Courage to Leap From Fear to Freedom

Courage to Leap From Fear to Freedom


Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway" – John Wayne

This quote has always been a favorite of mine. And it’s taking on new meaning after going skydiving with a girlfriend and our sons. It was an exhilarating experience with many rich take-a-ways.

Skydiving is something I’ve always been terrified of, but really wanted to do. When I stop to think about it, it’s not often words like ‘terror’ and ‘desire’ go together in the same sentence.

I believe most of all, I wanted to prove to myself that I could be that afraid of something and still do it. I had this unbridled anticipation that if I could just do it, it would be one of the most amazing experiences ever – soaring, floating, free.

It was all of that. And more.

For a long time, my fear paralyzed this dream. Eventually, I grew tired of hearing my own whining voice (as did my friends), continually expressing my longing to do it and talking myself out of it with endless excuses. I decided – ENOUGH! It’s time to accept my fear and move directly into it.

Having now taken the leap, I realize the powerful metaphor that skydiving is for both fear and freedom. As for fear, there are many things that I’m afraid of. Yet, when I face the fear head-on, it often vanishes…or at least shrinks. And there in its place is a surprising gift – freedom.

This plays out for me in work situations like public speaking and dealing with a challenging client situation, or on the personal side such as sailing in intense conditions with high winds or heavy weather, or mountain biking a technically difficult trail.

This experience is a reminder to examine the task and its importance, purpose, and impact, while weighing the risks and rewards.

A little part of me even believes that acting on this insane courage unlocks some deep, hidden ‘magic power.’ That now – from out of nowhere! – I will leap tall buildings and blast fire from my fingertips…or at least the mortal equivalent of having greater confidence and faith that I ‘can do it’ and it will all work out.

Lastly, I’m left thinking of everything I would have missed had I stopped short of jumping. Bold moves launch us out of our comfort zone and open us up. You can’t help but expand when free falling 120 mph at 12,000 feet! I’ll never see things quite the same again.

Lessons in courage from skydiving:

  • Embrace fear and take action anyway. I don’t think it’s about overcoming the fear or that it goes away.
  • With any given situation, explore the worst-case scenario, gauge your comfort level, tap into your resources, and work backward to develop a plan from there.
  • Take action that helps make you more comfortable. In this case of skydiving, I consulted with others who had done it and sought their advice, researched (exceptionally) reputable skydiving companies to ensure they have (highly) trained professionals and excellent equipment. Risk mitigation!
  • Do things often that take your breath away.
  • Get out of your comfort zone…sometimes far, far outside. This is where real learning and living takes place. Life is more fun and interesting if it is a series of amazing adventures.
  • Be fully present in life – the skydiving free-fall lasts only 60 seconds, and the entire experience is over in 7 minutes. The impact; however, lasts a lifetime.
  • Surround yourself with spicy friends who’ll call you out on living small.


about---leadershipAbout Jeanie Duncan: Jeanie is President of Raven Consulting Group, a business she founded that focuses on organizational change and leadership development in the nonprofit sector. She is a senior consultant for Raffa, a national firm working with nonprofit clients to lead efforts in sustainability and succession planning, executive transition and search. Additionally, Jeanie serves as adjunct faculty for the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of executive leadership education.