As far as I can tell, the vibe in skydiving has undeniably changed over the years. I’m not talking the epic influence of tunnels.. I’m not talking the gratuitous advancements in gear… I’m not even talking about the slow fade of “blue skies, black death” in favor of safety being paramount. Nope, not talking about any of that, even though it’s all true.
What I’m talking about is this:
Nice is now coolest. Nice now legitimately stands as coolest.
Back in the day, I for SURE remember being the young, bubbly, WAY excited new jumper, gratuitously happy every second I was on the drop zone or engaging skydiving in any form. Every single spirited smile was real. Ok fine, not much has changed. Hahaa.. I also remember the respective “cool” people of those days not being all that cool to me. Straight-up, they were NOT nice to me. Some made fun of me, others iced me out, and some even tried maliciously to undermine my very threatening potential by using their perceived higher position to plant seeds of negativity in my confidence, spirit, and vision.
Now, certainly as a new jumper our perception of things can be skewed, we can be overly sensitive and read things as the above when that’s really not what’s going on at all. That’s normal too. Now with the wisdom and experience through the years following, I can see clearly that that sh*t really did happen and really wasn’t cool. Similarly how on my fourth jump I literally hooked it in avoiding power lines (I crashed big time but luckily did not get hurt) landing in a postage stamp backyard after getting out miles past a safe spot because I had no clue what I was doing. Only with my wiser experienced eyes now can I look back on that and go, sh*t dawg… that happened, it was not cool, and thank God I made it through.
I made it through with my positivity not only prevailing, but also with all my success being built on it and my integrity with it.
I talk about all this not to paint myself as all cool, but because I want you to make it through with your positive spirit and loving nature in tact too.
Obviously, a**holes and skygods (in the bad way) still exist. I’d say their numbers are dwindling, but some are still out there. Given that, I’d like to address it from four different angles:
If you are reading this and on any level are noticing you’re that guy being a jerk to younger jumpers, anyone who’s not perceptibly “cool,” or just other people in general… check yourself before you wreck yourself. For real. I’m saying this for your benefit. That sh*t can never last and will never make you happy long-term unless you deny to yourself forever how uncool being that way actually is.
If you’re a young jumper and find yourself in the company of someone who still treats people this way, first, know it has nothing to do with you. The old adage, “how people act is about them, how you respond is about you,” is 100% true in this case. Even though it will be hard in the moment, try to remember that being an a**hole to anyone is not cool, and this person, no matter how cool they may seem, really isn’t getting what they’re after and will never prosper big-picture unless they start treating others with kindness and respect. Simply limit or end your contact with this person, turn your focus positively forward and trust that’s a great thing you’ve done for the sport and yourself.
If you’re the up-and-coming bada**, loving everything about becoming a bigger flying fish in your respective pond, or a bigger flying fish in the full pond of our sport, first, that is awesome. Really. Skydiving is epic and so is whatever path you feel fired up to take inside it. Why I write to you is to suggest you take a look at yourself JUST TO BE SURE you’re going the cool nice road vs. the other. Check yourself before you even get close to wrecking yourself as a version of #1.
If you and I have ever crossed paths in person or online, and if I have EVER come across to you as an a**hole or skygod, I’d like to sincerely apologize for that. Please know that contributing in ANY way to you feeling bad is absolutely never my intention. Rather my intention is always to support and add value. Not to coddle because that’s not optimal either, but please know every message is delivered with true care behind it.
At Carolyn’s wedding. #LOVEWINS!!!
One of my most awful stories of my career that I cringe every time it’s told is that mybest friend, Carolyn (yes, she’s my best friend now), actually thought I was an a**hole the first 20 minutes she knew me. And I didn’t even know it. Simply put, it was a basic misunderstanding of my enthusiasm on a new sponsorship I was genuinely so happy to have just received that day (a definite milestone in my career)… and ultimately also became an essential lesson for me to recognize and respect the power we all have to create an “emotional wake” with everyone we touch. With that lesson I committed to always make my own fierce effort to effect a positive, loving, and inclusive emotional impact on those who enter or exist in my circle. Tough love counts, but always love… always leaving people better than I found them, and that includes every single one of you.
Ultimately, that experience with the jerks from back in the day could have really changed my trajectory in the sport and the positivity in my approach had I let it, and that would have been the un-coolest thing of all. If you get anything from this column, know that being awesome and nice yourself, no matter WHAT other people say or how situations seem.., know that is the road to real success, in our sport and in life. Align with these kinds of friends, work with these kinds of coaches, and choose calm healthy boundaries with the rest. NICE. No, actually… so f*cking cool. Tizzle 2.0, out.