Recently in southern England, a couple took their friends’ Springer Spaniel, Poppy, on a walk by the sea. Poppy was trotting along, enjoying the fresh air, when she spotted a seagull circling beyond a cliff. Poppy charged full-speed toward the seagull … and leapt from the cliff.
She tumbled three-hundred feet, plunged into the ocean, and doggy-paddled back to the beach, where she waited for rescue. Her only known injury was a partially collapsed lung that re-inflated on its own.
Though the dog-walkers drew criticism for not leashing Poppy, there was general agreement that she was one lucky dog.
Her owner told the press, “What we think saved her was that she bolted off at full pelt and the momentum was enough to take her over the beach and the surf and into deeper water.” If Poppy had slowed down, she might have crashed onto the rocks or the beach.
I love dogs, and growing up I had a Springer Spaniel named Holly (who was totally nutty, but that’s besides the point).
There’s another reason I’m drawn to Poppy’s story. About five years ago a friend’s sister offered to read my tarot cards. Not knowing anything about tarot but open to a new experience, I agreed.
The first card she turned was The Fool card, which shows a carefree-looking man who doesn’t realize that he’s about to step right off the edge of a cliff. I expected her to point to this card and tell me that it means I’m a dolt, and that I have to start being more careful.
To the contrary, she explained that The Fool trusts in life, expects its twists and turns to be rewarding, and has no fear. As he steps out on his new journey, he carries no preconceived notions. He throws caution to the wind.
This interpretation of The Fool card struck me as relevant; I had just begun to work on my fiction in earnest. I knew little of the odds stacked against me, the rejection, self-doubt, and years of focused work soon to come. I simply dove in, as high and as far as I could, like Poppy. After a long while, good things started to happen. I got lucky.
Granted, in Poppy’s case, a little prior knowledge (not to mention a leash) might have been a good thing; if she realized the fall that awaited her, she might have steered clear of the edge altogether.
But the point is, she leapt, and she survived because she didn’t hesitate. Her momentum, her enthusiasm, made her lucky.
Most people agree that in order to get lucky, you need to take risks. (Nobody was calling Poppy lucky before she survived that crazy fall.) In other words, fortune favors the brave.
I think the trick is figuring out which risk is right for you. My big risk, which I took hand in hand with my husband Matt, was to sell our house, quit our jobs, and move back home to work on our fiction. That turned out to be the right leap for us. But, just as I don’t condone stepping off cliffs, I can’t recommend that same leap to someone else. Everyone’s path is different.
Take for example my friend, who gave up a nursing career in the U.S. to open a free medical clinic in the Peruvian jungle, which he operated successfully for several years. He had traveled there briefly, and surmised there was a need. But he knew few people there and only a little Spanish. His leap was certainly risky. I think it’s one he’d say was worth it in the end, and I think he considers himself lucky in more ways than one.
If there’s anything to learn from Poppy, maybe it’s this: if you’re going to look before you leap, don’t look too long, or you’ll find many reasons not to leap. And if there’s a goal that makes sense for you, and a calculated risk that could get you there, throw yourself at it with all your might, to hell with consequences. Trust your own momentum. Why not? After an exhilarating freefall, you just might get lucky and land on your feet.
Or least in a place where you can doggy-paddle to shore and be rescued.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. I’d love to hear your own tales of bravery and luck!