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skydiving

I Almost Died Skydiving in Australia

This post originally appeared in our Startup Growth Newsletter.

My junior year of college I studied abroad. For spring break, I joined a group of young people on a tour up the coast of Australia, culminating in Cairns — home to the Great Barrier Reef.

I don’t know how the idea came about, but the group decided it would be fun to skydive. While this sounded insane to me, after some heavy peer pressure, I agreed. First we needed to register (literally sign our lives away) at a little office and then take a bus to the airfield. There were so many spring breakers, however, that they had to make these trips in shifts. And so for hours I sat in this little office, preparing to die.

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, the bus arrived. As we drove to the airfield, I was nervous. I tried to calm myself by listening to the radio, which was playing Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust.” You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought!

Just then, one of the professionals informed us that their usual plane only held five jumpers. There were six of us, so someone would need to jump in the backup plane. While you never want to hear the phrase “backup plane,” I looked at the five young women with me and raised my hand.

“I’ll go,” I proclaimed like I was Ben Affleck in Armageddon.

I felt very chivalrous in my decision until we arrived at the airfield and they showed us the beautiful, modern plane the five girls would be jumping out of.

If this had been a Pixar movie, my plane would have been the senile, toothless, pill-popping grandmother.

“Just be careful when we jump! Don’t want to get caught in the propeller!” said a new man, Shane — the person I was entrusting with my life.

I attached myself to Shane and we boarded our death trap. As we took off down the runway, I began to psych myself up. Here we go, Coughlin! No turning back now!

Oh, how wrong I was.

After we got a few thousand feet in the air, one of the gauges on the plane malfunctioned and the pilot didn’t feel comfortable flying. So we landed.

It was at this moment, dear reader, that I should have given up. But I was young and dumb. So when Shane said, “Don’t worry, mate. Once the other plane comes back, we’ll go again,” I agreed.

As we sat there, killing time, Shane opened up about his recent divorce and the child’s birthday party he would not be allowed to attend the next week.

This man doesn’t care if he lives or dies, I thought to myself.

Yet, stupidly, I carried on. Eventually, the plane came, we boarded, and we jumped. We jumped out over the Great Barrier Reef and the Tully River. I hear it is a beautiful view, though I do not know. My eyes were closed the entire time, and I screamed like a baby in need of a diaper change.

But when my feet touched back to Earth, I had never loved anything more and wondered how I could have taken such beautiful, amazing things like the ground and gravity for granted all of the years of my life.

The experience taught me how pushing yourself and becoming uncomfortable can change your perspective on life. It taught me the benefits of stepping out of my comfort zone, which every entrepreneur needs to do. This isn’t always easy, but it is always valuable.

I suggest you take the leap as well. Just make sure the parachute opens.

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