By Elijah Medge, Los Angeles, November 2015
I finally did something that I’ve been terrified to do for years: I jumped out of a plane. I don’t have a fear of heights, and I’ve flown on hundreds of airplanes over the decades, but skydiving was a truly nerve wracking undertaking for me.
I recently celebrated the ten year anniversary of my first entrepreneurial attempts and found myself reminiscing about my early experiences. I was struck by the similarities to my first skydiving experience, and here’s why:
1. You assess your level of risk before taking the leap. Jumping out of a plane can be dangerous, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. But, skydiving with an experienced instructor is actually far less risky than driving your car to the office each day. This fact is easy to forget because skydiving is an unusual activity — and let’s be honest, free-falling from the sky does look a bit daunting. Entrepreneurship is no different. Many see the career choice as a risky endeavor, which it certainly can be; but it all depends on one’s perspective. In an economy in which massive layoffs, downsizing, and dead-end jobs are all too common, one could argue that it’s far less risky to choose to bet on yourself and go at it alone.
2. The scariest part is right before you jump. If you’ve never been skydiving, you might not know what it feels like to sit in a tiny plane with no cabin and listen to the plastic door flapping in rhythm with your frantically beating heart. In the moment, all you can think about is the worst case scenario. Launching your startup can be just as scary. Your fear only eases once you forget the ‘what-ifs’ and start taking action. Before you know it, you’re totally focused and in the zone.
3. As a rookie, your support team means life or death. There’s not a single chance that I would have safely landed with both feet on the ground had it not been for the skydiving instructor. When you’re free-falling at 120 miles per hour, there’s great peace of mind in having an experienced professional strapped to your back. As a rookie entrepreneur, I felt the same way. I attribute a great deal of my success to the mentors I’ve had over the years. They’ve taught me how to dig myself out of seemingly impossible challenges, and often how to avoid common entrepreneurial pitfalls altogether.
4. You have to overcome your fears in order to experience the exhilaration. No risk, no reward, right? Skydiving was initially one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, but it was also the most thrilling. Had I succumbed to my fears, I would have missed out on a life-changing experience. I feel the same way about my foray into entrepreneurship ten years ago. At the time, everything seemed scary: no guaranteed salary to fall back on, no cushy corporate benefits, and no one to rely upon but myself. But once I dismissed my doubts and fully committed myself to an entrepreneurial mission, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the exhilaration of controlling my own destiny was far greater than my trepidation.
Skydiving for me represented far more than crossing an item off of my bucket list. It taught me that I have the strength to overcome my biggest fears. As an entrepreneur, I call upon this confidence whenever I find myself in doubt.
Elijah Medge (Los Angeles, CA) owns and manages direct marketing firms throughout the United States. He is a coach and mentor to budding and experienced entrepreneurs in a variety of industries. Be sure to connect on Facebook and Tumblr.