I spent yesterday evening at the 40th stop of Chris Guillebeau‘s Unconventional Book Tour in Houston, meeting new people and soaking up their exciting pursuits of purpose. But there was one analogy Chris used that stuck with me on the entire four hour drive home.

As children, we all inevitably heard this line . . .

“If all of your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?”

It was usually in response to some request we’d made because a friend down the street had the coolest new toy or shoes. That casual reminder to think independently and be true to ourselves.

And then we grow up, and although unspoken, the message becomes . . .

“Everyone else is jumping off a bridge. Why aren’t you?”

I don’t think we even realize when it happens. I know I didn’t. But that logic is very familiar.

My generation was supposed to follow a very specific path to success.

Get good grades, and be “popular.”
Go to college. Enjoy the social life and parties.
Get a job with a big, strong company. Work your tail off and seek promotions.
Buy a big house and two luxury vehicles.
Start a family.
Be happy.

For lots of reasons, my life never followed that path. (I never could do anything in the right order.) And for years, I felt like I lived in an arcade game of Wack-A-Mole, always the odd one out.

Last night, I found a room full of people thrilled to be jumping off their own bridge. And it reminded me that I can do the same.

My most inspiring new friend is Jenny Leonard. The title on her business card says simply “World Traveler.” She’s wrapping up the process of selling everything she owns to backpack the world as a digital nomad. She doesn’t know when, where, or if she’s coming home. And I’ve never met anyone more alive and excited to be living her dream.

Where’s your bridge? Or are you content to keep jumping off someone else’s?