Tiffany Sowby | From a Carousel to a Roller Coaster

Share this post:

After Tiffany Sowby read Dare, Dream, Do, she confided she had a dream she wasn’t quite ready to act on. I asked her to write about what this felt like — I love what she's written.

Recently my sister-in-law and I were talked into riding a new roller coaster at a local amusement park. The park describes the ride as:

“Lifts riders 208 feet and plunges them into a 116° beyond vertical free-fall into an underground tunnel.

[It is a] most thrilling ride- including a 140-ft tall inverted loop and water feature. Riders travel up to 70 mph over 2,735 feet and through 3 inversions. The custom mega-coaster is unlike anything in the world and will eat other coasters in their tracks.


Saying we were scared would be an understatement. Sandwiched in line between my 8 year old and 11 year old, I tried to act brave while my brother and our teenagers attempted to convince me how much fun it was going to be.

As our turn got closer, my thoughts of leaving the line became more frequent. As much as I wanted to run from the ride, I knew I needed to be brave for my 11 year old, also riding for the first time. She wanted to ride, and though I myself felt weak, I knew I was her strongest support system.

Once seated, the ride slowly began to ascend. I closed my eyes and said a few words that I was convinced were my last. I was petrified. I was more scared than I possibly would have imagined. (All in the name of entertainment!?!)

When we reached the platform 208 feet above ground, I peeked through one eye long enough to see that I’d prefer to keep my eyes closed. The initial drop was terrifying, but I couldn’t resist another peek as we descended the track at a high rate of speed. In a quick moment of either clarity or craziness I opened both eyes wide and realized I could either keep them open and experience the ride to the fullest, or I could keep my eyes tightly shut like my sister-in-law next to me.

I loved the ride.

As my sister-in-law and I exited the ride together, I couldn’t hold back my excitement and thrill from the experience. When I asked her if she loved it, she noted aloud that she didn’t really know if she enjoyed it or not because she kept her eyes closed the entire time.

As I spent my evening basking in the satisfaction of having enjoyed such a scary thing, I committed to apply the same principle of ‘opening my eyes and fully experiencing the ride’ to an area of my life that seems scarier than 208 foot plunges and inverted loops, and certainly lasts longer than 2 minutes.

I am in the process of starting a nonprofit organization focused on women and children.

My feelings are strikingly similar to my initial reactions to the amusement park ride. Why am I doing this? It’s so scary! I ought to change my mind. Why? Why? Why?

With the exception of some public speaking assignments and some writing gigs, I’ve primarily spent the last 17 years of my life focused on building a family. Sure, I’ve been involved in community volunteer boards, school PTA, and my name is even on the corporate papers of a landscape construction company; yet mothering my 5 children has taken the majority of my time and efforts. Though difficult and challenging as motherhood can be, motherhood has kept me safely nuzzled in a comfortable zone I thought I’d stick around in.

Until a year or so ago, when I realized my comfort zone no longer felt very comfortable. I began to have an unsettled feeling to do something, but I didn’t exactly know what. The personal pull to get out of my comfort zone seemed to make sense with my youngest starting full-time school this fall. I assumed I would become more involved in our business that my husband runs. But my inert enthusiasm must have been obvious, when during a past meeting I was told by our business consultant, “Go home and figure out what your passion is. This landscape construction business isn’t it.”

The weeks I spent “figuring out my passion” were very similar to the initial ascent on the amusement park ride; I was uncomfortable and I was scared. In essence my eyes were closed, and I found myself repeating discouraging words and phrases over in my mind that were a direct result of my fears.  As much as I love trees and flowers, construction and sprinklers don’t ignite much excitement in me. Becoming more involved in our existing company doesn’t feel like where I should or want to focus my talents and time.

But choosing to work in our company is safe. It is predictable. It is nice and comfortable. Sticking with the company wouldn’t make me venture very far from the safety net of my own comfort zone. It would be similar to riding the carousel that I rode with my 6 year old the same day I rode the coaster.

Which is fine, carousels are great. I actually quite enjoy them, but essentially, I have lived my entire life on the safe confines of a carousel. I can’t ignore my desire to try something a little more daring and different.


Starting a nonprofit organization feels difficult and scary. The feelings feel much the same as those I felt standing in line for the “mega coaster.”  But for whatever reason, I haven’t walked away from “waiting in line.” I’m still here, days and weeks later figuring out exactly what I am doing. I am trying to align my passions, my talents, and the things I love, into something more.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly how I came to identify my dream, but it started when I really started to ask myself what my own passions were. What do I love? What makes my heart leap? If I could do something, what would I do?

I didn’t plan to jump from the comfort of a carousel to the craziness of a high-speed roller coaster. But I have. I have already stepped onto the ride and been seated. I’m fairly certain my seat belt is secured and I know I’ve already been told to enjoy the ride. I guess all I can do at this point is keep my eyes open and experience it to the fullest.

I’m optimistic I won’t regret it.

Tiffany Sowby lives with her husband and five children (ages 6-16). Though life has a way of sometimes feeling too busy, there is always room in Tiffany’s schedule for long conversations with friends, shoe shopping, a game of Scrabble or cards, alone time with her husband, and perusing travel sites for her next vacation.


My latest book Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work is now available for pre-order.

Share this post:

Contact Us

Fill out this form and we will follow up to create a customized plan to help you build a smart growth organization.

Media & Press Inquiries

including requesting Whitney as a guest on your podcast

Media & Press Inquiries arrow_forward

Gain insight into growth, adaptability and agility

Download our free resources outlining the Accelerants of Growth—including books, podcasts and TEDtalks to help you move up your S Curve of Learning.