You Don't Risk Enough to Be Happy

At 13,000 feet the door opened.

Wind rushed the cabin, green lights lit up -- it was time to go.

First went the long-haired, ear-pierced wild man, lunging out of the plane like a giddy dog going for a run. The second was the man in black, a fully slick-suited twenty-something with a passion for adrenaline -- only just returning to the sport after breaking his spine in 5 places last year. Third out was a man in his eighties, in fact the 50th person to ever be certified to dive -- and he was still well at it.

Before I knew it my girlfriend was leaping into the sky, hurling herself at the earth. The scariest sight I've ever seen. The cabin was empty and it was my turn, standing outside of the cabin, looking straight down at a 13,000 foot drop.

"What the fuck am I doing?!"

Kept recurring in my head. But I wasn't going to turn back, I had wanted this my entire life.

I love the adrenaline, you see. It's what keeps me sane, it's what reminds me how truly alive I am. That my heart is not meant to be sitting in one spot, or slaving at some material desire -- but to be pounding in joyous anxiety. Even when terrified of the possibilities; a parachute not opening -- or worse -- opening and being caught on something -- I still wanted it more than anything.

The first few seconds are forgettable.

Not because they aren't exciting, but because they're so exhilarating that it is hard to even contemplate. Your body is running off of pure survival instinct at this point. You're not consciously acting, but in an unconscious state of reaction. What most sports refer to as a "flow" -- the feeling you only get when you are so in-a-trance that you're not actually thinking, but merely doing -- you become inebriated in the spirit of the sport.

The drogue chute opens, we level out. Arms out, head back, back bent, wind sweeping, looking out. I can see the ocean, I can see well over 12 miles, I can see cities, clouds, houses, farms, businesses, people, cars, planes, hangars, everything. I'm free falling at a pace that I've only achieved a few times, and had never felt such adrenaline. Falling, and understanding that I am at the mercy of the elements now. There is no "turning back" there is no other shot, there is this and I have relinquished all reason to reach an unbridled point of abandon.

Inertia is acting on me like never before. An overwhelming height of serotonin hits. "FUCK YEAH!" -- this is it. I have no other words. I literally have no space in my mind for negativity, for thoughts of material, for thoughts of ambition, for prestige, for angst, for anxiety -- I'm free.

The chute opens in a surge of lift and security. Like the warm embrace of a mother's hug after a long and hard journey. I had the experience and I'm still alive. I look up, the chute in a perfect canopy and yell, "where's Skye?!" Looking around for a minute I see a chute slightly below with a glowing blonde harnessed in, "she's safe!" My heart is overflowing, all worry that I had has been completely thrown aside, everything is fine.

Now the scare of the chute not opening is outweighed by the rush of the fall. Grabbing the steering toggles we start guiding in towards our landing zone, spinning, yelling, screaming, taking it all in. Feeling the rush of serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, clarity, focus, all induced simultaneously like a shot of some miraculous drug.

The jump was heaven, the preliminary fear was hell. It was only when my body hurled out of that plane that I fell into a state of happiness. Floating, free, relinquished of any doubt, any hesitation, I was there, and it was too late to turn back, too late to second guess, I'm in for the long haul, and it's exactly where I wanted to be.

"I started skydiving because I loved the idea of freedom." -- Felix Baumgartner

We push back the fear of jumping like we are fighting demons at the gates of hell. When really jumping is the only thing we need to do. Taking that leap will separate you from the fear you've had and polarize your vision, showing you the steps you need to take towards your own success.

We don't have enough risk today.

We used to be tested constantly. We used to be chased by lions in the wild, or threatened by nature every day. We have grown insensitive to risk, and its positive effect on our own psyche. It shows us that we are strong, that we have less to fear than we really know. Only through trumping our fear can we truly learn, and grow. That through defeating our fear, we evolve. When we are able to set aside anxiety, react instinctually, overcome obstacles and emerge victorious, we are at our best. We are happiest in that moment, because we've achieved something, something great, something special.

The risk may be small, it may be stepping on a snowboard for your first time. Driving a motorcycle for the first time. Or it could be throwing yourself to the wind, and taking a leap from 10,000 feet.

Nothing truly brilliant comes from meager output, nothing worth doing is not met by some sort of equal resistance. The darkness polarizes the light, it takes trudging through the darkness and abandoning yourself to realize that the light is worth the fight.

I'm blessed to have experienced every risk I've ever taken, because each time I've overcome that risk, and I've grown exponentially -- you will too.

"The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel. It's a wonderful way to live. It's the only way to drive." -- James Hunt


The bliss of falling carries on long after you've landed.

What will be your fall, your risk, your defining moment? What will you learn, create, or do? What is holding you back? Is it not worth fighting through?

How will you fight, and strive, and win?

It starts when you decide. So start, risk, battle, overcome, grow. Only you can initiate it.

You have the strength, you need only realize it -- and to take that leap.

Sean Smith is an adrenaline junkie and consultant for hire. This post first appeared on Medium.