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Risk and creativity: a helpful lie

In improvisational acting there is an often quoted sentiment, “Jump and a net will appear.” The idea being that if you take a big risk, the rest of the players and the audience will catch you and make you look good. You won’t look foolish. You won’t stick out like a sore thumb. The very fabric of reality will bend to make you look great.

There is a secret to this statement. I could list a bunch of instances where it has been true. Someone took a huge risk and it paid off even though they had no idea how it would work out. The universe conspired to make them look brilliant. But, the secret is that the statement is not always true. Taking risks is, by definition, risky.

However, if you want to accomplish anything or create something interesting and exciting, you have to act as if it is true. That’s right, it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not as long as you act like you believe it. Acting as if it were true will make you happier and give you a better life.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ll have trouble using obviously false statements to drive your behavior. Here’s the modified, and less catchy, phrase that lives in my head. “Jump and a net will probably appear. If the net doesn’t appear, the consequences are still less than what they would be if you never jumped at all.”

Truthfully, promising you the net is just a way to get you to jump. If you don’t jump, nothing will happen. So, jump into the abyss. If the net doesn’t appear, jump again into the next deeper abyss. Eventually you will be caught and lifted higher than you’ve ever been before.

And that, to me, is 100% true.

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