Why You Should Jump Off Cliffs

Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” In this segment of the “Diary of a Divergent Entrepreneur” series, Daniella Sachs uses her seemingly irrational hobby of cliff-diving as a metaphor for the giant leaps of faith she has taken in her own life. Sharing the learnings she has gained from embracing uncertainty, she charges us to ask ourselves whether we are ‘dying to live’ or ‘living to die’.

That day is distinctly etched in my memory. I remember the way the shadows seemed to envelop the sharp rocks surrounding the dark deep pool. I remember the smell of wet moss underneath my fingers as I struggled to find a grip to pull myself up the slippery rocks, slickened by all the wet feet and dripping bodies that had come before me. I remember how the reverberating screams and laughter of the other kids caused my stomach to flip-flop with that strange mix of fear and excitement. I remember how much my arms shook when I finally managed to pull myself up that last high rock to the very top. Most of all, I remember how tiny the pool suddenly looked as I stood peering over the edge, wondering if I would succeed in jumping far enough to make it, or if I would fall short and end up hurtling my small body onto the rocks below.

Although I have become somewhat of an expert at jumping off cliffs over the years, that fear has never left me. Even now, it sits gurgling away in my gut, goading me. So why do I keep doing it? To be honest, I sometimes wonder if there is something wrong with my wiring. What on earth could possibly provoke an architect who studied for an inordinate amount of time to do a second Masters in sustainable tourism-led economic development; move from there into the NGO space to help destinations harness tourism for communities and conservation; and then venture into entrepreneurship to help agritech, fintech and creative tech startups have impact? What could cause such a person to then take on a dual MBA and Conservation MBA programme while launching and pivoting their own startups and moving to a new country, all in the midst of COVID? You think that’s crazy? Those are just a few of the big cliffs I have leapt from; if I shared all the others, I would easily fill a book.

When we choose to face uncertainty head-on, we get to practice being uncomfortable, which helps us to step out of the comfort zone that keeps us small and silent.

As much as I would love to claim that I have jumped off so many cliffs that I have perfected the Brené Brown art of Daring Greatly, I have come to realise that what drives me is not brave Icarus-like risk-taking. It’s actually curiosity, which has in turn led me to realise that jumping off cliffs is not about growing wings. It’s also not about quitting your job in pursuit of a dream.

So what is the point of jumping off cliffs if not to take huge risks and grow wings? Esther Perel talks about the difference between those who are not dead yet and those who are alive. In this simple distinction, she answers the question. Our daily lives, especially now during COVID, are filled with cliffs of uncertainty that we can choose to face, ignore, attempt to guard ourselves against, or bemoan. When we choose to face uncertainty head-on, we get to practice being uncomfortable, which helps us to step out of the comfort zone that keeps us small and silent.

Cliff-diving has taught me that falling is more valuable than flying because it enables you to plunge into the depths of yourself to discover the true extent of your abilities.

Jumping off cliffs is about embracing uncertainty rather than shutting oneself off from it. It’s about opening yourself up to figuring things out and trusting your innate ability and creative process. And if you think you don’t have a creative process, it’s likely because you have stuck to ‘The Yellow Brick Road’ for too long and have not jumped off enough cliffs. You cannot tap into creativity when you are living in a ‘not dead’ state. Creativity is not born from comfort; it is born within messiness, within tension, within the flux of uncertainty, and within the spark of curiosity. It is born when you stand right on the edge, looking down, and think, “I don’t know what will happen if I try this out, so let me see.”

Cliff-diving has taught me that falling is more valuable than flying because it enables you to plunge into the depths of yourself to discover the true extent of your abilities. It has taught me that uncertainty is actually a wonderful thing because it erases the singular path that binds our thinking in staleness and opens in its place a swirling myriad of opportunities that are up for the taking.

So, the next time you find yourself at the edge of a cliff — before you bemoan its presence — I ask you to consider jumping, because what if…

  • Putting yourself in this deeply uncomfortable situation is how you grow?
  • Embracing the uncertainty will allow you to unlock a new realm of possibility?
  • Jumping is essential to harnessing the creativity that lies within you?
  • Jumping is the difference between living and not being dead yet?

What if.

Currently based in The Netherlands, Daniella Sachs is a passionate entrepreneur driven by a mission to inspire more Africans to experience and fall in love with the continent. She has founded Know Your Tourist, a market intelligence startup, to help companies and entrepreneurs understand who the African tourist is, what they want, and how to best serve them. She is also cultivating the African Bucketlist, a community for avid African travellers to come together to share their insider scoops, experiences and stories.