Many of you know I love scuba diving, skydiving, flying powered hang-gliders, etc.
It’s not that I love adrenaline; it’s that I love freedom.
Both scuba diving and flying offer something you just can’t get on land: the ability to float, to soar, to move in any direction at will.
Jacques Cousteau describes this beautifully:
“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.
Buoyed by water, he can fly in any direction—up, down, sideways—by merely flipping his hand. Under water, man becomes an archangel.”
So by now you know that I love to fly, dive, jump out of airplanes, etc. But what you don’t know is…I have a fear of heights.
Many moons ago, my friend Rigo asked me to go to Las Vegas with him to ride the amusements rides for his birthday. One of the rides we did was at the top of the Stratosphere hotel, where they hang you over the edge of the building (1,148 feet above ground!) in a little car contraption. And of course, Rigo wanted to be in the front row. Oi! You should have seen me inching my way along the line, waiting for our turn.
Was I scared? Absolutely.
Did do it anyway? You betcha.
And I had a blast!
I had several life-changing realizations that day:
- The fear I experienced anticipating the ride was far greater than what I experienced during the ride itself.
- I realized that once I got past the fear, the ride was pretty fun.
- Fear is just an emotion, like anger or enthusiasm. I wouldn’t let enthusiasm stop me from doing something, why should I let fear stop me?
- I realized I don’t have a fear of heights, I have a fear of falling. There’s a difference.
I get the heebie-jeebies looking over the edge of a third floor balcony, but can bank a powered hang-glider at 2,000 feet without blinking. The difference is when I’m flying I know that I’m safely buckled in my harness, I’m in firm control of what I’m doing, and that the plane has a 1:8 glide ratio so even if something does happens to the engine I can still safely land.
Ditto for scuba diving. I’ve been in situations that were a tad scary (more on that in my next post), but I learned how to dive safely, drilled what to do in emergencies, and (more importantly) learned how prevent them in the first place.
Fear isn’t some nebulous thing that just hangs around like the smell of burnt popcorn left too long on the stove. There is something about which one is fearful: The fear of falling, the fear of public speaking, the fear of losing one’s job, the fear of running out of air.
“If something stands between you and your success—move it.” —Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
So one learns to wear a safety harness when climbing, to have multiple sources of income and money set aside for emergencies, to know your material cold before going onstage, to monitor your air consumption and always dive with a buddy.
The key to overcoming fear is training and practice (which leads to competency).
And, of course, not letting fear stop you but carrying on anyway.
You are greater than your fears. They are not greater than you.
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do?
Take a class.
Do your drills.
Learn to fly.
Follow Jack Molisani on Twitter: @JackMolisani.