At its simplest, a net is a series of ropes and knots bound together in such a manner as to create an effective support structure. As a metaphor for life, nets are the family, friends, coworkers, teachers, even short-term relationships, that support us through their kindness, shared wisdom and thoughtful guidance. In short, they are our safety nets. Safety nets come in a multitude of forms. At times, they’re even invisible to us, only to come into view when it seems like all is lost.
But, what if there were no safety net? When you’re standing at the threshold of opportunity, can you trust in yourself to step forward, to take a leap of faith with only your skills, knowledge and scrappy persistence to propel you and protect you? When you’re making the decision to jump or stay put, remember these three thoughts.
Providence – There is no such thing as chance. Preparation is key. Even if you think you might be lacking in experience, skills or knowledge, ask yourself if you’re committed to enhancing your skills and upping your game. Are you willing to do this of your own volition, regardless of whether an employer is directing you to do so.
Prosperity – There is no such thing as luck. Make your own luck by leveraging opportunities that come your way. Do the small things well. Do the hard things without complaint. As Albert E. N. Gray writes in The New Common Denominator of Success, “make a habit of doing things that failures don't like to do.” In other words, be diligent in everything you do. Not because there is a pending reward, but simply because it is the right thing to do and prosperity of opportunity will certainly find you.
Prudence – There are no accidents. Be as prepared as possible and then proceed with caution. I love the term cautious optimism. It’s a feeling of general confidence regarding a situation and/or its outcome; coupled with a readiness for possible difficulties or failure. The law of Flexible Planning states that whatever can go wrong might go wrong. And once you adopt this pragmatic approach to life, you’ll begin shoring up your personal safety nets in the event of the unforeseen or unspeakable. I love Aung San Suu Kyi’s quote, “If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future but because I do not want to encourage blind faith.”
Remember, we are not saved from hardship but out of hardship. Tough times are going to happen to everyone no matter how healthy or wealthy you are. My father used to say “Things don't go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.” One of the greatest safety nets of life is the realization that what you are going through is going to have you emerge on the other side as a more tremendous version of yourself. Without this truth, I would have given up a long time ago.
Life is full of twists and turns. Safety nets bring us to the realization that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We need that series of life lines and knots to support and steady us until we can begin our upward ascent again. But remember, you are your own best advocate and your ability to support and buoy yourself is far greater than you know. Safety nets are critical parts of life so make sure you’ve got plenty of them available and be thankful for each and every one.