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Drag your feet, end up nowhere

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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Is this normal?

That's what I asked my husband last week as he sat in the seat next to me on our airplane that had just taken off and was soaring above the ocean.

I heard a sound. How do I describe it? A two-syllable kerchunk thump.

Then the plane stopped soaring when it should have been pointing upward. And the sound changed from what a healthy, ascending airplane is supposed to sound like to that of a sick truck that passes you on the freeway and is way too loud, the sound of a truck that's chugging along more than gliding by. Any minute the grrr, hummm of the engine sounds like it's trying too hard and is going to give up.

That's what our plane sounded like.

Then the voice of our pilot, a calm and articulate man, filled up the tense silence in the cabin.

“A bird flew into our engine,” he announced. “We're going to turn around and go back to the airport.”

I looked out the window and saw the ocean. What if we don't make it? Is this it? Is this how it will end? What about my new book? Who will care for my dog and cats? Will someone find our will? What will happen to my art? Will my mother be OK? Maybe I should have stayed home where it was safe.

No, we will be fine, I decided. But what if we're not?

It took 12 minutes to fly back to the airport. I will never forget those minutes. No one spoke. Were they thinking what I was thinking — or was it just me?

Emergency vehicles and people prepared to put out a fire were waiting for us. We didn't need them. We landed just fine.

What does this have to do with your career? Everything.

People of all ages and professions write me daily and tell me they want to change their life and career.

Most act as if they have all the time in the world. They don't. Times like those 12 minutes remind me to remind you of that.

Instead, most people have excuses for not doing what they want: I don't have the money. I'll have to start at the bottom. I'm too old. I may not like it. I might fail. I'll have to go back to school. My parents won't understand.

Are these concerns normal? Yes.

Would it feel safer to stay with what you know? Sure.

But is that enough for you and your time on this planet?

When your fear crops up — and it will — you need to ask the question that gets you through it:

• If I worry that my parents will be upset, what do I need to say to them to explain what I want to do and gain their support?

• If I need to go back to school, what will that entail and what options exist so I can fit it into my schedule and budget?

• If I worry that I may fail or not like it, what's the risk? How will I feel if I don't try it? What do I need to do to feel more confident?

If you're not headed in the direction you want, change that.

Will everything turn out well? You won't know until you try.

I can tell you this: I will get on another airplane.

And both of us will have bumps and scary times along the way. But in the case of your career, you're at the controls.

Step on it.


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