I had another ‘Facebook flashback’ recently. There was a picture of me, jumping out of a fully functioning plane, for recreational purposes. And my wife was the one who actually made me do it.
Skydiving was always on the top of my list – but I just never pulled the trigger on it. Wasn’t afraid to, just never did. My wife Kelly, of course, was vehemently opposed to this happening until she met Tom Baxter, President of Capital City Aviation. Tom was a friend that I had met in my early days of business ownership at several local networking opportunities. Tom eventually talked my wife into letting me jump out of a plane for my birthday. Unfortunately, my birthday is in late October, so I wasn’t able to schedule my jump until the spring. Little did either of us know – Kelly would be pregnant by the time spring came around.
She told me that she still wanted me to go, but didn’t want to know when I was going to jump. So I scheduled my time with Tom, told her I was going golfing with some friends and did it. It was one of the most freeing moments in all of my life. In the time from sitting on the side of the plane at 12,000 feet and then was face down, plummeting towards the ground at 120mph I realized the difference in me landing and being able to call Kelly to tell her I did it and well, not being able to call Kelly that I did it, wasn’t in my control at all.
Thinking back on that day, a lot of my philosophies about business have changed based on that day. The drive to the airport, learning about the safety rules, the anticipation and nervousness of getting in the plane and finally looking out the door of the plane, hoping that the guy that was strapped tightly to my back was indeed strapped tightly and going to make sure I landed on my feet.
I guess I could have been scared to jump out. I suppose I was a little. But what would have been the point in being there in the first place if I was just going to be scared? So I let fear in a little bit, then I let it go. I trusted the my jumping partner knew what he was doing, the parachute was going to do its job if something went wrong and that in the end, all was going to be good.
It’s OK to be scared when jumping into unfamiliar territory. Whether it’s just getting your business started, hiring your first employee or signing your first client. It’s all scary. But scary good. At some point, you need to recognize that things are either going to work out, or they aren’t. But being scared or fearful will cloud your enjoyment of the successes and mask the issues of your failures. Go into every new business venture with your full attention and appreciation of the process.
Statistically, deaths from skydiving aren’t common. In 2015, there were .0061 deaths per 1000 jumps. (21 deaths over 3.5 million jumps.) Of course, when you’re looking down from 12,000 feet and a dude strapped to your back, you aren’t thinking of the statistics of it, you’re either going to jump and face what happens next, or not jump and take that awkward ride back down with the pilot.
As a small business owner, statistics aren’t always in your favor. I recently wrote about surpassing my 7th year in business, which is definitely beating the odds. But I didn’t fear failure based on any statistics about other businesses that failed. I had the feeling that I had a business plan that was going to achieve success. It was going to take hard work, a lot of planning and a lot of small failures along the way to sit here today and call it a good idea. I sat at the dinner table with my wife, said this is what I’m going to do and here’s how I’m going to do it. She jumped with me and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
When you’re free falling at 120mph, you don’t have a ton of time to think about the what-ifs, but you do have a little time to think about it. What if the guy on my back forgets to pull the cord? What if the automated backup parachute fails? What if the clips holding us together fail and I come untethered? Scary stuff. But then the parachute breaks open, your stomach and the rest of your insides get shot down to your toes and you start sailing at a much more comfortable pace towards the ground/safety.
I didn’t really have any of those inner monologue thoughts while falling. However, I did think of some bigger-than-me type thoughts on the way to the airport that morning and during the plane ride up to jumping altitude. Things like, “Did I leave my mark on this world?” or in my case “Why am I jumping out of a plane when I have a baby on the way?”
I try not to live by the cliché “live each day as if it were your last.” Because who in their right mind would sit at their desk and write checks to the IRS or convert a site to HTTPS if it was going to be their last day on this Earth? But I do try to leave my stamp on each day. Try to make someone’s life a little brighter, a little better or do something that someone would be proud of me for doing. I’m constantly working to improve my business to not only help my family, but all of my clients’ families. If I can do well for them, they can do well for their families and their employee’s families, and so on. I don’t classify website design as “the Lord’s work” – but if I can help other businesses grow while growing my own, I think I can sleep at night knowing I’ve done some good.
So the next time you jump out of a real or proverbial plane, do all the preparation you can, savor the moment and do your best to land on your feet.