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Jumping out of Helicopters

“30 seconds!”20120927_105639

The Jump Master’s yells, his voice muffled under the pulsating blades of the helicopter just feet above my head.

This is a preparatory command – it means we’re about to jump.

The helicopter finishes turning, straightens its flight path, and stabilizes as it flies over 60mph through the air.

“30 seconds!” we echo.  Two other paratroopers sit to my left on the edge of the Blackhawk helicopter, helmets strapped on tight, hands grasping the reserve parachutes on their chests.  Our legs dangle over the edge.

My body is shaking.

Of course, in the air, 30 seconds doesn’t feel like 30 seconds.  It feels like 5.  Before I have time to think, the Jump Master slaps the top of my helmet and yells “go!”

I grip the metal floor of the helicopter and pull myself to the edge.  I look out over hundreds of miles of terrain toward the horizon.  For a split second, I look down at my legs – there’s nothing underneath them, save for the ground 1,500 feet below.

What I’m about to do does not make sense.

It is unnatural.

It is terrifying.

But it’s what I have to do.

I push myself up and out.  The second it takes to exit the aircraft feels like eternity.

My body falls to the earth.

My gut sucks up into my chest.

I watch the world race toward me.  I want to close my eyes but I can’t – if my chute tangles, I only have a few seconds to fix it or pull the reserve before I hit the ground.

A moment later my body is jerked backward as the static line hits length and my chute deploys.

No tangles.  I’m good.

I float in the air for a moment and finally my heart stops racing.  For the first time since I boarded the helicopter 15 minutes earlier, I can relax.

And believe it or not, I actually enjoy the descent.

*   *   *

It’s the morning of December 31, 2013.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Serpong, Indonesia (just outside of Jakarta).  Courtney is teaching yoga in the studio two floors above me (I’m not skipping practice, I promise – I take class in the evening).

As I sip on an iced Americano (only 25,000 Rupiah!), I reflect on the past year and the new one to come:

What will 2014 bring?

What will I do with my time?

What will I create?

But most of all, I wonder, when I look back this time next year (the end of 2014, beginning of 2015), will I be proud of what I’ve done, will I have let my hands go, will I have given 100%…

Or…

Or will I regret the opportunities not taken because I was too scared, will I have kept my hands too tight for fear of the counter-punch, will I have given less than I’m capable?

*   *   *

If you’re scared of heights, sitting on the side of a Blackhawk helicopter as it takes a turn at full speed is the second most upsetting experience in the world.

The first is jumping out of one.

Trust me, I know – I’m scared of heights and I’ve done it more than once.

As we enter 2014, each of us will be presented with a thousand new opportunities and a thousand new choices.

How will you spend your time?  What will you create?  Who will you impact?

Many (if not all) of the most important choices we have to make this year will feel uncomfortable.  They’ll feel unnatural.  They may even terrify us.

But here’s the thing: whether you like it or not, you’re already sitting on the edge of a Blackhawk moving full speed to the drop zone.

By the nature of you being alive in this moment, ready to welcome a new year, you’ve been given the preparatory-command: 30 seconds.

Your body might shake at the prospect, but in a split second, you’re going to have to push yourself out of the helicopter, under your own volition.  No one can make the jump for you.  There are no substitutes in an airborne operation – and no substitutes in our own lives for the important choices we need to make.

So if I can leave you with just one thought for 2014 and all the choices you’ll have to make this year it’s this:

Take the jump.

It may be uncomfortable, unnatural and terrifying, but who knows – when the initial shock wears off, you might actually enjoy the descent.

Started in a Starbucks in Serpong, Indonesia.  Finished and shipped in our 20 square foot kost down the road.

Total writing time: 5 hours

p.s. I’m getting ready to ship the first publication out of my boutique publishing company, Insurgent Publishing.  It’s a business and arts journal called The Creative Entrepreneur.  If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, artist or writer, I encourage you to subscribe.  It’s donation based starting at only $1 per issue ($2 / year – less than a Starbucks coffee), and a portion of the proceeds go to Kiva.org to help fund entrepreneurs in developing countries.  Check it out.

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