I learned a lot the day I went skydiving. I learned about what my mind does when my feet are dangling out of an airplane at 18,000'. I learned that I am NOT freaked out by heights, but tight corkscrews while hanging from a parachute DO make me nauseous. I also learned about the difference between being a passenger and a participant.
While I was going through the pre-flight briefing, the guy that i was going to get strapped to was firing of tons of information and I was trying to take as much in as I could while attempting to determine what was important to my survival and what he was required by law to tell me. Then it suddenly became clear. His tone changed. "Look dude, here's the deal, this isn't a ride at Disneyland. You are a participant, not a passenger, you have some responsibilities here. We are about to exit an airplane at 18,000' with me strapped to your back, I'm going to tell you to do some things, and I need you to do them. Can you do that?"
I suppose that I had always known the fundamental difference between the word 'passenger' and the word 'participant', but suddenly the difference was stark and had an importance that I had never considered. A couple of days after my jump I began thinking about that one intense moment in the pre-flight, and began to consider all the situations in my life. I considered each of them through the lens of "was I a passenger or a participant?"
At work, was I a passenger or a participant? Was I actively trying to be my best and bring up the people around me, or was I content to not make waves and go whichever direction the current was moving? What about in my marriage? In my other relationships?
It became clear. Any part of my life that I wanted to thrive, I had to be a participant in. The world was full of passengers, just riding along, happy during the fun parts but openly complaining about any part of the ride that failed to meet expectations. I didn't want to be a passenger. I wanted to drive. As a participant, not only do I have a say in my own destiny but I get to help shape it, I get to determine what it should look like and then bust my ass to make it look like that.
It is work to be a participant, It is not always easy or fun, but this is my life and I'll be damned if I will be just a passenger in it. What about you? Is it time to move out of the passenger seat?
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