I’ve always avoided explaining why I break one “rule” of blogging that many people parrot by posting irregularly and infrequently, but here’s why: When I started this blog, I made a commitment to myself not to add to the noise pollution on the web by writing about anything that I didn’t have first hand experience with.

I don’t want to bore you with regurgitated posts or writing about things that I speculate to be true. That, and I don’t want to be on Caroline Middlebrook’s list of 11 pointless blog posts that waste my time (one of my favorite blog posts of all time!)

Cutting the Crap and Getting Down to the Point: The Monkey Bar Theory

What the Hell is the Monkey Bar Theory? The Monkey Bar theory is something I’ve noticed after living a dual life of fear and risk-taking. In order to make big changes in life, you’ve got to let go of one monkey bar to harness the strength, fear, and resolve to jump to the next.

When I was first desperately trying to find a way to escape the cubicle, I wanted to make sure that I had one hand firmly positioned on the next “monkey bar” before letting go of the last. In that situation, the last monkey bar was my current job, and the one I was grasping for was entrepreneurial freedom. For 3 years, I hung stagnant between those two bars, with nothing but sleep deprivation, a few business plans, and a couple full stacks of glossy business cards to show for it.

Why didn’t it work? Because building a successful business is based on making some scary decisions. It requires action that will sometimes make your insides feel like Jello and making decisions that will scare the crap out of you.

In the past, when I had a hand on that other monkey bar, I would “conveniently” get too busy at my “real” job find some other excuse why I couldn’t make the final reach to that next bar. But when you don’t have anything else to hold on to, you will likely summon every ounce of gusto within your being to ensure you get a hold on that bar to avoid crashing down.

What it took for me to finally make the leap was for my ex-husband to have a 15-year premature midlife crisis, decide that we needed to leave the downtown San Diego 5-9 grind (intentionally transposed), and move to the cheapest place possible, which happened to be in the middle of nowhere in the California desert. If it weren’t for the fact that I was living a life dependent on two incomes and pretty much felt I “had” to go, I doubt that I would have ever had the cajones to make such a leap.

But it was that move… literally throwing myself into a situation where I had NO backup plan, NO family to bail me out and NO “decent” jobs within 150 miles, that caused me to get my business off the ground.

Do I recommend being this extreme? For those that know they have what it takes to survive at any cost but can’t seem to harness that power — yes. Is it risky? Hell yes. Is it guaranteed? Hell no. Does it suck? For a while — yes. Is it worth it? Hell yes.

The Monkey Bar Theory and Love

For years, I was in a miserable marriage and wanted out. But I was afraid. Yep. Before I was the Self Made Chick, I had created a lifestyle that depended on two incomes, allowed said other income earner to almost convince me that I was pretty much worthless and incapable of making on my own, and only dreamed of being able to support myself and two kids. In the back of my mind, I hoped I would find some other kind of strength, another monkey bar, to grab onto so that I could let go of that one. But I didn’t have the courage so I waited in limbo for years.

But when I started to have some success in business and some confidence in my ability to support myself, I finally let go of that monkey bar and did all those things that once seemed scary with no problem. And eventually, once I learned to love myself, and with space in my life I had the room to not only stand alone, but to meet someone else.

How many people are in a loveless, unhealthy, unhappy relationship but too afraid to let go?

A Closet Full of Compromises…

There’s a reason why “the closet” is such a strong metaphor for our lives. Within most of our closets is a biography of our compromises and insecurities. It’s a clear picture of how we cling to things that are no longer of use to us and that choke out room for new things to come into our lives.

I’d venture to guess that you, like me and many other people have closet guilt resulting a closet packed with clothes and things you don’t really need and that just don’t “feel” right when you wear them. Perhaps even things that are dragging you down emotionally.

Do You Dare Take This Challenge?

A “safe” way to test out the monkey bar theory is to get rid of all but 3-5 pieces of clothing that truly represent you now and where you want to go in life. If you were to get rid of all of your clothing, I can almost guarantee that you would find the resources to fill your closet again. By making a conscious decision to only fill your closet with things you WANT, you would eventually create a new wardrobe of only things that you wanted.

Would wearing the same 3-5 things be embarrassing for a while? Probably.

Would you feel tempted to fill your closet with just anything? Probably.

Would you have to give up other things to find the resources to buy new clothes? Maybe. Or maybe you’d figure out some other way to create those resources.

Would you feel great once your wardrobe was filled with clothes that defined you? Certainly.

On a simplistic level, the above scenario is similar to what it takes to build a business from scratch. It’s scary to make the choice to DO IT. It takes resolve to stand steadfast in your decision NOT to fill your time with things that won’t lead you to your ultimate goal.

It Gets Easier, But It’s Never EASY

Risk taking is a learned skill that gets easier with practice. But it’s never EASY. I’ve learned to become much more comfortable with taking calculated risks, but there is always an element of fear. I think that if we wait around and hope for courage or for something not to feel scary anymore, we are selling ourselves short! In fact, whenever I feel a bit of fear about losing, it feels exhilarating, because I know the result could be a big change.

Even so, I’m struggling right now with letting go of some things in my business and in my life. Are you? If so, why? When you talk it through, are your fears rational — or just as irrational as holding onto that old shirt in your closet that just makes you feel yucky when you put it on? Have you ever “let go” and come out better for it?

Read the original comments conversation here (48 comments)