Drown (a little).

The deep end has its allure.

It’s exciting. You feel like you might drown at any moment, gasping for air, and feeling your weight pull you underwater. When you’re dying you’re glad to be alive, and when you’re alive you miss being on the edge of dying. There is no middle. You splash and kick in ecstasy, and drown in misery.

You can’t live that way forever, expending so much energy between losing yourself entirely and trying to find your breath. You have no stamina or balance left to tread, and you hate the water as much as you love it. So you must give in and paddle to shallow waters, and once you are there you find that it is boring. You look out towards the deep end and wish you were in the midst of drowning again.

You rest and promise yourself that it will be different next time… you’ll be stronger and better at treading, at staying afloat. But again you make the same mistake, diving blindly into the deep end. Maybe you hold out a little bit longer each time you jump in, but inevitably you are washed up on the shore, exhausted and miserable.

The way to conquer the deep end is to start in shallow waters. Learn the water and learn yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses, and see how the water reacts. Stay grounded where there is no danger of losing your breath or self entirely. Learn how long you can last underwater until you need your own air. That way, when exhaustion comes—and it will—you can stay where you are and recover without drowning. You can stay in the deep water, be one with it, and also keep your self.

Having that sense of self is your built-in life preserver. As long as you know yourself, you can float to ride out the storm when the water gets rough, or you can float back to the safety of the shore.

But when do you know you’re ready to make that transition, finding that you can’t touch the bottom anymore and you have to put everything you’ve learned to the test? Life is about that risk, and knowing that there are no guarantees. There is a point where you have to put yourself out there, otherwise there is no way to know if you’ll sink or swim. Diving in and drowning is no good, but staying on the shore wishing and dreaming is worse.

You’re going to have to drown a little bit to know the right balance.

Whether you’re the type who dives right in, or the one on shore afraid to get in the water, keep these words in mind:

Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.