Last year for our anniversary, I did the most “dare devil” thing I’ve ever done in my life. I willingly threw myself out of a perfectly good airplane at 13,000 feet in the air, and it was unbelievable!
I screamed at the top of my lungs for the entire 30 seconds of terror-filled free fall as I plummeted head first toward Earth. I was absolutely terrified. All I could think was, “What did I just do? I’m an idiot and this is the worst decision I’ve ever made. I want my mommy and I want this to be over NOW!”
But then, I mustered the courage to look up, and I saw the most stunning view of Mt. Rainier in the distance. At that moment, I realized that I was enjoying the most incredible experience I could ask for. I let go of the harness that I was gripping for dear life then I spread my arms and started to soar.
I floated through the air looking around at the amazing landscape that surrounded me. I was able to see as far as Mt. Hood because we chose the one sunny day in Seattle to make our jump. It was breathtaking. And I was so glad that I had made the choice to take a leap of faith and hurl myself into the sky. Not only was it just absolutely incredible, but I also learned a very valuable lesson about fear.
My Lessons on Fear
Before the jump, I wasn’t really nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I only had two real fears 1) The landing. 2) That I was going to love the experience so much that I would want to do it over and over again. Skydiving isn’t exactly the cheapest hobby to take up, so my real fear was for my wallet.
During the flight to reach our 13,000 feet destination, I still wasn’t really fearful of the experience. I kept waiting for that gut-sinking moment, but it didn’t really happen. That is, until the plane door opened and I realized that I was actually going to have to jump.
But here’s the awesome part…I wasn’t given time to back out. Once the plane door opened the first jumper headed out the door, quickly followed by jumper number 2, 3, 4, and 5. Then it was my boyfriend’s turn and then WHOA! Next thing I knew my feet were dangling over the side of the plane and I was staring down at 13,000 feet of nothingness. I couldn’t back out so I took a huge breathe, closed my eyes and hoped for the best.
Lesson #1 about fear. Don’t let yourself become fearful. The second that I became nervous I was quickly ushered out of the plane within 45 seconds. That’s not a lot of time to contemplate all of the tragic events that could have taken place, so my fear never really grabbed hold and I was quickly able to overcome it.
In life and during my adventures, if I focus on the negative outcomes then I start to build up fears and roadblocks that aren’t really based on facts. I think, well, maybe I shouldn’t visit country X because it’s probably too dangerous. Or, I shouldn’t even try to move to another country because I’ll just fail anyway. And once those fears take hold, I’m stuck. I’m so terrified of failing that I don’t even try and my life doesn’t move forward.
Through my sky diving experience, I have learned that it’s unfruitful to dwell on the negative “what if” questions, in my life and adventures. After my skydive adventure, I now know that I just need to close my eyes and go for it. I can’t give myself time to think about the negative “what ifs;” I just need to properly plan and then run with my idea and trust that everything will work out.
After I hoped for the best, my jumpmaster, Larry, pushed us out of the plane…head first. This is the point at which I regretted making the choice to jump. Absolute terror took over my body. I felt nothing but fear and wind hitting me at 120mph. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe.
The only thing I managed to do was scream at the top if my lungs for my mommy. Picture that for a minute – a grown woman crying for her mommy while plummeting through the sky. Go ahead, laugh. I don’t blame you.
A few seconds (or what felt like a lifetime) after the free fall began, Larry tapped me on the shoulder to let me know that I needed to kick my legs back and spread my arms. Not wanting to die, I followed the command.
I adjusted my position just in time to see the majestic Mt. Rainier in the distance. Then, I took another deep breath and looked around at the wonders that surrounded me. Wow! It was awe inspiring.
Lesson #2. Fear happens, but you can’t let it stop you. I was utterly gripped with fear during the free fall. I was begging for the experience to end. I wanted to pack up shop and magically be on the ground again. But I couldn’t. That simply wasn’t an option. So, what did I do? I adjusted my position and found a way to get over my fear and enjoy my experience.
In life, after making a major choice it’s natural to have fears and regrets. The key is to make sure your fears don’t stop you from being successful. In skydiving, once you make the choice to plummet to the Earth, there really is no turning back, so you’re kind of forced to see it through to the end. After realizing that fear happens, I have challenged myself to think of all of my crazy adventures as a sky dive experience…there is no other choice but to see each adventure through to the end.
One if the craziest adventures I’ve taken is starting Beyond the Diploma with Swim. I won’t lie, there are lots of times that I think Beyond the Diploma is a stupid idea and no one is ever going to want to read our blog or join our challenges so we should just give up.
This is my fear of failure talking. I’ve taken a huge leap of faith in starting this venture and sometimes that fear creeps in, but I can’t let it stop me from reaching my goals. I just have to keep working with different ideas until I find what works, but I can’t give up. If a launch fails, then I have to keep thinking about what else could work. If no one signs up for a program, I can’t let it get me down and add to my fears.
The key to success is to keep overcoming your fears by challenging yourself to try new and innovative adventures regardless of whether you fail or succeed.
The last part of the dive was parachuting toward the landing field. This part was peaceful and a great opportunity to take in the surrounding scenery. I got to enjoy a view that most people could only dream of. Pretty amazing.
Floating through the air meant that the dive was a success. The chute ejected and it was able to carry us to safety. This was the moment to take in the powerful feeling of achieving the impossible – flying.
The landing was also pretty smooth and fairly uneventful. We didn’t slide in on our butts or trip over each other or get bombarded by the parachute like I imagined would happen. No, we pretty much just touched down and put our feet on the ground. Then I was able to watch Swim float in with his jumpmaster and have an equally smooth landing.
Lesson #3 Fear means you’re on your way to success. This is a short lesson because we’ve all heard it before. If you’re caught up in fear, it’s probably because what you’re afraid of is exactly what you need to be doing in order to be successful.
If you’re gripped in fear after a major life decision, like forgoing grad school for world travel or giving up a high paying job to work for a non-profit you believe in, it probably means that you’ve chosen a great path to success; you just have to see it through to the end.
The float to the ground was the reward of overcoming my fear – it was my success. Had I not faced my fear and jumped, I never would have been able to enjoy the amazing views that I got to experience and the life lessons that it taught me.
My question for you is, in what way is fear holding you back? What will you do today to move you forward in overcoming your fear. Take the leap, enjoy the adventure!
P.S. – My 25th birthday is this week (November 12) and to celebrate I’m going scuba diving. I am scared too death of sharks, and I’m absolutely terrified of what’s going to happen on the dive. But I’m going to feel the fear and do it anyway, and YOU get to go with me! I’ll be sharing my pre-dive thoughts later this week, and blogging the highlights of the dive on Friday so you can see the incredible views of the wide-open Atlantic ocean with me. Any advice for a first time diver?
Staci Ann is half the brains behind Beyond the Diploma. She’s made it her personal mission to help other 20-something recent graduates find and follow their passions in non-traditional ways. She loves her generation (#GenAwesome) and wants to help make this the best generation ever!
Start following your passion; watch this quick video to get 5 tips on how to make your 20’s the best years of your life.