who jump out of a plane at 14,00 feet as often as 10 times a day.
After Shelly decided not to jump, we watched dozens of people float down to the ground; their colorful parachutes swaying in the breeze. At some point Blake turned to us and suggested we leave.
I said to her, "As long as we're already here, don't you want to jump?" Blake answered that she would love to, but had decided not to because she thought Shelly and I might be afraid of watching her.
I did feel some fear, but I told her that as long as we were already there and she wanted to do it, she should jump and we'd watch. It actually was exciting to watch her appear through the clouds and slowly float down to the ground. I was pleased Blake had learned so much in such a short period of time (such as some simple tricks in the air, packing her own parachute, etc.).
What's really selfish?
As we were driving away Blake commented that skydiving was a selfish sport. "What do you mean?" I asked. She replied that a skydiver is doing what she wants and is not thinking about how her friends and family would feel if there was an accident. I told her that was one way to look at it. Another was that it was even more selfish to ask someone to not live the life she wants to live in order to minimize the possibility that you might have to live with the consequences of her behavior.
I also said to her, "I can't imagine how I would manage if something happened to you. But everything in life has some degree of risk, and it would not be okay with me for you to give up doing what you love doing and not live the life you want to live, just to remain safe for me. I'd rather deal with the consequences than have you give up living the life you want to live."
I'm really proud that she does what she wants to do, is independent and courageous, has created a life that works for her, and considers her life "awesome." She is truly happy and is recognized at a distance by the smile that is usually on her face.
Parents don't want their kids to get hurt
Parents often are afraid their kids will get hurt and, because they love their children so much, they step in and try to keep them from getting hurt. Not only from physically dangerous activities like surfing or skydiving, but also as a result of their career choices, like becoming an actor or a professional athlete, where the chances of success are very slim and the chances of disappointment are great.
Parents frequently encourage their children to choose careers where, if you have the requisite skills, you are pretty much assured of getting a job with a "good" salary.
(Nowadays there are very few skills that will assure you of finding a job. Skills that virtually guaranteed you a lifetime job only a few yeas ago, such as the construction trades or manufacturing, won't necessarily get you a job today.)
But are you really doing your children a service if they do what you want or what you think is "safe" or "practical," if they never discover and follow their passion, if they never experience "Thank God it's Monday," instead of "Thank God it's Friday"?
Follow your dreams
I've been telling my children since they were old enough to understand what I was saying, "Don't ever get a 'job.' Figure out what you love doing, what you would be excited to do every day whether you got paid for it or not, and then find someone to pay you for doing it."
I've been talking about parenting and children, but the points I have been making are just as valid for any of us as adults. If you get a "good" job that you have no interest in and you dread showing up for work every morning, you've wasted your life
Yes, there is always the possibility of failing at what you attempt. But if you are going to fail, wouldn't you be better off failing while reaching for your dreams than failing while seeking something you wouldn't have made you happy had you achieved it?
I've always loved Helen Keller's quote, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." If you aren't going to create your life as a daring adventure, what's the point of being here?
What do you think a parent should do if his/her child wants to skydive, surf or do something else that can be dangerous? I'd love to hear from you.
Morty Lefkoe is the creator of The Lefkoe Method, a system for permanently eliminating limiting beliefs. For more information go to recreateyourlife.com.