[Note: In my infinite wisdom, or lack thereof, I wrote this on Monday morning, and somehow didn’t publish it. Whoops! Please forgive the delay on the current events from last weekend.]
Throughout much of my child-hood, I was scared of amusement park rides, and slightly worried about heights. The high dive at the local pool was conquered, but I wouldn’t venture much higher than that. The 3-meter springboard is intimidating when you’re 7.
My fears have subsided, and I’ll go on most roller coasters, and would love to go bungee jumping or skydiving. By most standards, those are high-adrenaline activities, but I’m not sure they’re very cool anymore. Yesterday, 43-year-old Austrian Felix Baumgartner upped the ante on badassery, after free falling 128,100 feet. That’s 24 miles. The man almost jumped an entire marathon, and you know I’m not a big fan of marathons. His free fall lasted 4 minutes and 20 seconds, and he reached a maximum speed of 833.9 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24. This should put it into perspective:
Before/after the jump, Mr. Baumgartner said, “Trust me, when you stand up there on top of the world, you become so humble…Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are.” Compared to the 24 miles he covered, my fear of 3 meters doesn’t seem like much. Falling 24 miles seems ridiculously difficult, but with his experience and skill set, I don’t think it was coming down that was the difficult part for Mr. Baumgartner; it was going up that was the hard part.
Although he had no trouble jumping off buildings and bridges, and soaring across the English Channel in a carbon-fiber wing, he found himself suffering panic attacks when forced to spend hours inside the pressurized suit and helmet. At one point in 2010, rather than take an endurance test in it, he went to an airport and fled the United States. With the help of a sports psychologist and other specialists, he learned techniques for dealing with the claustrophobia.
For a guy that has made his career jumping out of perfectly flyable aircraft, it may seem silly that sitting in a little bubble would lead to panic attacks. After 5 years or preparation, I think it’s safe to say that he not only overcame his fear, but completely owned it:
Pretty powerful statement, huh? While Mr. Baumgartner may have fallen much further than 7-year-old Harold, our sensation of fear is the same, just as it is for you. Our minds are fabulous at responding to and adapting to fear, and most of the time, we make our decisions on avoiding our fear. How frequently do you think about what you want to do or want to happen, compared to what you don’t want to do or happen? It’s more than you think.
Rather than avoid what we’re scared of, let’s take aggressive approach, and confront what we’re scared of. We’re not jumping from 24 miles above the earth, but it’s likely just as scary. I’d like to finish up with three quotes that can convey the point more powerfully than I am able to. Read the, mull them over, then go out there and kick some ass.