Chapter Three – The Leap of Heart

Previously on Faolan’s Book from chapter two:

The Precipice

As soon as we reached the so-called peak, we started doubting if it actually was the peak. There was no view, it was nothing like what I remembered from years ago. For the purposes of the story, we will call this the precipice.

What does it mean to be at the precipice? It means it is time for a decision: to leap or to return. In this case, Owen and I had to decide if we trusted our gut, saying that the peak must be somewhere else, likely further ahead, or if we should settle with what we had found and return to my car and avoid being outside after dark. Remember, at this point, we only had another two hours or so of sunlight. It would take us about that amount of time to return to the bottom. We were stuck, paralyzed by this choice.”

The Secret Part Four – The Leap of Heart

After a few minutes of banter, we decided to throw caution to the wind and go forward into the unknown. We started down the other side of the mountain hoping to find a view! We took our leap off of the precipice at a run and sped down the mountain. It was a wild ride as we journeyed down. I remember running past a turtle heading up the mountain and wondering why there was a turtle so high up. As we ran, we realized we had made the wrong choice and laughed at our naivety. It was almost dark and we had no idea where we were going. Finally, we came out into a parking lot (note, not a view). We looked around, gasping for breath, and found that we were at a lake on the other side of the mountain, miles from his house and even further from the car. We commonly referred to this lake as the fishbowl and cursed our luck at landing so far from anything useful (There is no service at the fishbowl either). As we were walking around, Owen remembered a shortcut through the woods back to his house, so we took off again. We hustled through the forest, looking for his trail until we had circled the whole lake, coming out again at the parking lot. We sat down on a picnic table, as dusk took hold of the day.

Now, so far this doesn’t seem all that appealing, however, the leap of heart works in mysterious ways. We were sitting on the picnic table when we heard a car coming up the rocky, dirt road towards us. As it neared, I decided to leave my dignity at the door and try to hitchhike. We, two tired boys, stood in this parking lot with our thumbs up, hoping that this person would save us from an eight-mile walk back to his house. The car, which we now realized was a truck, pulled over and a nice lady stuck her head out of her window and said, “Hi! Can I help you, kids?” She told us she was the park ranger on her routine refilling of the water jugs at the picnic table. We were saved! She moved some things in her truck to make room for us and we headed down the mountain. Finally, after a long day, we arrived home. We thanked her for her kindness and sheepishly walked into Owen’s house explaining our predicament to his parents. We learned a lot from this adventure and made it home in one piece, as more mature and wise people!

The Leap of Heart is defined in two parts.

  • The decision to act on our heart’s instincts and the following pieces of a successful leap of heart; and
  • The wonderful flight that comes from our leap of heart.

I once wrote this little note down in my journal and I think it’s a good way to start out my explanation of the leap of heart. “The act of choosing my heart is, as of yet, the hardest and most rewarding thing that I have ever and will ever do.” This piece of the mountain is so unbelievably hard to do because it absolutely must be done with authenticity, faith in ourselves and the world, a good attitude, and just a little luck. Without this combination of things, it is very likely that a leap will just be a leap of faith and not a leap of heart. First I’ll explain what a leap of faith is when compared to a leap of heart and then I’ll explain what makes up a successful leap of heart, piece by piece.

The Leap of Faith

A leap of faith is just a jump off of the mountain with a prayer that I will live. There is nothing notably substantial about the decision except that it’s risky and exciting. I’ll give you two examples of leaps of faith I have made, one with success and one with failure.

A few weeks ago, I was returning something at Best Buy when I saw these amazing Bose headphones. I decided to try them and instantly fell in love. I waffled for a few minutes before deciding to buy the headphones. They were way out of my price range, but I bought them nonetheless. This spur of the moment buy was a leap of faith, hoping that it would be worth it, but knowing deep inside that it wasn’t an authentically necessary thing to do. I kept the headphones for about a month before returning them a few days ago with some nicks on the side. This was a risky action because I almost couldn’t return them, but it worked out. I’m going to call this a successful leap of faith because I had no reason to buy the headphones other than that I wanted a nice thing. There were no big dreams involved and I wasn’t trying to improve myself, so this act was just a leap of faith, complete with me assuming things would work out.

On the other hand, one time in high school I was trying to impress a girl with my skills at hurdling so I decided to show her my impeccable form (note the sarcasm). I ran full speed at the hurdle which was set for girls at the lowest height possible. I was confident and had decided to act in an instant without thinking about it or feeling out if it was the correct decision. My ego was leading my actions and this is the key piece. As I took off to leap over the hurdle, I felt my back foot catch and I started to lean forward too much. I like to think that I looked like superman as I flew through the air over the hurdle, sliding on the ground, creating red streaks on my shirt and invoking the laughter of everyone watching (most of the track team). I stood up, my face must have been blazing red, I yelled something like “Woo Hoo!!” which I’m sure sounded quite dumb coming from me at the moment. This experience shows how taking a leap of faith can often end up with us face planting on the ground. Because I let my ego carry my and not my heart I made a fool of myself.

The difference between a leap of faith and leap of heart is that the world seems to want us to succeed when we act from our hearts, but it really couldn’t give a shit what happens when we just act. A leap of heart is defined by our authentic dreams leading our actions and not anything else.

A Successful Leap of Heart

So, now that you better understand how I define a leap of faith, let me go through the details of what makes up a leap of heart. As I said a leap of heart consists of authenticity, faith in ourselves and the world, a good attitude, and just a little luck.

Authenticity: When we leap off of the precipice, it is incredibly crucial that we actually want to be leaping. This may sound obvious but there is a lot that goes into actually wanting something in life. I can honestly say that there are very few choices I have made that stemmed from me and only from me. Almost all of the actions I have made in my life have been influenced by my parents, teachers, friends, etc. The biggest key to turning a leap of faith into a leap of heart is to really and truly be making the decision to leap because you have thought it out and because it feels right in your heart. Listening to my heart is a skill that has come slowly to me, and by no means have I got it down. Sometimes, though, our hearts send us messages that are hard to ignore. When this happens, it’s the moment to buckle down, listen to yourself, and take a leap.

Faith in ourselves: When we are in the action of leaping it is equally important to trust our own hearts and our authentic decision-making. If I am in the middle of flying off of the precipice and I doubt my ability to fly, I’m almost certainly going to fall. This piece of the leap of heart is the most life-changing part of it but can come at a cost if we are not careful.

In my own life, I started having faith in myself when I was leading new students before their first year of college as an Orientation Leader. I had to tell my story over and over, explaining every little piece of why I was doing what I was doing in life and at college. The parents of the new students were particularly interested in my story and so I would tell it every day maybe four or five times. Eventually, I started to piece together that my while my story sounded nice, it wasn’t necessarily all authentic. As I began realizing this, I would slowly cut certain pieces of my story out of my life, leaving only the things that I really wanted to be there. This process built my confidence in myself and what I am currently doing on this planet. Because of this, I finished my summer job, full of confidence and excitement for life. However, I had never had this feeling before and my self-confidence slowly started turning into arrogance. Arrogance in my mind is when self-confidence influences how I act around others or think of others. I am still learning to let my confidence inspire my inner-self and not morph into arrogance, which is a hard but rewarding journey of its own.

Anyway, learning to cultivate a feeling of self-confidence and a faith in one’s self is extremely rewarding and is almost like growing a pair of wings to better fly off of the precipice. Everyone will learn to be self-confident in different ways. If I had to guess at the unifying thing that everyone uses to become self-confident, I would have to say that it would come from learning to be authentic. It comes from looking inward, to your heart and not from looking outward for approval.

Faith in the World: If faith in ourselves is our wings, faith in the world is the wind under our wings. When taking a leap off of the precipice, we either fly or fall. When taking a leap of heart, we most often fly because we have wings and wind under them. What do I mean when I say faith in the world and how does it translate to the wind? This part is a bit tricky to explain because it seems so outlandish. I define ‘the world’ as the opportunities, people, hardships, and other things that contribute to the interactionary parts of life – basically, it is life outside of ourselves that we interact with. From my experience, I have learned that when I trust the world around me, it tends to give me what I need. Now here is where many people will likely think that I am naive, privileged, lucky, and ultimately a bit full of shit. I may be naive and I am certainly privileged in many ways, however, what I am saying deserves merit. I will explain why.

My faith in the world is better described in a more in-depth way. It is not something as simple as trusting people and things around me. My faith in the world comes from a true confidence that if I set authentic intentions, the world will respond by pointing me in the right direction. For example, last year I applied for a job as an RA. I went into my interview brimming with confidence because I knew the interviewer and I thought I would be a good fit for the job. I left the interview feeling good about it. About a week later I get an email informing me that I did not, in fact, get the spot. I was so surprised. But, because of getting rejected from this position I was able to get a job as an orientation leader, which changed my life. Then, because my boss over the summer knew that I wanted the RA job so much, he recommended me to fill the spot of an RA who dropped out and I ended up getting that job, too. The people around me heard what my heart was saying and saw my inaction of this voice and were thus confident in me. By listening to the world and having faith in where it led me, I was able to end up in an even better position than I could have hoped for at the beginning. I have learned to trust the world to lead me to where I need to be as long as I am listening to it.

A Good Attitude: A good attitude is a small but necessary part of a leap of heart because even if everything lines up and there is a 99% chance of a successful leap, things might still go wrong. When things go wrong, it’s important not blame anything or think that it was the wrong choice to make the leap. At this point, a person has already been authentic and decided that this is the right choice and so to question that in retrospect is counter-productive. There is nothing to be done but accept what has happened, say “Oh well!” and move on to the next mountain. A good attitude consists of the ability to be happy regardless of the outcome because one knows that they have followed their heart and it consists of the courage to get back up and say, “what can I do next time and how can I do it better.”

Just a Bit of Luck: I would be blatantly foolish if I thought that luck had nothing to do with success. However, what defines success varies from person to person. For me, success is not how much money I make or what car I have, it is how close I get to living out my heart’s wishes. Luck is what leads to an opportunity to gain success, but by redefining success, I can redefine luck to mean how much work I put into listening to my heart and enacting what I hear it willing.

This being said, I would like to be able to put food on my plate and I would like to be able to provide for children someday. The part of “luck” that gets me access to these things comes to the field as a culmination of the previous attributes of a leap of heart. If I am authentic, then I narrow down how I will act to things that only truly benefit me and follow my heart. If I have faith in myself, then I am at peace with myself. If I have faith in the world, then the world will have faith in me and provide me opportunities. If I have a good attitude, then no matter the outcome, I will move forward. The combination of these things means that I will always be considered lucky by those around me, even though my luck is simply an outcome of my commitment to myself.

The Flight Off the Precipice

When I think of what I have felt most proud of achieving in my life, I think of the things that make me feel full inside my heart, the things that I can hold close to myself and know that I achieved because I followed my heart, my dreams, and my passions. These things range from cultivating close relationships with people I highly respect, to winning a scholarship for a game I love to play, to more simple things like successful adventures. To be more specific I will tell a few stories about how my heart has led me to successes I hold dear.

Story 1

When I was eight years old, I was introduced to a game called Magic: The Gathering. This game is a nerdy trading card game played competitively across the world. I was hooked immediately to this game full of creativity, luck, and skill. I loved to come up with new ideas and try them. I would spend hours making new decks, figuring out how cards interacted to make things happen. It was the focus of my life for many years. It was all positive, except that I knew it was expensive. Every Christmas and birthday I would ask for more Magic cards from my whole family. For years, they were all I wanted.

Ten years later, at eighteen I had applied for a scholarship for college students who play Magic. I applied and was chosen as one of two people in the world who had applied to receive a large sum of money every year for four years to go towards my college tuition. I was overjoyed at this incredible event! At this stage in my life, I hadn’t yet learned the value of being transparent and so for fear of being judged as a nerd, I kept my accomplishment close and only shared it with those I trusted. I couldn’t help but be afraid. When I look back, it was absolutely ridiculous for me to feel this way. I had committed myself to something that I loved for ten years and it had worked out for me! This accomplishment is an amazing example of when following my heart earned me something that I can truly feel proud of. This was a ten-year leap of heart.

Story 2

During my freshman year of college, I decided to create my own major. I had never been sure what I wanted to do with my life but I knew that I liked to solve problems and I knew I wanted to help the world. After taking some classes with amazing professors, I learned the skill of identifying mentors I trusted to lead me. I went to one such mentor and we worked out that what I wanted to do was change the world by creating businesses. I decided to name my major Social Innovation and thus I lept off the precipice of my “Declare a Major” mountain. I decided to create my own version of success and trust myself to figure it out. Thus this leap was a leap of heart. Sometimes it can be hard to identify a leap as a heartful one or a faithful one. Through this story, I will illustrate how to identify this.

Over the summer, during my training as an Orientation Leader, the president of the university came in to answer any questions we may have had. I furiously took notes, trying to figure out how this mysterious figure led the university. At one point, I asked a question about innovation, mentioning that I was designing my own major, to help explain why I was curious. Little did I know, he took note of my unique decision to follow my own path. A few weeks later, we ran into each other and formally introduced ourselves. He said that he remembered me from training and that he would love to hear more about my decision to create my own major. I was excited to have the opportunity to talk with him but skeptical that he would follow through and actually talk to an average student. A few days later, I opened my email to see an invitation to his residence to talk about my experience in college. I was overjoyed. I think that at this moment, I realized the significance of choosing to create my own future by listening to my instincts and to my heart. Since then, we have grown to be friends, which is still weird for me to say! Without taking my leap of heart to follow my dreams, I would never have stood out to him.

Both of these stories illustrate exaggerated examples of how following my heart has led to unique opportunities that I would otherwise never have had. Despite the fact that these “wins” have been so big, doesn’t mean that I don’t experience smaller “wins” all the time. When I choose to follow my heart and take a leap, I exemplify the ideal me, which leads to all kinds of small things that bring me happiness and fulfillment.

Story 3

An example of a smaller leap of heart comes from a nighttime adventure to the beach I had. It was about 9:30 PM when I set off towards Santa Cruz. I had tried to get some other people to go with me but everyone was busy. I almost gave up but decided that I really did want to go to the beach. When I got there, I had already affirmed that I would climb my favorite giant rock at Davenport. The moon was pretty full and I could see well enough to trust myself to rock climb. I reached the point where I would need to race the ocean in order to not get soaking wet and a deep fear took hold of me. Something about the ocean at night makes it terrifyingly intense. I watched the waves crash onto the rocks and knew that I would have to time my climb perfectly. I decided to do it, to commit to my dream, however small. And so I took off when I saw an opportunity. I raced up the rocks, barely noticing my own actions, only focusing on reaching the top. Finally, I got there. While sitting at the top I decided to let my mind wander and my hands write, inspired by Mary Oliver’s Poem, The Summer Day. I wrote this:

I’m sitting on top of a rock all by myself. This rock is pretty big. Bigger than most houses. The rock is in the ocean, well mostly. It’s 11:17 PM on a Sunday in January. It’s 49 degrees here in Santa Cruz California. The ocean is reminding me of its immense, consistent presence by lashing its waves into the sky. I watch from above as the waves spiral around the rocks and whip themselves into the shore. It’s graceful and yet so very powerful. I think I can learn a lot from the ocean, and thus the moon. The moon is shining above almost full. I can see everything clearly tonight. Sometimes I feel lost in my own life as if my map is missing. I feel like I’m walking forward, always slightly missing my mark. Right now though, I’m spot on. To answer Mary Oliver’s question of “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I think I’m quite happy to say “exactly this.” I’m sitting on top of a giant rock in the ocean at night on a nearly full moon. With this, I am full of life, content to my heart’s desire and loving myself and the world around me.

Live your dreams always in the now and stop for no one. If you must go it alone, do so, for it means you’ve stepped onto your own path through life. Howl and your pack will come.

It was an amazing experience to be on that rock and it made me remember how much I love to go on solo adventures, held back by nothing, only my own fear. This adventure turned into a precious memory. I took a chance because my heart told me to and it led me to the realizations that I must live my own life at my own pace. This leap of heart, became a gold nugget memory that I can carry forever, always reminding me of my own purpose and dedication.

Finally, to quote Coelho, as I am so inclined to do, I will show why one should always, always, always, leap with their heart. “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” I am not a believer in God, in the typical sense, and I still can’t help agreeing with Coelho here. Even Jim Carrey agrees. He once said in a commencement speech the following: “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you may as well take a chance on doing what you love.” Everything out there points to taking a leap of heart.

To wrap it up, here is a poem I wrote:

Through the mystery of the unknown

we find ourselves exposed to the harsh light of the truth.

Once we depart from that which was once only imagined

we find ourselves grown beyond our own belief.

What starts abruptly may last forever

we found serenity in that which we love.

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Some Things to Think About:

What is something that you have always wanted to do? What did you love to do when you were little that you no longer do? Why have you given up on dreams you’ve had? Is it because you have let go of the dreams or is it because the people around you have told you they aren’t feasible? What are some leaps of heart that you have made? Take a moment to think about your real goals, stemming from your heart, write them down, and then commit to following them. I wish you the best!

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