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Jack Roseman: Why I Wrote "Jump!"

Thought Leader

As I was in the process of retiring (still in the process), I wondered, as I looked out the window from my home and saw beautiful trees, a sun-lit landscape, rabbits, squirrels and deer playing tag, “How the heck did I get here?” I was raised in grinding poverty in a mixed ghetto in Lynn, Mass. (suburban Boston) where rats scurried through the wild growth between the row houses.

My growth in the 1930s was nearly as wild. Anti-Semitism was everywhere — in our ghetto, in our schools, in Lynn and Boston — and we didn’t have to be reminded about what that could mean. I lost a brother, his wife and children in the Holocaust, which also claimed my mother’s entire extended family and most of my father’s family.

My parents spoke only Yiddish, which meant I knew very little English as well. Lynn’s public schools, noting my language difficulties, held me out for a year. I’m not sure what good they thought that would do, since I still would be hearing only Yiddish at home. In any case, I started school a year late, burdened by the stigma of being considered slow-witted.

So how, with so many strikes against me, did I emerge as someone who helped launch and run two tech-sector businesses, operate an American Stock Exchange company called On-Line Systems and cap my career as professor of entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University? I wrote Jump! to share my improbable journey in the hope it will inspire others to break out of their ghettos — whether economic ghettos or prisons of personal doubt.

“I wrote Jump! to share my improbable journey in the hope it will inspire others to break out of their ghettos — whether economic ghettos or prisons of personal doubt.”

My journey began with a dream of sorts, a recurring nightmare that commenced when I was about 10. I’m standing at the top of a stairway. My mother is at the bottom telling me to jump, her arms stretched out to catch me. Not one to disobey Ma, I jump. As I land in a heartbroken heap, Ma walks away. “Never rely on anyone,” she says. “Not even your mother.”

Crazy, right? For years thereafter, though, my mantra was: “Never rely on anyone. Do it yourself if you must, but do it.”

Yet each time I jumped into a new, unpredictable situation, I found I wasn’t alone. Dear family, friends and colleagues were there to help me. I learned that I could rely on them, and that I could become the kind of person on whom they could rely.

Most of us at some point will have to decide whether to hang back in the comfortable world of the known or take the leap into a promising, frightening future. You may be contemplating marriage, relocation, a new job, a return to school or the workforce. The advice I try to convey is: Jump! Take the plunge now and you won’t regret later what you might have achieved if you’d had the nerve. As I write in the book:

“If you fear that you may not have the support from family, friends and associates to help you overcome life’s obstacles — Jump! So what if it turns out no one has your back. You’ll still have your native talents, and you’ll have learned something important about the road ahead.

“If you’re pondering a leap into the uncertainties of life, and you’re worried that you’ll have to go it alone — Jump! You may find people . . . there to nurture and warm you and be nurtured and warmed in turn by the affection you provide. And when that happens, you’ll have learned something even more important.”

By Jack Roseman, “Jump!” is available on