In this world, I am deathly afraid of two things:
Carp (those ugly fish with lips)
Jumping Off Of Things
As I’ve previously mentioned on my blog, jumping off of things and the act of “letting go” scares the crap out of me.
Because of that, I recently decided to face it head on by jumping out of an airplane.
Although the fear was very evident, I have learned over my (relatively short) life that fear are often irrational stories that we create in our minds – they don’t exist in reality, and the only way to convince yourself of that is to experience them.
Therefore, for reasons deeper that I care to admit (but I will later in this post), I decided to jump out of an airplane.
It took some prodding from my friend Andrea… in fact, she booked the trip against my will…
Some of you know that a year and a half ago, I had panic attacks because of a very dark time in my life, but I haven’t had one in about a year. However, once we committed to face my biggest fear, I started to feel them coming on. In fact, I woke up in the middle of the night sweaty and scared at the very thought…
What is interesting is that I am NOT afraid of dying or falling… I am afraid of JUMPING.
Why is this? What is it about letting go that scares us so much?
As I write this, my body clenches at the very thought.
There is this sense of fear that grips us when faced with fears the unknown… fears that keep is stuck where we are… stuck in a safe place… because it’s “safe.”
I believe that this is why we are all risk averse – we link “pain” to the unknown, and “pleasure” to stick to what we know. Why else do we stay where we are, even when we know there is something better?
The idea of having faith is so scary to me… and I think to most people. I think when Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains, he was addressing this. It is amazing what happens when we take one step in faith into the unknown.
On a business note, if you are procrastinating in your work or have been stuck in the same place for a long time, it is ONLY because you have linked more PAIN to taking action and PLEASURE to doing nothing. I know I have found this to be true in my life too… and that is why I decided to take a giant “leap of faith.”
Some major changes are coming up in my life (business is growing, I’m pursuing a career in acting and comedy, and I am traveling more than ever), and I needed to remind myself that taking risks was a good thing.
Therefore, I wrote down all the times that I benefited from taking a risk. Included were starting my business, creating products (I was scared to death to do this), hiring my first employee, Tyler (who has made my life so much better and has become a good friend), and opening a restaurant (opened up amazing new opportunities).
So, I decided to practice “letting go” and having faith by jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.
After almost pooping my pants most of the day and being completely unable to eat for about 18 hours beforehand, I boarded the plane with Andrea and my instructor. Once I was in the plane, my brain went into preparation mode and the fear subsided somewhat…
Until the door of the plane opened.
“Hollllllyyyyyyyy craaaaapppppppp!!!” I yelled as the wind gushed into the airplane at 12,000 feet.
“MOVE RYAN!” Gerald, the instructor yelled at me.
I put one foot out side the airplane, and then the second. The wind was so cold from 12,000 feet that I started to shiver… but that was probably mostly out of fear.
I remembered why I was there… and I stood outside the plane.
My body tightened intensely, and I prepared for free fall. I immediately felt sick but accepted the moment as it was.
Gerald yelled, “SMILE AT THE CAMERA!” and I feigned a smile.
I closed my eyes and tucked my hands down into my harness, as instructed. Once again, I accepted the moment as it was, and the fear dissipated.
Together, we fell out of the airplane… and the next few seconds are a total blur.
I know that we fell, and I remember screaming, but the experience is so overwhelming the first time that the brain doesn’t even know what to do with it.
Once my brain adjusted, I enjoyed the free fall as an exhilarating experience… until all of my limbs fell asleep. That hurt… A LOT.
Gerald tells me that “the only time I wasn’t screaming was when I breathed in to keep screaming.” Ha!
Upon landing, I laughed until it hurt and experienced a sense of joy and freedom. What an exercise in letting go.
Had I NOT jumped, I would still be feeling afraid, still dreading the experience, and it would have reinforced the idea that taking risks was a bad thing.
But since I HAD jumped, I experienced an intense joy and greatly lessened this sense of fear. To me, it wasn’t just an adrenaline rush, it was a big step toward the goals that I have set for myself.
Just before my jump, I wrote this in my journal:
“Risks are what open doors and provide new opportunities. When I risk and I “fail”, I don’t really lose anything. The idea of having “faith” scares me, yet it is the one thing that is necessary for anything good to begin.
“What is most interesting is that the idea of a safety net is a total illusion. Money, safety, and walls prevent me from experiencing so much good when I use them as a shield. In fact, I think staying idle is the greatest potential for loss, and this has been proven over and over in my life.
“Every time I take a risk, some sort of change happens, even if it is just a new experience. There is pleasure in taking risks and pain in staying idle. If a risk doesn’t pay off, it is easy to return to the previous state. My financial safety net is more than capable of carrying me to wherever i want to go.”
In my life, the times that I have stayed idle and done NOTHING are the most painful of my life. The times that I am trying new things, even in the face of “loss” are the most rewarding.
After all, I have concluded that the idea of being “safe” is a total illusion. The darkest time of my life was when I had a ton of money in the bank, and I laid in bed at night worrying about what would happen if I lost it. How pathetic. Yet this is how most people live their entire lives. The idea of “letting go” of what is safe is the scariest thing in the world.
Reading “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle helped me put this into perspective and release this deep seeded fear – it helped me realize the illusion of safety, and what I “got” out of worrying about it. The brain attaches to things in order to keep us safe, but in doing so, we miss out on the present moment and never truly experiences happiness.
How freeing to finally release this.
The fear in taking risk is why we stay stuck in the places that we are. We attach fear of loss to change… we ask ourselves, “What if I lose this money? What if I lose this relationship? What will people think of me?”
To this, I have learned that even if ALL of that happens… WHO CARES.
Tim Ferriss makes the argument that if you take a risk and FAIL, how hard will it be to return to EXACTLY where you are now? Usually… it will take almost no effort at all.
Will you be the same person? Will your sense of self be threatened? Will you be physically hurt? And even if that happens… what about you has been threatened?
When your sense of self isn’t in the external, you become empowered to do anything.
And when you move out of your comfort zone, amazing things to happen.
So this year, I started taking massive risks and enjoying the process, even if I fail miserably. It’s been an unbelievably freeing experience, and tears fill my eyes as I even think about it.
I think that is what faith is all about. Once you step out in faith, doors just tend to open. New experiences show up. The right people come into your life. And when you look back, you think, “Why didn’t I do this earlier? I would have missed out on so much!”
But without that faith, without taking a risk, without letting go, you stay stuck in the same “safe” place.
What a joyous experience it is to let go of safety.