The most terrifying thing about jumping out of a plane alone is not being at 12,000 feet and realizing how high you are, it is reaching the last hundred feet under canopy and realizing how low you are. This is because when you jump alone, you are the only one who can land the parachute, there is no safety net or seat belt. You just have to figure it out and hope for the best.

Learning to Fly

This week I found out this rule of all or nothing is not limited to sky diving passengers, it is also true for pilots.

I woke up on Monday with a full schedule of bucket list related tasks. First on my list was to drive to Beverly Hills to a company called TravelVisaPro who claimed they could expedite the Brazilian Visa process. The normal process takes about 20 days but they assured me they could do it in 4 days. This is important because I plan on going to Carnival in Rio De Janeiro in the beginning of March but need my passport to leave for Buenos Aires, Argentina on February 16th. I met with a Russian named Eve and handed over my passport and credit card. That was the first leap of faith I made that day.

Next I drove over to Fullerton, California to meet with a man named Mike who worked as a pilot for American Airlines. He has a side business where he takes people out in his stunt plane and scares the crap out of them for about an hour. I first heard about this on a TV show called “Extreme Adrenaline Rushes” several years ago. At the time, I wrote down everything mentioned on the show and vowed to do them all. (This was one of my first versions of what became my bucket list.)

Mike and I immediately hit it off. He was interested in my bucket list and I was very interested in all of his travels. He gave me a quick run through of the plane and what it was capable of and I hopped in the front seat. The important things to know about bi-planes compared to normal single winged planes is that bi-planes can produce much more lift and tend to be much lighter. This is why they are great for doing stunts.

We took off and Mike immediately handed the controls over to me. He wasn’t kidding. It was my first time flying a plane and after we got over the Pacific, Mike immediately started to have me do stunts.

Before I show you the video, let me briefly explain the sensation of pulling Gs. A G is equal to the force of gravity on earth. So 2 Gs is equal to two times normal gravity.

We pulled 6 Gs. This means that while I normally weigh 175 lbs, in the stunts, I weighed 1050 lbs! (You can see this on my face in the video :-p)

I’ll let the video speak for itself:

Flying a Stunt Plane from on Vimeo.

After we landed, I felt exactly like how I feel after a CrossFit workout except that my muscles were not sore. Due to my body’s increased weight, my internal organs got the work out, not my muscles. It was bizarre.

I don’t know what it is with these aeronautic people but they are all about jumping in head first. I saw it when I was getting my sky diving license, and I saw it again with Mike. Whereas, normal people grow with iterations, these people grow by jumping all the way in.

“Danny, I am giving the controls to you.”

Growing is scary. If happiness is knowing that you will be happy in the next moment, growing is happinesses unlikely antithesis.

I learned a hell of a lot more about my body and the intricacies of flying in that one hour actually piloting the plane than I ever would have by studying the same topic from the ground. The trade-off for this quick growth was fear.

This same trade-off alludes to what makes happiness such a complicated emotion. Sometimes you must actively be unhappy (scared but growing) to become happy. In this way, happiness is not like mathematics, it is more like a language. It is full of subtleties and conflicting rules. There are not universal laws that clearly define how life shall be lived. Instead, there are broad rules that govern responses to situations.

I thought about this idea as I was driving home from the airport. What other happiness was I missing out on because I was not willing to feel the short term negative affects of pursing something bigger? Was there something I was stalling because I didn’t want to fight to overcome inertia? The answer of course is yes but that will be the topic for another post.

More importantly, what is holding you back? Is there a bucket list item that you have wanted to do (take a cooking class, go fishing, learn to dance, travel to Europe, etc…) that you have not yet done? If so, what is the next action you need complete to get this done?

“Reader, I am giving the controls to you”

P.S. TravelVisaPro came through and I got my Visa with time to spare. It was well worth the drive