Summer of 2001, on a beautiful hillside in southern California, I went bungee jumping. It’s something I had always wanted to do. But this one was pushed on to me by my i-dont-like-to-close-the-deal customer.
Over previous ten months, we were discussing a product line take over deal with this telecom major in trying to help them with better manageable product portfolio and profitability. We had crossed several barriers internally, between companies and with stakeholders. We had also built several bridges to make it a smooth ride. More or less, all items on the checklists, to-do lists and contract terms were ticked off. But CEO was not yet ready to sign. Both teams had no clue on what was the issue. He finally agreed for a breakfast meeting with me to discuss the matter. That day, I saw a different person all-together. We talked about several things – technology, politics, personal hobbies, sports so on… surprisingly we found we had several common interests. I guess this would be true with any stranger we meet as well. Then, we came to the point. I asked him how do we move ahead with the deal. He said, he was very happy with every bit of preparation, but was afraid of contradictions in reality, that might lead to disintegration of trust and finally demise of the product line. This was really serious. I asked him how do we get over this. He said. He was not sure how. But asked me – have you ever done bungee jumping? I said, “No. But it’s in my list of to-do within next 3 yrs”. He said “Then, you will not understand my state. Let’s keep this deal in suspension for some more time. See you around.”
So there I was. My bungee-master and I, standing on a platform that was raised on a bridge at an elevation of over 140 feet above beautiful stream of water through the mountain cliff. Apt site. Master explained that he’d check everything to make sure I was safe. Then he’d count down from five. He explained that when he reached three, I should take a very deep breath. When he said tow, I should clear my mind completely. And on the count of one, I should dive. Not jump. Dive. “Go head on first”, he instructed.
My bungee master checked everything and declared that I was safe. Then he asked me if I was nervous. As I recall, I said something to myself – same thing I had told myself when I first climbed to base camp of Mount Everest, same thing as when I first jumped off the cliff in Nepal for Paragliding and every other time when took up something crazy…. : “what will happen, more than losing life? Let’s enjoy every minute”. But this was different. Master shouted – “are you ready?” He started, “Five”…. “Four”…”Three”… I took very deep breath. “TWO”… and I knew I was supposed to clear my mind completely, but I couldn’t because what popped into my mind was the “contradiction” that seemed a lot less menacing 140 feet earlier.
The bungee jumping brochure said, “It is absolutely, safe! We have performed over 75,000 bungee jumps and continue to proclaim our impeccable safety record without a single accident or injury of any kind.” Which sounded pretty good. So I signed up and paid. It was just before setting foot on mountain drive at the camp office, that they gave me a release form to sign, which said, “I understand that bungee jumping is a potentially hazardous sport, which may result in….I freely accept and fully assume all such risks, dangers and hazards and the possibility of injury, death, property damage or loss resulting therefrom.”…What????
I was able to relate to the plight of my CEO friend. Preparations matter. But taking the step requires a lot more assurance than just – don’t worry, it’s safe. we have done it before, others have done it before! It is not a promise. It is just a hope. A few will jump, based on the hope. Especially when their desires for the adventure over powers the fear of unknown.
How many contradictions can you find in your own setup, conversations? How many times you see the guy preaching “open door” policy will always be unavailable, though at desk? and how often are yourself a perpetrator or willing accomplice?
One thing is certain. When people meet contradictions, they tend to latch on to the side of the contradiction that favors their pre-existing preferences. Which is why I decided bungee jumping was safe!
My bungee master said “one” and yes, I dove! Head first. And screamed, laughed, laughed, laughed. It was insane. I was, without contradictions myself!
And so I met my friend. Shared my experience. We closed the deal and went back to one more jump over the weekend. But the first one was the best!
its fun, to be a #dreamerdoer