I took Art class in high school (no surprise, right?) and in my junior year, one of my fellow students was a young exchange student from Sweden named Helena.
Helena was friendly, charming, and brought an international perspective to that particular class.
I talked about Helena at home and when I did, my mother asked me if I had ever thought about becoming an exchange student myself.
Thus began a “foolish” journey that would change my life.
I decided to apply to become an exchange student. I went through the rigorous application process (a 24-page written application; a group interview; a solo interview with a panel of adults; and a family interview where they talked to every member of my family.)
And then I waited. And waited.
Graduation … and then what?
As graduation approached, I wasn’t sure what I’d do. I had been accepted at the college I most wanted to attend. But I hadn’t heard back from the exchange student organization.
Becoming an exchange student would mean postponing college for a year. It would change the course of my post-high school life.
On the afternoon of graduation day, I walked through the halls of my high school for the last time. Suddenly up ahead, I saw the teacher/advisor to the exchange student program waving me down with a paper in his hand. He said:
“I have good news and I have bad news.”
I stared wide-eyed and asked him to go on.
He said, “The good news is that you’ve been accepted into the exchange student program! The bad news is that they’ve placed you with a family in Cali, Colombia, South America.”
Why was this bad news?
In the section at the end of the exchange program application where they asked you to note the “countries of preference” where you wanted to be placed as an exchange student, I’d carefully penciled in “United Kingdom. New Zealand. Australia.”
Because there was no way I was going to go to a country where I’d need to learn a new language. I’d taken only two years of Spanish classes in high school and they were the worst grades on my high school transcript. I was convinced that I wasn’t cut out to speak a foreign language.
If I was going to be an exchange student, I would need to speak English during my year abroad, thankyouverymuch.
That’s when I made the first big foolish decision of my life
I was seventeen years old when this happened. And somehow, even at that early stage of my life, I knew I needed to trust that something good would come of this seeming setback.
I had to believe that life had something in store for me that I couldn’t see at that moment.
And that if I stepped forward and trusted, it would reveal itself.
Well, it did.
It turned out that I am more than capable of speaking a foreign language. Because of that year I spent as an exchange student, I now speak, read, and write Spanish fluently. The years I spent living in Colombia made me who I am today. It was a foolish decision that paid off.
And it wasn’t the first, it turned out.
I’ve made many foolish decisions since that day
Maybe taking that first big risk made me brave. Or maybe it’s just how I’m wired. But since that day when I was 17, I’ve made many, many “foolish” decisions.
My “foolish” decisions put me where I am today.
And I like where I am today, so I guess they weren’t so foolish after all.
- Starting a business when I was eight months pregnant.
- Starting a second business based on a skill (writing) that I’d never done before.
- Moving to Nashville just because I wanted to.
- Going to work for a company after 22+ years of self employment.
Add one more to that list …
Today I need to add “writing a book when I’d never written one before” to that list. The not-yet-named book is in production now so I don’t know how this latest “foolish” decision will turn out.
But based on all the other “foolish” decisions I’ve made, I’m hopeful. 🙂
If you want to follow along as I “foolishly” write a book, you have two options. Choose one or both!
- Listen in as bestselling author Jeff Goins coaches me through the book creation process on my podcast Zero to Book.
- Read first drafts of my chapters as I write them, and share your feedback on the content, the title, the cover and more (for free) inside The Book Factory.
What foolish decisions got you to where you are now?
I want to hear from you: when you look back at your business, what were the pivotal decisions that got you where you are today? Are you happy you made them?
Scroll on down to the comments and tell me all about them.