Out on a limb

Posted on February 15, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

It’s feb 15th, 2018 and for the first time in quite some time i feel myself out on a limb. My entire career I’ve oscillated between periods of running hard at big goals and then chilling and decompressing when i either definitely have achieved them or missed them. This past year has been a restorative one. That’s not to say I haven’t been working hard. Despite not being accountable to anyone else, I get up at 6:15AM and get to my office by 9, put in full days of mostly reading and learning and investing in blockchain projects, but I wouldn’t say i’ve been stretching or reaching at all. It’s very comfortable, I push myself to the point of fatigue, but right where discomfort sets in, I take the pedal of the gas and go for a run or a long weekend or whatever I need to stay in that restorative zone. If there’s a project I love and want to invest in but it’s just out of reach…”ok…fine letting it go.” If there’s a person I really want to think with but they’re just out of reach…”no problem, i’ll focus elsewhere.” It’s not laziness, but in a restorative state, it’s just not worth it to reach…to make yourself vulnerable…to be uncomfortable and strive and maybe get what you want but possibly fail at something you are emotionally committed to.

Recently I have pushed up against a moment where discomfort was imminent, and rather than stepping off the gas and dropping back into that restorative zone, I found myself leaning in, exposing myself, absorbing the discomfort and choosing to move into it. As it was happening, I found myself thinking “ah, this is a familiar feeling…this is what I’ve been missing for the past year.” I know that’s odd, to be missing discomfort…but really what I was missing was the presence of something I cared enough about to want to reach again. As it turns out, I think that’s a pretty good litmus test for whether or not something is worth pursuing. The best things come when you open yourself up, step out of what’s comfortable, agree to exist in a state of vulnerability, and then bond with whatever is on the other side of it…be it a person or a project or a vision or an identity or anything else…I think there’s plenty of advancement in what you already know and where you are most comfortable, but the fundamental and defining elements of life come when your out on a limb…by definition they are the things that are truly worth it.

Nobody ever fell in love by playing it safe. Nobody ever built something special without embracing a state of self-doubt. Nobody ever became self aware without a struggle. In these and all arenas, there are periods of restoration, mild growth, and being in a safe state, and then there are periods of reach and challenge and discomfort that completely change your plane of existence. I think these moments of reach become less frequent as you get older. When you are young, you take these giant hacks at your existence and relationships and identity…you’re incredibly resiliant to vulnerable moments and discomfort and the periods of oscillation between reach and restore are quite short. I think once you’ve gotten through all the big hacks, developed a real sense of self and values and interests and identity, you have to listen harder for those moments worth reaching for. It’s no longer this broad experimentation that haphazardly lands you at your forward self…it becomes much more deliberate and therefore infrequent…I think it’s a fallacy to ascribe this phenomenon to the stakes getting higher as you advance. On the surface it might appear that you risk more by stepping out on a limb when you’re higher up on the tree. But in the arena I truly care about, which would be becoming who I am or finding wisdom or enlightenment or whatever the end state of my life looks like, each reach feels equal…just different. I don’t think I’ll ever stop reaching…if nothing else life feels richer in the moments where you do.

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3 Responses to “Out on a limb”

RSS Feed for Jordan Cooper's Blog: startups, venture capital, etc… Comments RSS Feed

After recently leaving a VC firm on the east coast to join a pre-launch fintech/crypto startup in SF, I couldn’t agree more. Not knowing anyone on the west-coast has certainly forced me to expand my comfort zone.

Albert-László Barabási does some great work on network science which relates to being “out on a limb.” In his book “Bursts” he discusses how life is propelled (often exponentially) forward by groupings of interactions. To increase the frequency of said bursts one has to force himself/herself into uncomfortable situations. In turn, these situations lead to outsized returns.

Life is a contact sport…come in contact with as many people as possible.

Loved this post. One point I would like to modify/contribute – the notion that “all the big life hacks” finish by a certain age is the fallacy. The irony is that many of us subscribe to it – maybe even worship it – once we past 40 mostly because we want to stop feeling/thinking/fearing/doing/learning. But life doesn’t care. It upends us anyway. It breaks up our marriages, turns our kids into heroin addicts, kills our parents, brings love into and out of our lives along vectors we couldn’t have forecast, makes and breaks our banks, our hearts, our dreams, maybe even our souls. How we choose to respond to life differentiates those who continue to live from those who just persist until they die. I’m 48. Trust me when I tell you that choosing to continually make the big life hacks – to go out on that limb, to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, to co opt disruption by harnessing it instead of being buried by it – doesn’t just make your life rich. It determines how you will live and die. Authentically or as a grayed-out shadow of someone else’s definition of you. It determines who will love you, how they will love you, and whether or not that love will persist. It determines if you will give your kids the opportunities, foundation, and guidance that will allow them to succeed at being authentic not successful. It determines if the people you surround yourself with will add to your life or take from it. It determines if you will learn how to love yourself, to get up each day – no matter how weary, beaten, and alone you might feel – and do what needs to be done, no matter how small. It determines whether or not you can stand being in your own company – even up to the end of your time. Maybe the difference between going out on that limb prior to crossing 40 is that it feels – simply – like a a thrilling adventure. When you pass 40, it feels like you finally understand the purpose of life.

Stay with it. Increase the frequency with which you do it. Optimize restorative periods, but minimize their timeline because complacency and restoration have a lot of attributes in common and after a certain amount of time you will confuse one with the other and then be reluctant to stop being complacent. You will be so comfortable and the people you have surrounded yourself with will have built an expectation – maybe even a certain sense of entitlement – to the comfort you have created.

Pink Floyd nailed it: You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun. The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older. Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.


thank you for the beautifully articulated view

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I think there is one metric that can be used to measure the value of a human life and that’s impact. How did you change things? How many people did you touch? How different is the world because you lived in it and how positive was the change that you affected? (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it) You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com


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