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 left my full-time role at Centennial School District. We had one of our best years ever, and I honestly love our team and teachers. Yet, new opportunities at the university level, more speaking opportunities, and a crazy growing family life with four kids made me have to make some tough decisions. I’m lucky that I’m able to be in a district that also wants to continue our working relationship together even after I’m not full-time. One of my best friends, who I’ve taught with previously for 10 years, worked together as instructional coaches, coached lacrosse together, has taken over my role at Centennial. Anthony, if you are reading this, I know you are going to rock it, and I’m so happy our team gets to work with you!

But, this is the kind of decision that leaves you all jumbled up inside. I’m used to constantly managing a team, a family, and a life as an author and creator. There are all kinds of emotions wrapped up and I’m just starting to go through them.

In all of this, there is also excitement. 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 of impact. 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, my coaching, 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 opportunity. 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!”

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  • Congratulations on your shift, AJ. You’ve inspired me and helped nudge my own practice in directions that put me on the edge, as well. I’ve started great things and felt this way, too. Your shift is huge and I wish you the best.

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