Coping with Competition
Using competition butterflies to make your performance better, not worse...
I remember very well contemplating that void. I was in my early 20s, had been jumping for about 6 or 7 years, had around 600 jumps, mostly at the same 2- 3 small drop-zones in France, and I could only sit-fly and track a little. I was looking at the skydiving magazines and videos with stars in my eyes. I remember thinking I would never be that good. I remember wanting so badly to be part of that community of flyers, to push my limits, to become better.
It's not easy to cross the void. But it's not impossible. As for so many things in life, it depends on how much you want it, why you want it, and what you're willing to give up and invest to achieve that goal.
If money is not an issue, it's pretty simple. Just do a lot of tunnel camps with good coaches, get skydiving one-on-one coaching, go to all the skills camps out there, and the cool boogies. Fly as much as you can, as often as you can. You will not only get the skills you need, but also meet the fairly small community of people traveling the world to those event.
Obviously, not many people can afford this plan of action. The good news is, most people who have made it to the so called “ninja status” have actually been following a pretty diffrent path. Mainly, it means you will have to be patient, hard working and resilient. When you look at someone who is where you wish to be, it's easy to overlook what it took for them to get there.
It took me 9 years to become a professional skydiver, and start to get closer to what I was hoping to reach. It takes years to build the skills, the network, the experience to get close to this “ninja” level you are longing for.
“Ninja” is also a very relative status. When I started, someone with 100 jumps seemed like a skygod to me. Then when I started competing, the top teams seemed unreachable. And even when I got a world title, I still felt there was so many people better than me. I still had a strong urge to improve and challenge myself. When I look at today's top tunnel flyer, I feel like I'll never get there. But I keep trying. You will never be as good as you wish you were, but what's sure, is that you'll never be better if you don't try.
You will never be as good as you wish you were – but what's sure, is that you'll never be better if you don't try.
If being part of the top level comunity of professional flyers is what you want more than anything, it means taking a lot of risks. Invest your time and money into flying, get a flying-related job, sacrifice safety of employment or the balance of your relationship to your passion. It will get you there, most likely, but there is a price to pay. And there's no guarantee.
The secret of being good at something, is to practice over and over. Starting a team is always a good way to get better. Flying with the same group of people and going after a goal is the fastest way to get better at a certain discipline. Try to get some support from a DZ or a tunnel, try crowd funding, or be (or marry a) French or Norwegian so you get help from your government. ;-)
That was my path, but there are others. Whether you start working at a DZ or in a tunnel, you need to be ready to sacrifice comfort and stability to work towards your goal.
If you want to become a good flyer, but not necessarily a professional, just realise it is gonna take time, but be assured that, season after season, you will improve, know more people, and get closer to your goals. Being patient, humble, realistic and driven is the key.
One last thing: be kind to the people around you. Don't let your ego get the best of you. Remember to give back to the sport. To cross the void, you will need help from flyers more experienced than you. Don't forget to be that flyer to a less experienced flyer when the time comes.
Being patient, humble, realistic and driven is the key.
Next week: Crossing the Void with Ninja Mikey, inspired by Arnie