It honestly was never really a “bucket-list item” for me; skydiving. Don’t get me wrong, if the opportunity presented itself, I am game, but it was never an item that I felt I just had to do before I died. Well, the opportunity did present itself on a recent family trip to Hawaii. My daughter, my oldest, recently flew the coop for South America, and it was our last big family trip before she left. For months before she left she begged me to go. My hesitation was not in the dive itself, but in taking time away from the entire family where it would only be her and I jumping. Finally, I told her to book the reservation.
Leading up to the day of the event was not stressful to me. Perhaps I am strange. Maybe I should have been more apprehensive, but I had no more anxiety about this than I have about riding a big roller coaster or spelunking in a cave. I am not a very emotional person by nature. I tend to look at everything through the lens of logic and statistically, I had a better chance of dying in the car on the drive to the airfield than I did in jumping out of the plane.
The event took several hours from start to finish. From watching a training video (with plenty of warnings that “you could die”) to signing my life away on multiple legal documents, to waiting our turn on the plane. We sat and watched a half dozen groups jump before it was our turn. The most surprising thing to me was how fast they were coming in only to slow down completely just a few feet from the ground to a soft landing.
Finally, it was our turn. We met our tandem partner and got some final instructions. At last, it was our turn to board the plane. Frankly, if there should have been any scary part, it was the antique plane we rode up in. Wow! I rode in the copilot seat “to balance things out.” I think that was their way of saying, “Hey, fat dude, sit up front so we don’t tip.” At last, we were at 12,000 feet (much higher up than I had imagined). The door came open and people started to exit the airplane. I took my seat in the back, got strapped onto my partner, and off we went.
Other than an initial stomach drop, there was really no feeling like I was falling. The most surprising part of the whole jump (don’t ask me why I didn’t think about this before), was the noise from the air as it rushed past me. I mean, it was loud!
After what seemed like 20-30 seconds, the chute deployed, I was jerked to a slow fall, and everything was peaceful (other than the weight of my body on the straps – that was not very comfortable). Minutes later we were on the ground, alive.
Overall, the experience was a good one. Maybe it should have been a bucket-list item because I am glad I did it. I am now able to relate when someone talks about sky-diving. Would I ever do it again? I don’t think I will ever seek it out (just wasn’t the thrill I thought it might be), but I would probably do it again if the opportunity arose.
In hindsight, there is one, very stark lesson that sticks out from the whole experience. It is not the fall, the fear of death, or anything you might associate with the act of willfully exiting a perfectly good (well, relatively so) airplane. It is the fact that I met the man who would be responsible for my life literally minutes before he strapped himself to me and we dove from 12,000 feet up. I knew next to nothing about this man. I did not know his last name, where he was from, or how experienced he was at this. I did not know if he was the best or the worst tandem dude there. I was putting complete and total trust in an absolute stranger.
Then, I started to think about it; we do that daily with many people. If you ever fly, you are putting complete trust in a pilot whom you will likely never even see. We trust our co-drivers on the road. We trust our doctors, our bus drivers, and the engineers who build the structures we call home and work.
Finally, the relationship to being a business owner in the appraisal profession. Yeah, I know; is he really going to compare sky-diving to running an appraisal business? Yes. Yes, I am. First of all, jumping from a plane was not my idea, but there I was. Most of us did not make a conscious choice as a young child to be an appraiser when we grew up. Yet, here we are. Secondly, though dropping from 12,000 feet did not particularly scare me, maybe it should have. I have been up plenty of sleepless nights wondering how I was going to make payroll, fire that family friend that is just not cutting it as an appraiser, or wondering if the state was going to throw the book at me when that disgruntled home owner turned me in. Finally, and most importantly, trust. I had to trust the science of the parachute, the packer, and the man I was strapped to. My very life depended upon it. As appraisers, we have to trust the data we are given, the science behind valuation, and many players who we work with.
Being a business owner is a whirlwind. Though our day to day may not feel like a drop from the sky, some days do. Love what you do. Do what you love, and enjoy the ride!