There are some things in life we just can’t ready ourselves for.
Jumping out of a helicopter, walking onto a stage in front of hundreds of people who are judging your every move, and pretty much any other experience where you’re trying to do something that truly means something to you.
And, for me, one of those moments occurred a few years ago.
I used to be a gymnast. There was this all-hail move that I’d always wanted to learn. It was something I’d watch on the Olympics all the time, I’d look up videos of pros doing, and daydream about doing myself.
It was called a roundoff back handspring.
It’s not the most intense of moves in gymnastics, but it’s also not the easiest. If a cartwheel rated a 1 on a scale of difficulty from 1-10, a roundoff back handspring probably rated a 4 or so.
Well, I’d known how to do a roundoff since I’d been a little kid, and at the time I was attempting to do the roundoff back handspring, I’d had a standing back handspring for years under my belt.
But there’s something very special about a roundoff back handspring; it’s almost like a special gateway to every other tumbling move in gymnastics. Once you can do a roundoff back handspring, you gain the skill and the confidence to begin attempting even the hardest of moves, and it’s like the one move that connects them all together.
But there’s a catch.
Just because I knew how to do a roundoff and a standing back handspring separately doesn’t mean I can immediately just put them together. There’s this intense force that you have to break down and erode before you can.
And that demon force is none other than your own self-doubt.
A roundoff is simple; it’s a cartwheel, but you land with both feet on the ground instead of one after another. It’s got more of a spring to it, allowing you to have the momentum to flip afterward. A standing back handspring is where you jump backwards, land with your hands on the ground in a handstand, then push off the ground and flip again, landing back on your feet. Think of it the way a slinky moves down the stairs.
A roundoff back handspring is where you land the roundoff, and before you can recover from that landing, you use the forward motion to jump backwards and upside-down into that back handspring.
Seems pretty simple in theory, right?
I remember the day I was at the gym, standing on the floor, shaking with fear. It should be simple. It made complete sense. I knew I could do both the roundoff and standing back handspring perfectly separately. Why would putting them together be so terrifying?
Well, when you begin the roundoff, you run into it for more momentum. Already going this fast, you land from it very quickly and then to jump backward right after this feels like you lose all control. That jump backward from a roundoff into the back handspring feels like you’re just jumping backward into oblivion. If you chicken out, like I did the first thousand times that day, you have this horrible head rush and the terror that you damn well could have broken your neck if you went all the way.
I kept trying to tell myself that I could do it. My friend—who already had her roundoff back handspring—told me that I could do it. I remember telling her I was too scared of that feeling—that jumping into nothing sensation—and wanted to leave and just try again next week.
But she shook her head, pushed me back onto the floor and told me, “I did the same thing you’re doing when I first got mine. It’s just one of those things you can’t get ready for; you’ll never feel like you can do it. It’ll feel terrifying and impossible. So you just have to not think about it, and do it. Then, you’ll be fine.”
I let out a huge breath and squared my shoulders. This is it. I’m doing it this time. I told myself. It was nice knowing me.
I ran and performed my roundoff. I used the speed and launched myself backward, and had just enough time to think of the horrible mistake I was making, that terror in the pit of my stomach, before I felt the ground underneath my fingers. I pushed off the floor and swung my legs around and landed on my feet.
And I did about five hundred more roundoff back handsprings after it. It was one of the best days of my life. And one of the best lessons I’ve ever had in my life.
That was just something that I couldn’t possibly ready myself for. It was pure fear. You’re literally shooting yourself backward into a world of complete unknown. No amount of practicing my standing back handspring and roundoff would have prepared me for a roundoff back handspring. The only thing that actually allowed me to do it was by doing it.
Your mind is the most powerful enemy you’ll ever face when you’re trying to follow your dreams. And just like the day I conquered the roundoff back handspring, I can conquer starting my own business, writing a new book, singing live, anything. It isn’t about feeling ready or getting rid of the fear.
It’s about just doing it anyway.
The start is the scary part. Once you get past that, everything else becomes easier because you finally know that you can do it.
And right after I did that first roundoff back handspring—after my celebration, of course—I spent the entire rest of the day doing them over and over and over again. I wasn’t scared at all anymore; that feeling of jumping into the unknown became an exhilarating thrill. Because I knew that I could handle anything that happened after I jumped. That led me to trying roundoff back handspring back tucks and twists and a whole arsenal of new moves.
You just have to start.
Whatever your roundoff back handspring may be in your life, stop waiting. Stop preparing.
And just do it.