The Edge Of The Cliff

August 24, 2011
Brandon Sutton - on the edge

In late 2009, I became fascinated by the idea of living in Portland, Oregon. I had never been there, and didn’t have any close friends who lived there. But when I started researching the city and discovered the culture and sense of connection to the environment, I knew it would be an excellent fit for me.

In the nearly 2 years since, I’ve gone through some substantial changes in my personal and professional life. I went from working at an agency where I felt stifled and frustrated to shaping my own business based around helping change agents propel their work into the world. I decided I was ready to sell the loft that I’ve lived in since 2002 and move out of Atlanta, which was a huge decision that came after some intense soul searching and re-framing. I thought I had gone through all of the letting go process when I first decided to put the loft on the market. Tonight, I realize that it was all theory.

Until now. 

Brandon Sutton - on the edgeI decided to offer a lease option about a month ago, and since then, it’s been more like the process of leasing an apartment in Manhattan than selling a loft in Atlanta. I’m now juggling multiple offers including one that wants to move in on September 1. As in, 7 days from now.

Reality has finally begun to set in, and the magnitude of what I’m embarking on is hitting me fully for the first time.

I remember the day I bought this loft like it was yesterday. It was a sunny, warm Summer afternoon in late June 2006. The actual closing was one of those stressful transactions which actually got postponed a day after I had sat in the attorney’s office for over 2 hours and signed a mountain of papers that would unfortunately have to be re-signed the next day. When it was finally done the next day, I felt such a huge sense of accomplishment.

I had always dreamed of owning the loft, and not only was it done, but I had managed to work out an amazing renovation into the deal. Even walking into the loft that evening felt different. It was the same place that I had been living in for years, but it felt different after that day.

My Grandmother was in the hospital at the time recovering from a stroke. I went to visit her that afternoon to share my exciting news. I was officially a homeowner! I had always wanted to make her proud, and that day I truly felt proud. Sadly, she wouldn’t live to visit the loft again. She died 3 weeks later, which to this day is one of the most painful losses of my life.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Today, I’m a little scared. 

It’s not that I don’t think I’m doing the right thing. I know I’m doing the right thing. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m turning the page on a big part of my life. A part that has shaped me in more ways that I probably realize. And I have no idea what is going to happen next. I just know that life is going to be very different 1 week from now.

Beyond making peace with leaving, now I have all the details to sort out. All of the furniture to find a home for. All of the logistics of what goes where and how I’m going to actually do this move, not to mention where I’m going to live and when. I’ve lived in this same building for over 10 years, which is crazy for me to think about. I essentially became an adult here and accumulated lots of things that adults have. You know, like dining tables and kitchen equipment. Down comforters and filing cabinets. It’s all got to be dispersed, and quickly.

If I didn’t have anything else to do right now, this could easily consume my time. But I have more things in the works now than any time in the past decade. The most incredible projects I’ve ever worked on in my life are being birthed, right now. I’ll be sharing much more about them in the coming days, so please stay tuned. I promise, it’s going to be amazing! It’s impossible to hold back the tears as I write this, so I’ve stopped trying.

I paused a few minutes ago to refer back to the teaser video for the new Jonathan Fields book, Uncertainty. I can barely begin to express how profound this message is for the experience I’m going through right now. If you have a moment, I encourage you to watch the video below and pre-order the book. Click here if you can’t see the video.

This passage from Jonathan brought the tears welling right back up in my eyes:

“What is it that allows certain people to take action in the face of tremendous uncertainty? How can we do it? What can we bring into our lives, in our work lives and our personal lives, to allow us to go to that place where genius is birthed, but be OK there, to not suffer and to lean into it, and to even invite, maybe even amplify uncertainty in the name of creating amazing things in life?”

When I look back over the past year, I’m absolutely stunned at what has manifested and how much I’ve aligned with the life I said I wanted to live, despite being on the edge of the cliff essentially the entire time. My hope is to stay in this zone in the weeks ahead and be ok with the tremendous uncertainty that’s a part of this process. I don’t know what allows me to take this action right now, but the thing I know with 100% certainty is that I am indeed creating amazing things in life. Right now. 

I’m so happy to be sharing this journey with the world, and hope that this can provide some inspiration for others to look inward and truly consider what makes them happy. I invite you to step out on the ledge from time to time and imagine what’s possible if you stare uncertainty in the face and go for it anyway.

How have you embraced uncertainty in the past? If you have stories of triumph or failure you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them in the comments. 

And, I’m not kidding – if anything in this post has resonated with you, I highly encourage you to check out Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields. It’s a game changer.

Photo: On the edge of Little River Canyon

34 Comments

  • Reply Sandra August 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Wow.  If I only had the courage to invite the uncertainty in.  We are our own worst enemies and are only as courageous as we allow ourselves to be.  Once again another profound and insightful topic Brandon.  Thank you.  I wish you the best of luck with your move and hope it brings you new adventures and experiences to blog about.  I truly enjoy your blog. It’s inspiring.  I look forward to meeting you in October if you’re still living close enough to attend the event. 

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 26, 2011 at 4:24 am

      Thank you, Sandra. I’ll be sharing the journey here on my blog, so I’m glad you’ll be around to keep in touch. 

      The event in October is actually one of the only things keeping me here through the Fall.  I’m moving out of my place, but will be staying with friends for a couple of months until I make the leap after the holidays.  I’ll catch up with you in October. 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous August 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Congrats on getting it all into place… it was good hanging with you last week & I can tell you’re really excited about this new path and it will be a great thing for you. Let me know if I can do anything to help & I look forward to visiting my Pacific Northwest Peeps soon!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 26, 2011 at 4:25 am

      Thanks, Ryan. It was great seeing you last week as well. It’s good to know that my excitement for this is showing.  I feel great about it and know it’s the right thing for me.  How funny that Chris and Cindy just made this trek! She tried to leave a comment but something went wrong. I’m investigating, because it’s an awesome comment!

  • Reply Jason August 25, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Perhaps the biggest challenge in life is facing our own self doubts and the innately human tendency to preserve and protect what we already have versus striving to create more. After all, it’s easy to stay the same; it’s not so easy to change.

    As you well know, success always demands you go where you have never gone before. That you risk more than you ever have. That you move faster and farther and stretch more than you ever thought possible.

    Brandon, you so embody this spirit of change in all you do for the benefit of others

    I’m thrilled you get to do this now for yourself. Tally ho!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 26, 2011 at 4:22 am

      Jason, thank you for the very thoughtful comment. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you and seeing the work you are doing out in the world as well. I believe that change makers weave in an out of each others’ lives, and I suspect we will be collaborating on things in the future.

      I appreciate the encouragement. It means a great deal to me. Much respect to you, brother.

  • Reply Al August 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Wow !  Amazing stuff Brandon.  Congratulations !  So proud of you and so grateful I had the pleasure of meeting you on your awesome journey.  I just watched that video Yesterday on Uncertainty.  Too good.  Moved me to tears.  Thanks again for all you do, have done and will continue to do, to make this world a better place.  Look forward to seeing you tonight.

    Al

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 26, 2011 at 4:29 am

      Hey Al – great to see you tonight. So glad that Jonathan’s video resonated with you as well. I liked it when he first released it, but it wasn’t until last night that it brought me to tears. It’s extremely powerful.

      I’m excited to see what you and Dana do together. She has an incredible seed of an idea, and with enough positive encouragement, hopefully we can provide the fertile ground for it to flourish and have a positive impact on people all over the country and eventually around the world. You know, small stuff.

      Thanks for taking the time to read one of my longer posts. 🙂

  • Reply Cindy Stephens Sheehy August 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    I completely understand what you are feeling right now.  We talked about moving for almost a
    decade.  We planned, scouted and dreamed
    of a fresh start but, honestly, were too scared to take the leap.  As much as we disliked living in Atlanta it
    was comforting to be surrounded by friends and family. 

    All of that changed this year.  We crawled out of our security blanket and
    made our way west.  It was a lot like
    ripping off a band-aid.  We acted quickly
    and did not hesitate.  I am sorry that we
    were not able to personally say good-bye to all of the wonderful people that that
    made our days in Atlanta bearable but I knew that lengthy good-byes would just
    make me question the decision to leave.

    As happy as I was to make the big move, I was often scared
    and filled with uncertainty.  I had a
    stable job (you could even call me a big fish in a small pond) and I had made
    the decision to resign with no immediate prospects for a new job.  This in and of itself can be insomnia
    inducing!!!  I remember lying awake in a
    hotel room on the road and thinking “did we just make the stupidest decision of
    our lives!!!!”  But, this apprehension
    soon passed.  I still am unemployed but,
    thankfully, I have a loving (and employed) husband that believes in me and our
    decision to pull up stakes.

    The last 2 months have been a roller coaster of emotions but
    things are settling down now.  Life has a
    new rhythm and it does not hurt to wake up to a beautiful mountain view every
    morning.  We are meeting new people and discovering
    amazing places.  I even have a job interview
    next week!!!

    The mantra that I repeated over and over before we left was “if
    not now, then when?” It sounds simple but it helped to remind myself that I had
    nothing holding me back and no reason not to take a chance while I am still
    young (or young-ish at least).  What’s
    the worst that could happen?  I mean,
    Atlanta will still be there if we decide that we want to go back home.

    We look forward to your arrival and have a futon with your
    name on it.  It is modest but should not
    break your back for at least a few nights. J
    .  You will be arriving at the end of the
    most amazing summer that I have ever experienced.  So be prepared to start exploring immediately

    Best of luck in the coming days and, in moments of doubt,
    think about all the reason that you wanted to make the move in the first place!
    See you soon.

  • Reply Mark Silver August 25, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Hey Brandon- looks like you’re on your way! 

    I find it helpful to remember that no matter how certain we are, we’re always living with uncertainty. No one knows what the next moment brings. 🙂

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 26, 2011 at 4:33 am

      Thanks Mark! I’m going to be ‘crashing’ here in Atlanta through the holidays, but my current plan is to head West in January. As I eluded to in the post, I have some pretty incredible things in the works that I need to follow through on this Fall, but 2012 is wide open for me.

      I find that I’m drawn to uncertainty. It’s just my preferred method of operating. I like not knowing. It’s when I don’t know that the most amazing things happen.

      It will be so nice to pedal around PDX with you though.  That much I do know.  🙂

  • Reply Cindy Stephens Sheehy August 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I completely understand what you are feeling right now.  We talked about moving for almost a decade.  We planned, scouted and dreamed of a fresh start but, honestly, were too scared to take the leap.  As much as we disliked living in Atlanta it was comforting to be surrounded by friends and family. 

    All of that changed this year.  We crawled out of our security blanket and made our way west.  It was a lot like ripping off a band-aid.  We acted quickly and did not hesitate.  I am sorry that we were not able to personally say good-bye to all of the wonderful people that that made our days in Atlanta bearable but I knew that lengthy good-byes would just
    make me question the decision to leave.

    As happy as I was to make the big move, I was often scared and filled with uncertainty.  I had a stable job (you could even call me a big fish in a small pond) and I had made
    the decision to resign with no immediate prospects for a new job.  This in and of itself can be insomnia inducing!!!  I remember lying awake in a hotel room on the road and thinking “did we just make the stupidest decision of our lives!!!!”  But, this apprehension soon passed.  I still am unemployed but, thankfully, I have a loving (and employed) husband that believes in me and our decision to pull up stakes.

    The last 2 months have been a roller coaster of emotions but things are settling down now.  Life has a new rhythm and it does not hurt to wake up to a beautiful mountain view every
    morning.  We are meeting new people and discovering amazing places.  I even have a job interview next week!!!

    The mantra that I repeated over and over before we left was “if not now, then when?” It sounds simple but it helped to remind myself that I had nothing holding me back and no reason not to take a chance while I am still young (or young-ish at least).  What’s
    the worst that could happen?  I mean, Atlanta will still be there if we decide that we want to go back home.

    We look forward to your arrival and have a futon with your name on it.  It is modest but should not break your back for at least a few nights. 🙂 You will be arriving at the end of the
    most amazing summer that I have ever experienced.  So be prepared to start exploring immediately.

    Best of luck in the coming days and, in moments of doubt, think about all the reasons that you wanted to make the move in the first place! See you soon.

  • Reply Christy Annis August 26, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Hi Brandon – Stay strong, follow your heart, trust your gut,
    don’t second guess yourself, let go of “stuff”, and thank the lord every
    day for Skype.  I remember how you are feeling right now very well. 
    It’s a crazy time – one moment you are sky high with excitement, thrilled for
    the adventure, and ready to conquer the world.  30 seconds later, the
    tears start falling, uncontrollably.  Tears of sadness for time lost,
    tears of fright as you think about the process and what comes next, tears of
    happiness as you look back on your accomplishments, and tears of joy as you
    remember the special times and people in your life.  A whole set new of emotions comes, a mixture
    of smiles and tears, as you watch all your stuff disappear.   That was hard but just know, once it’s gone
    and you are in your new zone, you won’t miss it.   Or really remember
    you ever had it. Living overseas as I do, you realize how little stuff you
    really need. I wish you the best of luck
    on your adventure! Keep in touch!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

      Thank you, Christy.  I really appreciate the support.  Somehow I missed the chapter about you moving to China! Wow!

      I feel great about the decision and direction I’m heading.  No time for second guessing.  🙂  I know there will be more tears in the days ahead, but I’m ready.  Still trying to track down the missing comment from my friend Cindy, but she had the best quote: “if not now, then when?”

      Perfect.  Thanks again, and perhaps our paths will cross somewhere along this amazing journey.

  • Reply Emilie Wapnick August 26, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Hey Brandon,

    You’re moving to Portland! I did the same thing 2 months ago. Felt Portland calling for a while, and then finally made the big leap in June. Best decision I could have made. This is an incredible incredible city. You’re going to love it.

    We should definitely get together once you’re settled in.

    Congratulations. I’m excited for you!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      Yay!  PDX or bust, baby!  🙂  Literally, Portland has been calling hard core for almost 2 years, but I remember back in the mid 90s people telling me that I would like it there. It’s always been in the back of my mind.  #WDS sealed the deal.  🙂

      It will be after the first of the year before I head out, but we’ll have to get together for sure when I get out there. 

      Thanks and have an awesome weekend!

  • Reply Simone Lipscomb August 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    The empty-handed spiritual warriors leap into the Void…..leap and trust and you will fly!

  • Reply Lisa August 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Beloved!
    You have our full love and support. You cannot fail. Life and Joy await you. Our sense of vulnerability can trigger our fear and then the brain will serve up every reason to stop-to keep you safe. Instead, go deep into your heart and stay nestled there. Support it, and all you hear from it, and the rest will drop away. From one who loves you and knows this step all too well. Welcome to the greatest adventure and all the miracles that await you and any others who believe and have faith. That belief and faith is richly rewarded. Thanks for taking the step! We love you. Congratulations!

    Lisa, Jess and All of Vista Caballo

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 26, 2011 at 9:27 pm

      Lisa, this comment really warmed my heart. Thank you so much!

      It’s so interesting that you commented on this particular post. Last June when I was on the edge of the cliff and deciding about the Horse + Man Experience, it was Jonathan’s TEDx talk on fear that helped me to move through the uncertainty and go for it.

      You might remember the morning I left VC – the passage that brought me to tears when I read it aloud – it was THAT moment that really started what continues to be an incredible transformation and stepping into my role as a global change agent. Everything I’m doing right now stems from the realization I had that day with Mikey. I cannot overstate the impact it had on my life.

      Thank you again, and please pass on my love to the family.  🙂

      https://www.brandonsutton.com/the-journey-part-2-vista-caballo/

  • Reply Chase Night August 26, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing this story. It was really timely for me. In two weeks, my girlfriend and I have to move out of the apt we’ve lived in for the last 18 months. It’s been our first real home together, the kind we decorated together, and people bough us joint gifts for. Then suddenly our landlord decided not to renew our lease. We’ve been searching frantically for a new place to live, but nothing has turned up. We have to start packing with no idea where we’re going. And we have two dogs, three cats, and a snail to take care of. It’s terrifying.

    But it also feel liberating and invigorating and the good kind of scared you feel before the roller coaster drops where you think maybe you might die but you’re pretty sure you won’t so you just throw your hands in freedom while simultaneously screaming for help and the entire human experience is summed up in 15 seconds of blissful terror. And then it’s over and you just laugh like a maniac because that’s just the weird sort of reaction we have to insane things.

    I hope you wind up laughing like a maniac in Portland!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm

      I absolutely LOVE this! Maybe it’s the rollercoaster junkie in me that gets exactly what you are saying in that amazingly crafted sentence.  🙂 

      It’s absolutely like that experience. Blissful terror. 

      Thank you for sharing your story. I suspect you will find a place that is better than anything you can imagine right now. I’ll be sure to check in on your in the next couple of weeks to hear how things land.

      And yes, I plan to laugh like a maniac in Portland and basically everywhere else I go.  Life is much more fun that way. 🙂

  • Reply Daryl Denis Bredenkamp August 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Change is a scary thing, but better to walk into it deliberately than have it overwhelmingly come crashing down on you. I’ve had it both ways. Somehow, I’ve always found the strength to cope with it, and would like to believe that we always somehow do. I was in a destructive marriage for ten years before deciding to walk out with virtually nothing. Strange to think now how comfortable familiar pain can get, wonderful how liberating it was to let go of. Amazing how much support and strength I found in the time that followed and to find how little I needed to not only survive, but to thrive. Good luck with the process, and may it lead to personal growth and increased happiness beyond your wildest dreams.

  • Reply Anonymous August 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    All is well.  Think of your lineage…immigrants who left all they knew for a better life on these shores.  I have a book suggestion for you:  Songlines by Bruce Chatwin (deceased great travel writer); the book explores the question of why humans are so restless…Chatwin empties his intellect, his perceptions, and his experience into this indescribable book.  I think of it often and treasure his words as they are an essential building block of the stability I am creating in the midst of profound change (cancer/foreclusure/three moves resulting from job loss/divorce over 18 months).  I certainly hit the wall at times and fear going forward another step, but then something enables me to move forward.  Chatwin is part of that, connecting with others in the same space in life is part of that, and finding my issues in the continuum of human life, in others whose courage has made what I now have, gives me strength.  Peace be to you. I agree that if Portland is calling you must go!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 29, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      Thank you, Susan.  I really appreciate your heartfelt sharing. I’m going to file away your book recommendation and refer back to it when I’m in a place that I can absorb it. I got a bit ambitious a few months back and bought a stack of books that are patiently waiting for me to get to them. This might be just the one I need in another month or so though, so thank you for the suggestion!

      I hope we can stay connected as we both go through this incredible journey. I would love to hear how things are developing for you as well.  🙂

  • Reply Catherina August 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    The same as Jonathan Fields’ words brought tears to your eyes, your brought them to mine: “Reality has finally begun to set in, and the magnitude of what I’m embarking on is hitting me fully for the first time. It’s not that I don’t think I’m doing the right thing. I know
    I’m doing the right thing. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m
    turning the page on a big part of my life. A part that has shaped me in
    more ways that I probably realize.” You described perfectly how I’ve felt lately: 1 month ago I left a job of 14 years at Procter & Gamble. At 35 yrs of age, this was my first and only job, but my heart was slowly running away from it. I left everything I knew to pursue my true passions: Coaching, Yoga, singing and acting. I am as happy as I can be, liberated, joyful…I am what Jonathan Fields calls a Career Renegade (amazing book which helped me tons in this process) and proud of it. Thank you for sharing your inspiring words with us Brandon, we are all together in these leaps of change, and only good things will come 🙂 Hugs from Lima, Peru

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 30, 2011 at 3:55 am

      Thanks so much, Catherina.  I’m glad the words resonated with you.  Congratulations on turning the page in your own life. It’s wonderful to hear of others who have found their happiness and followed it regardless of how the world might suggest we do otherwise.

      I’ve always wanted to visit Peru, btw.  I hear it’s gorgeous.  🙂

  • Reply David Hamilton Wilson August 28, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks for sharing.  I know youve been busy and this summer has been a busy time for me too.  Ive made some decisions and we both seem to be along a similar path and I love how you are moving through these changes so eloquently and dealing with the fear that shackles us to our past and keeps us from huge realizations in our lives.  I can do real estate anywhere or anything else I really want to do and I hope I can see you and talk to you before leaving.  Do you still have furnishings left?  I may need some for my rentals and what a nice reminder of our friendship.  Miss you and the stories to tell from this Summer 🙂

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 29, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      Thanks, David.  I really appreciate the support.  It has indeed been a busy Summer, but full of wonderful developments. The furniture is all spoken for, so I can’t help you there.  Hope we can meet for coffee soon! I miss our chats. 🙂

  • Reply Brandon Sutton August 30, 2011 at 3:57 am

    very well said, Daryl.  I like to at least try to ride the wave instead of waiting for it to crash on top of me. So far, so good. 

    Great to hear your story here. I hope you’ll come back and share your thoughts from time to time.

  • Reply Brandon Sutton August 30, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Cindy!  I rescued your comment from the abyss! 🙂 

    I had no idea you and Chris were thinking about moving for so long. The band-aid reference is right on. I feel you completely there.

    ‘If not now, then when?’ is a perfect question to ask. I’ve asked myself this before – I moved to NYC in 1998 and sort of thrust myself into a big, scary unknown situation. The thing is, it was that experience that started to teach me about myself and about the world. I’ve done it once, and can do it again.  As you said, Atlanta will still be here if I want to come back.

    I’ll keep you posted as things develop. I look forward to seeing that mountain view with you soon!

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving such an awesome, thoughtful comment. It really resonates with me.

    Oh, and I hope the interview goes well. 🙂

  • Reply Life Amazing « Simone Lipscomb Blog August 30, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    […] move, to work, to help–the only thing that makes sense is to listen and leap. (My friend Brandon is leaping, […]

  • Reply Uncertainty - Practical Wisdom for Big Thinkers September 30, 2011 at 6:52 am

    […] month, I mentioned the video trailer for Uncertainty when I wrote about my own process of living on the edge of the cliff, and I’m including it below for you to watch again, or consider for the first time if you […]

  • Reply Making The Leap February 2, 2012 at 11:18 am

    […] The Leap by Brandon on Feb 2, 2012 • 11:17 am No Comments Last Summer, I wrote about being on the edge of the cliff at a time that I was 100% certain I was going to be moving out of my home within a week. In that […]

  • Leave a Reply to Simone Lipscomb Cancel Reply