The annually updated book “What Color Is Your Parachute” by the late Richard Bolles has been a helpful life and career guide for multiple generations. The basic thrust of the book is one of personally defining and designing … formulating and reformulating … a life path into which we can direct our main focus and energy with a high degree of resolve and purpose – thus creating our own unique “parachute” for our own Grand Leap into life. [It’s available in most libraries, and worth at least one thorough perusal.]
Using the parachute paradigm, we have multiple choices in how we undertake the journey:
- Stay on the ground and never experience “lift-off”;
- Allow ourselves to get lofted into the air by whatever contrivances civilization offers (e.g., parents, schools, civic organizations, etc.), then take a Grand Leap into our own life journey from whatever altitude they have helped us attain;
- Never go above-and-beyond wherever find ourselves in the moment, with or without a “lofting lift”, never take the Grand Leap, and simply “hang on” to our comfort zone, living our lives vicariously thorough others;
NOTE: The forces that initially launch us will eventually run out and/or become redirected to other purposes, such that – at some point – we will be left either to fall or “fly under our own wind”. This change in conditions may not be all that precipitous or obvious. There may be no sudden “release of the reins” at the top. That’s the way it SHOULD be … permitting a seamless transition from externally applied “lofting” power to internally generated “lofting” power … except that the latter has to be fully engaged … and not only wishfully, wistfully, virtually or vicariously engaged!
- Take the Grand Leap without a properly prepared parachute – or ANY parachute – and simply “wing it” all the way down. [NOTE: “Winging it” rarely gains altitude!] If you’re really lucky, you can latch onto someone else with a fully furled parachute and plenty of “wind in their sails”. However, this is a highly perilous proposition with an uncertain outcome not necessarily targeted to optimize one’s personal preferences or potential. Creating stabilizing “ballast” for smoother sailing is one thing, but becoming a “millstone” is quite another. “Millstones” sometimes need to be cut loose.
The personalized “color” of the parachute bears some relation to the preferred target upon which you’re intending to stake your future claims in life.
It’s important to note that prevailing winds are subject to change in both force and direction without notice. Thus, it helps not only to be able to “tack” against the wind, when necessary, but also to have significant anchoring or stabilizing ballast and to connect with significant others who can help catch the updrafts.
Properly “Packing” your parachute and having intact, reliable panels – no matter what color they are – is really critical. Consider the case of Charlie Plumb:
“Packing a parachute” is no trivial undertaking. You may get only one “JUMP” in life … or you may need to take a dozen or more. The landscape and seascape keep changing and we need to be both flexible and agile to take best advantage of the conditions in which we find ourselves.
And most of us don’t have the luxury of having someone ELSE pack OUR parachute. Parents, teachers, coaches, Scout Leaders, etc., all provide some of the raw material and heaps of guidance, but it’s really up to US to pick the right colors, get the REST of the material we need (mining the universe), fabricate the final product (masterful tools and skills are really helpful here), and get it “packed” just right to carry us through whatever “eventualities” we might encounter.
So how are you doing? Are you prepared … or in the process of preparing … for the biggest JUMP of your life – whatever that might be? Let’s keep MINING for essential raw materials, MASTERING key tools and skills, and PACKING for the long haul and for the highest altitude we can attain. I’ve gotta go now and work on MY next parachute. It’s gonna have to have heavy duty, high altitude serviceability! Quartermaster