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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse

Kicking out the ladder, Jumping off the cliff

Another famous dictum in Honda Motor Company’s work ethic is ‘kicking out the ladder‘, which means tackling one’s fears head-on, getting out of one’s comfort zone, and fall (which is also multibillionaire Richard Branson’s mojo), as if one were perched on a ladder and then having the ladder swept from underneath, a terrifying mental state which I can certainly relate to. Another expression which I have come up with myself is ‘jumping off the cliff’, which expresses much the same thing, that of heading towards one’s greatest fears in the form of a cliff and jumping into them, even if they seem like a boundless abyss with no limit in sight. Another terrifying image for me. Nonetheless, for all the horrors that these metaphors evoke, they are also powerful images that are deeply motivational, since they describe the fact that there are times when one just has to banish all fears and doubts, face the problem(s) with all the inherent dangers, risks and potentialities, and just take a leap of faith. Without doubt the single most deterring factor in making progress in our lives is fear, let it be fear for the unknown, fear for pain, fear for the complicating difficulties, fear for the consequences etc. It is fear which stops us from getting started and stalls our progress, and we do not make progress until we finally bring ourselves to manoeuvre, however slow and delayed that might be. As with my last blog, I would be the last person in the world to endorse getting started hastily and prematurely, since I have lauded the benefits of extensive passive preparation which turns us into well-oiled machines when we finally decide to get going, but I do realise that there are times when one just has to get going, whether one believes that one has done enough preparation or not. Sports scientists and psychologists have long argued that it is essential to do proper warm-up before beginning any form of physical exercise (indeed, it is dangerous doing strenuous exercise without warming yourself up), but sometimes the best form of physical/mental warm-up may be to just actually do it, whether it be diving cold into the swimming pool, running cold on the pitch, standing up scared for your speech etc. With warm-up, one’s internal system adjusts via slow heat, but when one dives straight into the task(s) at hand (with or without warm-up), one quickly adapts to the environment and switches almost instantly to high alert status, which may be far more effective than any form of physical/mental preparation that one could do. In the words of a famous online motivational speech, ‘just do it!’

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