This life lesson relates to my previous blog #98 Go BASE Jumping.
The thing that surprised me the most during my first BASE jump was the fact that my heart was not beating out of my chest. It was elevated, but not excessively. This didn’t make much sense in the moment, but I was overwhelmed with the urge to do it again, so the thought slipped away from my consciousness. It was only on the drive back that my brain had time to make sense of it all.
While preparing for my BASE jump, I told myself that it was going to be scary as hell. I had done my first bungy jump at the age of 12 and my heart was racing. When I stepped to the edge of the platform, I wanted to call it off. I was terrified. The instructor began his countdown from 5 and I think I rolled off the platform when he hit 3 because I was so scared and knew I just had to jump. Perhaps it was because I was only 12 years old, or perhaps it had something to do with the lack of preparation.
We were on holiday when we found out there was a bungy jumping spot nearby. I begged my parents to take me and they obliged. Within a couple days of finding out about the spot, I was standing on the edge. Zero preparation. And it scared the hell out of me. I have done two other bungy jumps since that first experience and they both scared me just the same.
Fast forward to learning how to skydive at the age of 24. I decided that I wanted to learn how to skydive 10 months before I started my course. I used this time to save my pennies and watch the odd skydiving video, but I did almost nothing in the way of preparation. I hit the Christmas holidays and drove my car up to the drop zone in Whangarei. After seven hours of driving, I pulled into the carpark at the drop zone and my radiator blew up. Lucky for me, there was a mechanic across the street, so I gave him my keys and kicked off my course.
I spent the next two weeks jumping out of planes and achieved my A Licence with a total of 26 jumps. I was never scared on the ride up, but the second that the door opened, it got loud, cold and windy. Each time the door opened, my heart sank into my stomach, and I had a sudden rush of fear.
This was the same fear as bungy jumping, but not as prolonged since you do not get the ground rush with skydiving. I also did a few pretty rough pack jobs and then had to jump them. They all opened fine, but I was nervous.
BASE jumping has it all though… Ground rush, a canopy that must be packed in a very specific manner and the very real possibility of death or serious injury. This is why I told myself it was going to be scarier than either bungy jumping or skydiving.
The difference with my journey to BASE jumping was in the preparation. I spent nine months reading everything I could about BASE jumping. I read five books that covered the basics of BASE jumping, the origins, the BASE fatality list, wind and weather required for jumping, real life journeys of BASE pioneers, fluid dynamics around objects and much more. When I was not reading, I practiced packing. I watched YouTube videos from Snake River Base Academy to teach myself how to pack. I also watched all the videos on their channel, which includes topics such as wind, body position, types of gear and exit techniques.
I watched all the videos posted by Sean Chuma and Chris “Douggs” McDougall. These two legends of the sport have a lot of knowledge to pass on and I wanted to learn it. I also got on to another website called Watch Thy Bridle. The author of this website offers detailed posts about everything BASE, with many scientific experiments to back up his opinions on gear and other equipment.
By the time I walked out on to the bridge, I had read five books, consumed 20+ hours of BASE videos, read 30+ BASE articles, completed 30+ pack jobs and jumped my BASE canopy out of a plane five times. Despite being so prepared, I still thought I was going to tremble as I gripped on to the rail. My heart rate remained elevated, but stable throughout the whole experience.
I call this the preparation-fear correlation. The more prepared you are for something, the less fearful it becomes. I had prepared for my first BASE jump so much, that when it came time, I just did what I had practiced over the last nine months. It was never scary, just amazing. And addictive.
Looking back on this, I have seen this correlation in other areas in my life. The stock market is something that is evil and terrifying to most, when in fact, it is just a tool to make money if you play it correctly. At 24 years old, I decided that I wanted to jump into the stock market. I opened an account and then spent the next two months researching everything I could about how to make sound investments and avoid speculation.
I learned the art of value investing by assessing a company’s financial statements instead of buying stock on a “gut feeling”. When I was done, I invested my hard-earned money into two different companies. That night, I laid my head on the pillow and slept like a baby. I have continued to invest thousands of dollars in the stock market and have never lost sleep over any trade. My trades have always been backed by logic and good investment practices, which completely removes the fear from the situation.
If you want to do something in life that scares you, my advice is to research it until your eyes fall out… then do it. This will eliminate the fear and turn it into an enjoyable experience. Whether it is buying your first house, trying a new activity or facing your biggest fear – take this advice onboard.
When have you experienced the preparation-fear correlation? Let me know in the comments below.
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Dave has been on a mission, since 2010, to cross off the 100 items on his bucket list. The stories of his adventures are complimented by life lessons learned along the way and his travel tips are unique to his experiences.