Putting a gun to your head is the most stark example of a decision with either/or consequences I can think of. No, I'm not suicidal, just exercising the authorial right to hyperbole to frame a discussion. Ready?
Everyone reaches a point, or points, in their lives where stark decisions mean turning everything upside down. Not the where-shall-go-to-college-type of decisions or what's-for-dinner. Those come with built-in recoveries, easily implemented. Sad you didn't get into Yale, but there's a plethora of choices that exist below that. It's not potentially irrecoverable. Also, it wasn't your decision to make; that call goes to Yale after you apply.
Earlier this week, I mentioned that I am worried about taking two months off from my business and disappearing into the Great Rift Valley. For background, I run a one-person business, doing inspections for homebuyers and sellers. My income, while I'm in Kenya, is going to drop to zero. That doesn't worry me; savings accounts exist for a reason.
What does worry me is the thought that the people that I serve will evaporate while I'm gone. Certainly, they will need to find other providers during that period. I expect that, and I deliberately structured the trip to take place during the slowest part of the season, both to minimize the income destruction, as well as to limit the inconvenience to my friends that I work with.
Having my income drop to zero, period, forever, would be a mite troubling, and the possibility, though slight (in my not so humble opinion), exists. I could get another job, or create one, but the truth is that I genuinely enjoy helping people in the homebuying process. It also provides me with a reasonable income, flexibility to write and run, and intellectual stimulation.
I should also mention that I dislike uncertainty. Not the kind that comes with a small business on a ten-day cycle because I know that if I show up every day, do a good job, protect my clients, and treat everybody fairly and with respect, I will have new work as I need it.
What happens, then, when I don't show up?
The standard I set above was recoverable. Is this a decision, if made incorrectly, I can recover from? When you reframe the question from "Will bad things happen?" to a different proposition, can I adapt if it goes wrong, it changes the complexion of the problem. In my experience, the most resilient individuals are those that have the knack of redefining an issue to make it more manageable, rather than bemoaning the issue/disaster/end-of-the-world and freezing in place.
The other skill that resilient people bring is an acceptance of both the risk and the work necessary to achieve recovery. Nobody likes change. In fact, our brains are hard-wired against it. We are genetically pre-programmed with a default position for survival which is why so many people put up with abusive spouses, or horrid employment conditions, or ill-health (of the non-disease/genetic variety.) While not pleasant, in the context of survival, the conditions are tolerable.
So, I don't have an answer for what will happen when I return from Kenya. Sometimes you just have to take a chance and launch. I did it when, at 17, I asked my wife to marry me. (She did when she said yes.) I did it again when I started my business, again when I wrote the first book and let someone else read it.
A trip to Kenya isn't a case of someone putting a gun to my head. It's recoverable. Like the first guy to test a parachute, I plan on everything working like a dream. Having a backup plan helps and I've already plotted a couple of those. In the event things head south, I have some confidence that I can figure something out on the way down.
Or not. Or I might get eaten by lions. That's a possibility, too. I'll find out in February.