“True courage is being afraid and going ahead
and doing your job anyhow.”
~General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Commander, Operation Desert Storm
Standing on the ledge of a pressurized 6-foot diameter capsule suspended by a 55-story ultra-thin helium balloon with only a space suit on, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner is about to freefall 128,100 feet or more than 23 miles high to earth. What must that feel like? Seeing the extraordinary vastness and beauty of the world surrounded by black space that so few people have seen. Felix said of that moment: “you become so humble, you do not think about breaking records anymore, you do not think about gaining scientific data, the only thing that you want is to come back alive.” And that he did! On Oct. 14 from Roswell, New Mexico, 43-year-old Felix Baumgartner in a heart-pounding leap to earth became the first person, without an aircraft, to break the sound barrier at 834 miles (Mach 1.24) per hour.
Felix also broke two other records: the highest manned-balloon flight and the first man to jump from the highest altitude. The one record he didn’t break was former U.S. Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger’s 4 minute and 36 second longest freefall jump from space set 52 years ago. Joe, now 84, was Felix’s mentor and primary point of radio contact throughout the mission.
Lessons exist in Felix’s amazing feat and can be used by anyone considering a courageous act of any kind.
1. Think Big and Have a Passion – Felix Baumgartner has always loved a challenge. He began skydiving when he was 16-years-old and by the 1990’s, he felt he went as far as he could with conventional skydiving so he expanded his skills. He began BASE jumping or parachuting from a fixed object or landform. Combined with years of honing his technique and a passion for expanding boundaries, especially in the air, Felix went on to make numerous world-record BASE jumps. In 2007, he jumped from the Taipei 101 Tower in Taiwan, the world’s tallest building at 1,669 feet.
Thinking big requires a strong belief in one’s potential and to have a passion for something surely helps with the motivation and endurance that’s needed to accomplish great things. Felix gave his best at what he loves with unshakable determination and met an epic goal. Not only did he make history but he fulfilled his dream and destiny.
2. Create a Support Team – Felix’s 100-strong support team included record-breaking aviators, innovative aircraft designers, the world’s leading experts in engineering, medicine and science, and a former NASA crew surgeon. Felix also had the support of his family and friends throughout his career and who were emotionally standing by the day of the mission. Lastly, Red Bull was the primary sponsor and provided financing for the mission. All worked together to help Felix succeed, mentally and physically.
Why is a support team so important to reach a goal? Might be an obvious answer for Felix’s endeavor, however for any goal it’s important to be surrounded by people who believe in you because it helps with the stamina needed for success. Being part of a team helps us persevere, stay motivated and move past our fears.
3. Prepare and Endure the Risks – For seven years, Felix had been preparing for the goal of a lifetime. From laying the groundwork with Red Bull to “expand the boundaries of human flight” to the creation of the space suit to the unmanned and manned test flights, the mission was strategically and carefully planned. Along with this preparation, Felix had to endure the risks such as going into a dangerous “horizontal spin” where he could lose consciousness. He did spin at one point during his fall but was able to come out of it to the relief of millions watching. Other risks included temperatures, wind shear, decompression sickness, landing impact, oxygen starvation, fire aboard the capsule and above all, a breach in the suit or capsule and accidental deployment of the parachute. None of it happened.
Planning and enduring risks are inherent in the quest for greatness. Without these two things, we would not be able to keep the momentum towards an accomplishment. As Chuck Yeager, retired major general in the U.S. Air Force and noted test pilot, said, “You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.” These words are fitting since, coincidentally, 65 years ago to the day of Felix’s jump, Chuck Yeager became the first person to officially break the sound barrier in a jet.
4. Conquer Your Fears – No doubt that this was an extremely dangerous mission but Felix also had to deal with his claustrophobia which almost prevented him from carrying out the mission. He felt claustrophobic in the space suit, designed to protect him from embolism, the largest medical threat. He was worried about the more than two hour ascent to 120,000 ft. and how he would cope. Only after he received help from Michael Gervais, a psychologist whose specialty is extreme sports, recommended by sponsor Red Bull, did he overcome his phobia.
Looking past our worries, concerns, and phobias toward something bigger than ourselves is key to overcoming fear. When we focus on the bigger picture, the end result and how it will impact our lives, others and even humanity as in Felix’s case, we get out of our own way. Felix wanted to not only become the first man to break the sound barrier without an aircraft but also knew he was collecting data that would provide valuable medical and scientific research for future pioneers.
Felix Baumgartner’s freefall jump from space was exciting and so inspiring to watch one man and his team accomplish something so extraordinary.
Watch Felix’s amazing freefall space jump from his point of view!
For more information, visit www.redbullstratos.com.
What do you think of Felix Baumgartner’s courageous jump? What has been the most courageous thing that you have done in your life or are considering doing? Write to us by commenting below. We’d love to hear from you!
Sources: www.redbullstratos.com, www.space.com, www.nytimes.com, www.cnn.com
Photo credit: www.foxnews.com
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