Risking Everything (Part 1)

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Two months ago, Jon Acuff invited me to something called “The Start Experiment.” I haven’t read his latest book, Start,  but Heath raved about it. I followed his blog since Heath loved him so much. All I had to do was give them my email for the “Experiment”, so it sounded pretty easy already. I forgot about signing up until a week later I opened my email one morning to this:

“Whatever today throws at you, whatever empty, hard words Monday dares to tell you, know this:
you are rarer than rare.

You are the brave.

The bold who dared to wrestle ‘someday’ to the ground, and start today.

That’s not hyperbole or motivational nonsense, that’s mathematical truth.

Aware of that, here is the first of 24 missions.”

I squirmed in my seat and read through the rest of the email, wondering if I missed something. He kept telling me about these 24 challenges over the next 24 days that would help me achieve my “risk.” I didn’t know what my risk was. Would he tell me that too? Did I miss something?

In a natural, human response, I closed my email and went about my morning trying to forget this nonsense. This sounded hard. Deleting one piece of junk email each morning sounded much easier. What could I possibly risk? I kept asking myself the question instead of searching for an answer.

In turn I made a shallow list of accomplishments like finishing the book I’d been reading for months and painting the blank canvas that stared up at me each day. I listed small items like “pray daily” and “exercise more.” I added in to write daily, failing to fully acknowledge this so called dream of mine.

Each day challenged me. I listed out the people who were living my dream and researched how they got there. I listed my goals, my fears, my supporters. I skipped the days where he told me to tell someone about my risk or to post something about it in our closed Facebook groups. My “risk” didn’t compare. I read stories about people quitting their jobs, calling book publishers and posting blog after blog. People were moving across the nation and giving each other advice and encouragement.

It was really inspirational annoying. Everyone was happy and filled with fear at the same time. But, as Acuff would say, they were punching fear in the face. They were awesome.

I copped out. I checked everything off my list, sure. But none of it was a “risk.”

I didn’t write daily, but I published blogs twice a week and finally gained a semblance of consistency. I didn’t lose weight or anything, but went on a few walks during the week. I did pray daily, but I kept it short and normally used prayer as a filler when work bored me. I tried to justify my meager feats, but I couldn’t rejoice. Not like the Starters.

I gave the Start experiment 10% of my effort, maybe 20% on the days I published and shared a blog post on Twitter. I could even hashtag #StartExp out of shame for my lack of ambition.

I never picked that “risk” two months ago.

Yesterday, my boyfriend told me all about the book he wants to write. He detailed the chapters, the main ideas, and how he spent time investing in this project already. I burst into tears. The same annoyance I internalized during the Start Experiment finally poured out. I couldn’t explain to Heath why I was crying so much, and I didn’t stop for a long time. I couldn’t even explain it to myself.

He found his risk. He probably wasn’t even trying but he found it and fought for it.

In many ways, living in New Orleans now and recently quitting my job to return to Texas are great risks. I’ve learned and grown more in these past six months than I ever could have if I stayed in Austin.

But there’s still that something missing.