When You Find Yourself On the Edge of Something Great

I’ve got that feeling.

My stomach is in knots. My head keeps spinning. Running scenarios through my mind. But most of all, I’m anxious and a bit scared.

I’m about to become Dad again to Baby #3 in our house. It’s a wonderful feeling, but it’s also the kind of feeling that leaves you all jumbled up inside. I’m constantly making sure that everything is ready at the house, that all the projects are complete, that I’m set up at school, and that I can provide for this new baby.

Waiting on the edge of something great isn’t just a feeling, it’s a life-changer. You realize there is no going back, and that’s what is so scary. There will be something great, but it will also be new.

It’s funny how we love “new” things that don’t impact our lives that much. I’m the first one to say “check out this new app” or you’ve got to read this “new book”. I’m also the first one to say that we need to change and start doing new things in new ways.

But this type of new is different, because this is something great. It’s big and wonderful and scary and life-changing.

It’s made me think about all the other times I’ve had this feeling of being on the edge of something great.

It’s also made me think that I need to spend more time working towards having this feeling in my writing, my teaching, and my creating.

I recently watched a documentary on J.K. Rowling (one of my favorite writers). She had this feeling. And it held her back for quite some time. Then all of a sudden it clicked in a rush of thoughts…she was on the edge of something great:

“It was 1990. My then boyfriend and I had decided to move up to Manchester together. After a weekend’s flat-hunting, I was travelling back to London on my own on a crowded train, and the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head.

I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one…

I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.

Perhaps, if I had slowed down the ideas to capture them on paper, I might have stifled some of them (although sometimes I do wonder, idly, how much of what I imagined on that journey I had forgotten by the time I actually got my hands on a pen). I began to write ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ that very evening, although those first few pages bear no resemblance to anything in the finished book.”

Then there are those people like John Hunter (one of my favorite teachers) who created the “World Peace Game” for his fourth-graders and had to know he was on the edge of something great….

Sure, I guess there are times when people “fall” into something great. But often it is a culmination of many ideas, of years of work, of taking the right chances and learning from the right failures…that leads to a great book, a great teaching moment, or a great innovation.

Today I sit on the edge of something great in my life. A new child. A true blessing for me and my family. But I’m going to challenge myself (and all of you reading) to find this feeling in your life and in your work.

We are constantly faced with obstacles that get in the way of doing what we were meant to do. But they are there for a reason. I’ll leave you with this final quote from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!”

Update: Mason Kennedy Juliani was born and Mom and baby are doing well!

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Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Congrats on that new baby AND your “awakening.” Thanks for another great post.

  • Erin Klein says:

    AJ – CONGRATS – so happy for you and Mason!!



  • John Bennett says:

    Congratulations on the new baby. Trust everyone continues to do well.

    Interestingly, I was just responding to a guest post on Peter DeWitt’s Education Week blog, “Finding Common Ground” – about how I got connected. I believe it ties in quite well with this post of yours. I like the notions of other things getting in the way discussed in your post.

    As I noted in my other comment, these “other things” are typically not ones easily dismissed BUT often are our “explanation” for why we can’t tackle these more passionate topics – ones that really get our juices flowing. The reason we initiate the connection process or the passionate efforts, I believe, comes down to our “need to CONSIDER” that we cannot ignore.

    This CONSIDERATION (http://johncbennettjr.com ) process begins slowly, not impacting our always busy / complicated time schedule – with the discovery of a “unable to be ignored” piece, for which reading it takes minimal time. But then it happens!!! We begin really considering it, finding other information, assessing relevance, forming visions connecting and organizing this information, finding others to interact with on the topic, ….

    AND the wheels of exciting discovery are rolling. All of sudden, those “other things” are addressed more effectively and efficiently (better in less time), the unaccountable loss of time gets realigned with our excitement and joy of consideration of our duties AND more passionate topics. In other words, our connections are growing and our juices are flowing. We have gone from being controlled by our unquestioned busy schedule to being motivated by our joy of doing important things!

    Again, how do I believe this happens? How do I believe it can happen for anyone? For me, it starts with the late Stephen Covey’s Four Needs. Three of the needs are academic (need to learn), physical (health, hygiene, and financial responsibilities), and social (need to interact with others). The fourth need I call internal and is the key to personal happiness according to Covey; it’s the need to periodically (I address it Sunday mornings) assess how the other three needs are going and what can be done to make them go better. Specific to these comments, we cannot happy or satisfied if we’re not learning something and interacting with others!

    And, as noted above, we begin slowly with considerations leading to our joy being enhanced, motivating us to address out needs more effectively and efficiently – which in turn enhances our joy / happiness / satisfaction and the spiraling continues to expand.

    It’s a matter of our desire for happiness being addressed rather than overridden by the seemingly impossible demands of “other things.”

  • JoanS says:

    Loved this post for its wisdom and its perfect timing!!

    Thanks so much!

  • Beth says:

    Love your blog. Congratulations – I hope everything goes really well for the birth and the weeks to come.

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