Progress is Made by Action in Spite of Fear

In case you missed it last weekend, Felix Baumgartner just did some pretty crazy stuff.

After more than 5 years of intense training, design, practice runs, and testing with the Red Bull Stratos team, Felix jumped from a balloon that carried him to more than 24 miles above the Earth (roughly 127,000 feet), falling for over 4 minutes before finally deploying his parachute. He is also the first human being to break the sound barrier outside of a powered vehicle.

Here’s a short video clip of some of the highlights:

Fear and Human Achievement

Undoubtedly, it takes a level of immunity to fear to be able to achieve something of this magnitude, but one can never completely eliminate fear.

Have you ever bungee jumped or sky dived? Were you terrified, at least the first time?

Imagine being stuck in a capsule no larger than your shower, attached to the world’s largest helium balloon, and ascending to 24 miles off the ground, completely alone.

There are a few safety measures on your side, but for all intents and purposes, you’re expected to get out of your comfy capsule, look around at the curvature of the Earth beyond, and jump off the ledge.

Pushing Through

Felix had ample opportunity to back out of the project, to say it was too dangerous, to delay the launch, to use any one of the number of safety measures at his disposal when things went wrong.

He chose to do none of that, even with the great danger involved. As he nearly spun into unconsciousness in the stratosphere last weekend, instead of deploying his drag chute to stabilize himself, he kept his eye on the goal of going faster than sound and found a way to control the spin.

At his most difficult and challenging hour, this man stepped up to the plate in every way.

In Our Own Small Ways

We should all be like Felix. Obviously, we can’t all aspire to jump from 24 miles. But at our own level, and the peak of our own achievement, we can push to excel.

These are the important lessons from Felix’s achievement:

  1. Fear is a natural response to challenges. It’s not an indication that you should quit. Rather, it’s a signal that you’re probably on the right path to doing something amazing.
  2. You have all the opportunity in the world to quit. It’s your ability to persevere that ultimately determines if you make it or not.
  3. You need a good team. It’s not that you can’t do it on your own (since ultimately, you need the courage to step up yourself), but you need a support team behind you who believes in your cause.
  4. Good things take time. It took Felix more than 5 years to achieve his goal of supersonic free fall, but all of the effort and desire paid off in the end.
  5. Patience is a virtue. The launch of the helium balloon required optimal weather conditions, something that took weeks to get right and many failed launches.
  6. Your darkest hour is your greatest strength. Just when it seems that everything is about to go horribly wrong, the ultimate effort is what pushes you through to the win.
  7. Progress is made by action in spite of fear. To get ahead, you need to take the next step, even when it seems scary to do so.

What are you working on lately that makes you scared?