Five lessons from skydiving. They apply to the rest of life too.

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A couple of weeks ago I took an instructor’s course for skydiving and now I officially have a Coach Rating. That rating allows me to teach some ground school and also jump with student skydivers who have been cleared for solo jumps but aren’t yet licensed skydivers.

For part of my training, I had to observe other instructors as they taught a first jump course to new students. Sitting in on the beginning class was good because I could brush up on of lots of basic skydiving techniques and procedures.

But the first class and the coaching instruction also reminded me of what it was like to be a brand new skydiver and what I’ve learned from the sport. As it turns out the lessons apply to the rest of life and not just skydiving.

 

1) Overwhelming? Sure it is, but that’s normal.

As I sat in class with new students, it brought back memories of how overwhelming it feels to learn something new, especially when the stakes are high. Everything we were learning was from the perspective of, “I better learn this so I don’t die.”

Gradually over time the overwhelming aspects of the sport started to go away. That didn’t happen all at once but it’s a natural part of learning something new.

 

What happens to all the new students?

The manager at the skydiving school said very few people complete the entire seven jump course that would allow them to solo. He thought some people just wanted to jump one time as part of their “bucket list.”

But I have a feeling many people aren’t willing to deal with being overwhelmed and scared. I believe if they had stuck it out for a few more jumps, they would start to enjoy the process and begin to see their progress.

Instead they just gave up because it was overwhelming. That happens too often, not only in skydiving but in other areas of life. We start with lots of enthusiasm but when our learning is painfully slow, we give up. That’s too bad because we end up losing so much potential by quitting before we ever get started.

 

2) Passion is better.

I’ve never met anyone in skydiving who didn’t want to be there. You never hear anyone say, “I hate being a skydiving instructor but it was the only job I could get. Maybe something better will come along.”

It’s really not that kind of sport. At a bar-b-que you can get talked into playing a sport like softball or volleyball even though you don’t want to. But that’s not skydiving.

The people involved in skydiving are passionate about being there. That doesn’t mean they’re constantly jumping around screaming about how excited they are. But they’re focused on every aspect of the sport. The equipment, the weather, techniques, goals, what they’re learning. At the airport, they’re either skydiving or talking about skydiving.

That’s a great environment to be in. Doesn’t matter if it’s chess, computers, or collecting commorative shot glasses. It’s better to be around people who are passionate about what they’re doing.

 

3) Learn more by teaching.

Want to learn a skill at an even deeper level? Then teach it to someone else. In the Coach training, we had to give classroom presentations about different parts of skydiving such as emergency procedures, certain landing techniques, and the functions of the parachute and its components.

For example, when I had to explain every part of a piece of equipment to the class, that required me to go back to basics, question my own understanding, and then clarify in my own mind exactly how the equipment worked.

I couldn’t just say, “Hey, jump out of the plane, pull on this handle and the parachute pops out!”

Even if you’re not going to teach others you can you this same philosophy to improve your own learning. Scott H. Young, who blogs about getting more out of life through better learning techniques, talks about this concept in one of his online courses.

 

4) Life is better with challenges.

It fun to relax and chill. Hang out with friends or go to a party. Laugh and tell jokes. But at some point if that’s all we do, life gets boring and routine. We need something more. Something to learn. Some goal to shoot for just because it’s difficult.

Maybe everyone doesn’t feel this way but you probably do or you wouldn’t have read this far. 🙂

 

5) Start.

Want to skydive? Then start. Want to do anything else in life? The same advice applies. Start.

It doesn’t matter how small the first step is. For skydiving, the first step could be as simple as looking for a local place that gives lessons. Then find out how much lessons cost or what days they have classes.

Then go watch other people. It’s free to just drive out to the skydiving location and watch other people jump. Ask questions when you get there.

Find someone wearing a parachute and tell them you’re thinking about learning how to skydive. I guarantee plenty of people will tell you about their own experiences and give you advice.

 

Summary

1) Recognize that new experiences can be overwhelming. Don’t let that make you quit before you even get started.

2) It’s a good sign if the people around you have passion for what you’re trying to learn.

3) Be a teacher and you’ll learn more.

4) Challenge yourself or you’ll end up with a boring life.

5) Start. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? What do you want to learn? Take some simple first steps and start. Who knows where it’ll lead?

 

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