A few years ago, a friend of mine approached me with a bit of a dare. ”What if we flew to Anchorage, rented motorcycles, and rode and camped across Alaska for a couple of weeks?” She followed it up with, ”and don’t say ‘yes’ unless you really mean it!” I thought on it for about 12 seconds…“I’m in!”
Instantly, we burst into nervous, giddy laughter with gulping wide eyes, as if to ask, “what have we done?!” coupled with the sobering realization that neither one of us owned or rode motorcycles. From there, we made a plan: we signed up for and passed motorcycle training, got our license, and bought bikes. A year later, we flew to Alaska and had the absolute time of our lives riding from Anchorage to Homer and covering the Kenai Peninsula in between.
I’ve never felt so free as I did on that trip – the wind in my hair, the glacial coolness on my skin, the thrill in the feel of my bike, and camping in a wild like I had never known. And that feeling of freedom coats me every time I ride.
Driving a motorcycle lets you experience the world in 4D – taking in nature’s elements, sights, sounds, smells, and textures. I’m never so present as when I’m riding my bike – my senses are fully alive to the essence surrounding me. I can be no other place than right where I am.
Our Alaska adventure checked all my boxes, hit all my values, stretched and challenged me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. We did our research. Mapped our own route. Provisioned and purchased all the right gear. We thought through all kinds of scenarios, dangers, and what ifs, planning as best we could. I’ll admit that I had some restless nights leading up to our trip truly afraid of the scale of it all and dreaming of bears in our campsite. Fortunately, we never encountered any bears!…and I leaned into my fear and felt in awe of our sheer accomplishment.
I fantasize about my next motorcycle adventure…2021 or 22 maybe – I’m thinking of a West Coast stretch from Vancouver to San Diego. One day, New Zealand? Thailand? Meanwhile, I ride as often as I can in and around North Carolina with a smile that wraps around my head.
When are you most free?
Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, and coach, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation.
I got married a few weeks ago on October 10. As I fell asleep the night before, I meditated on an intention to be fully present on our wedding day. You know how weddings go – they’re chock full of endless tasks and details and a flurry of activity. I knew this was the reality and I wanted to let go and be fully present with Lyn, my wife-to-be, and our beautiful, precious ceremony.
As I drifted off, I wondered what it would feel like tomorrow when the day I had longed for finally arrived. I had imagined it a thousand times, playing the scenes over and over in my mind.
As I awoke that morning, what I hadn’t considered was this feeling that now washed over me – the deepest sense of gratitude. “I get to do this,” I thought. Just six years ago it wouldn’t have been possible to marry Lyn, to bond our love and commitment in the formal union of marriage.
I sat reflecting on those who came before me – those who advocated for this right of equality and were persecuted, prosecuted, and even gave their lives for it. The very freedoms and rights they fought for; many never were able to live it themselves. And here I sit, in my den, cozy under a blanket, sipping my coffee on my wedding day…I get to do this.
Audre Lorde, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Billie Jean King, Harvey Milk, Jack Baker, Michael McConnell, Edith Windsor, Jim Obergefell, Mary Bonauto, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Evan Wolfson, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr., and so many, many more.
I carried their spirit, perseverance, and legacy with me through the day, sustained in gratitude, committing to do far more than simply hold this feeling – to persist as they did, take action to ensure common humanity, freedoms, and rights for LGBTQ people. There is so much work that remains to be done.
Today, heading into Thanksgiving week 2020, where our pandemic world is turned upside down and inside out, Lyn and I have decided how we’ll celebrate the holiday this year. In the absence of not being able to gather with family and friends as we traditionally do, we’re preparing our dining table with place settings reserved for those whom we want to honor, celebrate, and give thanks. The seats will be taken, not only by champions who fought for LGBTQ freedoms and rights, but also by those who led the way for women’s rights, civil rights, and for democracy, equality, and inclusion.
It will be a Thanksgiving like none other…maybe one that’s here to stay.
Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation.
This quote has always been a favorite of mine. And it’s taking on new meaning after going skydiving with a girlfriend and our sons. It was an exhilarating experience with many rich take-a-ways.
Skydiving is something I’ve always been terrified of, but really wanted to do. When I stop to think about it, it’s not often words like ‘terror’ and ‘desire’ go together in the same sentence.
I believe most of all, I wanted to prove to myself that I could be that afraid of something and still do it. I had this unbridled anticipation that if I could just do it, it would be one of the most amazing experiences ever – soaring, floating, free.
It was all of that. And more.
For a long time, my fear paralyzed this dream. Eventually, I grew tired of hearing my own whining voice (as did my friends), continually expressing my longing to do it and talking myself out of it with endless excuses. I decided – ENOUGH! It’s time to accept my fear and move directly into it.
Having now taken the leap, I realize the powerful metaphor that skydiving is for both fear and freedom. As for fear, there are many things that I’m afraid of. Yet, when I face the fear head-on, it often vanishes…or at least shrinks. And there in its place is a surprising gift – freedom.
This plays out for me in work situations like public speaking and dealing with a challenging client situation, or on the personal side such as sailing in intense conditions with high winds or heavy weather, or mountain biking a technically difficult trail.
This experience is a reminder to examine the task and its importance, purpose, and impact, while weighing the risks and rewards.
A little part of me even believes that acting on this insane courage unlocks some deep, hidden ‘magic power.’ That now – from out of nowhere! – I will leap tall buildings and blast fire from my fingertips…or at least the mortal equivalent of having greater confidence and faith that I ‘can do it’ and it will all work out.
Lastly, I’m left thinking of everything I would have missed had I stopped short of jumping. Bold moves launch us out of our comfort zone and open us up. You can’t help but expand when free falling 120 mph at 12,000 feet! I’ll never see things quite the same again.
Lessons in courage from skydiving:
- Embrace fear and take action anyway. I don’t think it’s about overcoming the fear or that it goes away.
- With any given situation, explore the worst-case scenario, gauge your comfort level, tap into your resources, and work backward to develop a plan from there.
- Take action that helps make you more comfortable. In this case of skydiving, I consulted with others who had done it and sought their advice, researched (exceptionally) reputable skydiving companies to ensure they have (highly) trained professionals and excellent equipment. Risk mitigation!
- Do things often that take your breath away.
- Get out of your comfort zone…sometimes far, far outside. This is where real learning and living takes place. Life is more fun and interesting if it is a series of amazing adventures.
- Be fully present in life – the skydiving free-fall lasts only 60 seconds, and the entire experience is over in 7 minutes. The impact; however, lasts a lifetime.
- Surround yourself with spicy friends who’ll call you out on living small.
About Jeanie Duncan: Jeanie is President of Raven Consulting Group, a business she founded that focuses on organizational change and leadership development in the nonprofit sector. She is a senior consultant for Raffa, a national firm working with nonprofit clients to lead efforts in sustainability and succession planning, executive transition and search. Additionally, Jeanie serves as adjunct faculty for the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of executive leadership education.