Note From Laur: This is a guest post by the ridiculously cool, naturally uplifting, and positively inspiring Collin Vine of The Trailblazing Life.
“We’re running out of time! You have to jump NOW!”
She wouldn’t move. She stood there, flying 5000 feet above ground, her legs parted and slightly bent and her palms pressed hard against each side of the open door frame while her elbows were locked straight, ensuring that the slight nudges from the instructor behind weren’t forceful enough to cause a premature jump. She was rigid from head to toe, looking like a cat resisting being dropped into a bucket of water. What had seemed like a good idea before – throw myself out of a perfectly good plane – didn’t seem so great anymore.
The choice was hers: jump or slowly back away and concede defeat, letting her fear get the best of her.
We had spent the last 6 hours of this warm and sunny spring day learning all about the technique of skydiving. We watched videos and read text about the basics of exiting; we practiced arcing our bodies in a backwards C with arms and legs fully extended; we familiarized ourselves with the different parachute cords; and we learned what to do if one of our parachutes didn’t deploy.
This wasn’t an ordinary strap-yourself-to-a-guys-back-and-give-him-all-the-control skydiving session.
No, my 19-yr old self couldn’t get over the idea of having that much fun while strapped to another dude. Instead, I opted for the do-it-myself approach. I have a motto in life: if I have the choice to do something with someone strapped to my back or do it alone, I always choose the latter. But that’s just me….
After 6-hrs of training, it was finally time for the big jump.
The plane could accommodate two people per trip and out of our 6-person class, birthday celebrators got first dibs. The lady, 31-yrs my senior on her 50th birthday, enthusiastically asked if she could be the test-dummy and jump first. Normally I jump at the opportunity to be the human lab rat. Heck, I even volunteered to test the make-shift Ecuadorian bungee jumping system our guide rigged up (unlike most bungee jumping platforms that are engineered and permanently established, this was engineered on-the-spot with stuff from our guides backpack. When he triple knotted the bungee cord he had just pulled from his bag to the handrail, I knew it was going to be safe.). I get off on that shit.
But today I could tell this lady wasn’t about getting off on stupid intelligently-evaluated risks. Her motives stemmed a lot deeper than mine.
I don’t know exactly what was going through her head, but I imagine it was something like “You think I’m washed up and over the hill just ‘cause I’m 50?! Oh yah! I’ll show you, dammit. I’m not scared. I’m still as strong/capable/fearless/crazy/exciting/sexy/powerful as I used to be. I can do anything that I used to do – even more! What? You don’t believe me?! Fine, watch me jump from a plane – by myself! I’ll show you, you SOB’s.” I’m pretty accurate with judging people’s internal dialogues so I think this was right on the mark.
“You need to go NOW! Get out of the plane!” The instructor nudged her a little harder this time.
It was the moment of truth: prove to herself that at 50-yrs old she was more courageous than she’s ever been before or back down, forever feeling weak and incapable. The choice was hers…
Actually, the choice wasn’t hers.
We had almost cleared the jumping “safe zone” (the area above ground from which it’s safe to jump) which caused the instructor to become more irritated with her jumping resistance. His gentle coaxing turned into forceful nudging. It was now or never, jump or concede defeat.
She wouldn’t move, her body had been paralyzed by fear and no matter how much her mind wanted to prove to herself she could do it, her body wouldn’t let her.
The instructor, frustrated and anxious, took matters into his own hands. He extended both arms above his head and grasped a 2” diameter support beam that spanned the width of the plane. He pulled himself off the ground, tucked both his knees towards his stomach, pointed his toes towards the ceiling, and, with a forceful extension of his legs, kicked her square in the ass.
She flew from the open door (in perfect backwards C arc position, mind you) hurtling towards the ground 5000 feet below.
My mouth dropped. Did he just kick her out of the plane? Yes. Yes he did.
Will You Kick Yourself In The Ass?
Life is full of these moments. We come face to face with our fears and are forced to act or back down. Some people welcome the fear; some are paralyzed by it.
The 50-yr old lady was paralyzed by it. Luckily, she had someone to kick her out of her paralyzing state of mind. Was that the best way to deal with the situation? Hell no. But did she have a smile from ear-to-ear and say that was one of the best experiences of her life? You know it.
Too often in life we’re concerned about unpredictable future outcomes. It’s unpredictable how that girl/guy that we have an interest in will react if we approach them. It’s unpredictable whether you’re business idea will succeed or fail. It’s unpredictable whether this post will be liked or dreaded. But are you going to let unpredictability stop you from finding out what could happen? Are you going to back away from the open door? Or will you jump?
The lady in the plane was fortunate to have someone give her a kick in the ass. But most of the time someone’s not there to do the kicking. So the question is: when faced with life’s tough choices, are you going to back down and live a mediocre life or are you Mad enough to do it yourself?
About The Author: Collin Vine is a world-traveling, business-starting, naturally-motivating guy from Canada who writes about how to get lost and found on the path to independence at his blog The Trailblazing Life. You can also catch him on Twitter to exchange hilarious stories at @CollinVine.