How to Walk An Invisible Bridge
I have recently come to understand that my life purpose is to walk the invisible bridge to make it safe for others to follow. But what does it mean to walk the invisible bridge? To walk the invisible bridge means to go forward, even if you would rather hang back and blend into the crowd. To walk into the unknown, trusting that the net will appear; To speak out and step forth, even when the path looks uncertain and the territory hostile.
This has not always been my story.
As a teenager, the mandate from my white, middle class suburban upbringing was to blend in, and so I stood on the sidelines of lunchroom jeers, not-so-harmless gossip and the beginning of cyberbullying, always grateful to have the target shifted elsewhere, to keep my head down and avoid the scrutiny and humiliation of my peers.
In my twenties, I mastered the art of "waiting for the boss to promote me on my merit" - constantly desirous of the next career opportunity but chronically frustrated that my merits went under-acknowledged and my next steps were not handed to me on a silver platter. Despite having only a vague sense of what I really wanted, I was desperate for someone to come along and recognize my intrinsic value and lay out my clear career path. Trapped, helpless and somewhat entitled, I wondered: Who would rescue me and make clear how to manifest my professional destiny?
In careers today, most people I talk to wrestle with this feeling of disempowerment; shackled by the external circumstances - underpaying jobs, tyrannical bosses, financial burdens of dependents - that keep them from pursuing the scary dream or taking full charge of the journey. Others I speak with cannot imagine what might lie beyond the ridge of the known, and so the safer choice becomes to stay on solid footing, inching our way forward and crossing our fingers that we will one day be rescued, recognized and rewarded.
But the cost of waiting is too high. As the stakes get higher in an increasingly complex world, as old institutions and old ways of being crumble, as more and more of us begin to answer a deeper call, it gets harder to ignore the thing inside of you that is yearning for freedom. A new era of courage is dawning.
My own journey into courageously stepping forth was marked by small, early acts of resistance: Shaving my head in college to better understand gender norms, initiating private, courageous conversations in and out of the work place when I saw bad behavior from coworkers, and finally leaving the full-time job and pension behind to enter the vast unknown of solo-preneurship.
Now that I have been on the invisible bridge of this new path - examining and embracing it from all sides - I have been able to call back over my shoulder in a clear, strong voice: "You guys! It's real! It'll hold! Come on out!" Today, I call clients forth with the certainty of one who has walked this path and I have captured a few of the lessons I have learned from walking invisible bridges below:
1) The first step is the hardest. When standing at the edge of a vast ravine - as Indiana Jones demonstrates in The Last Crusade - the prospect of putting your foot out on what appears to be air feels insane. Your body breaks out in sweat and your heart races. Unfortunately, there is no way around this terrifically vulnerable and terrifying step. Close your eyes and trust.
2) No one else will take the step for you. I spent years hoping that not only would someone appear to lay out my clear path, but that they would actually do the scary steps for me. Now I know: No one is coming with a map, no one is waiting to align your fortune for you from the wings. You must take a step - any bold step in a direction - to start to move in order to get the feedback on your path.
3) Guides have gone before you. Though this process can feel fundamentally lonely, the comforting reality is that many of our heroes have walked this path, leaving breadcrumbs and tools to help you along the way. My heroes have all walked their own bridges, and so I imagine them with me on mine, holding a torch and steadying my tread when it feels shaky and drafty on the walk.
The truth is, bridge walking is way of life. When your footing feels sure and you call back to encourage others, you still know the next dodgy stretch to be just around the corner.
But the things worth doing are always those that scare us most; bridges are invisible to our egos but clear and real to our hearts and spirit. They call us forth to greater and greater heights, and to the purpose we were put on this planet to fulfill. What bridge are you ready to walk today?