Jumping out of a Plane Blog Post - Julie Skydive 1

What I Learned from Jumping out of a Plane

Jumping out of a Plane Blog Post - Julie Skydive

Similarities

Jumping out of a plane is a lot like giving birth – it is an overwhelming sensory experience, it is painful (not physically, just on the wallet), and in both instances you ask yourself ‘what the heck was I thinking?’

 

The Top 40 Bucket List

A tandem skydive was the very last activity in my year of ticking off 40 bucket list items to celebrate my significant birthday milestone during 2016. I was happy to end the bucket list on such a high note (literally) but I was also kicking myself that I had not done the skydive much earlier in the year.

In fact, that is one of the main things I learned from jumping out of a plane – if you are really scared of something you should try and do it sooner rather than later. Anticipation can multiply your fears into a spider web of worry and stress, unless you manage them well (as I guess you should try to do for labour and birth). I didn’t just have a one hour drive and the twenty minute plane ride to think about the jump, but almost 365 days to stew on it.

So I would like to share with you some things I learned from jumping out of a plane. Then if you ever decide to do something as ridiculous as strapping yourself to a stranger and leaving a functioning aircraft at 13,000 feet above the Earth’s surface, you would have benefitted from my insights beforehand.

 

Wisdom from Two Miles Up

Firstly, as they say ‘eat that frog’. If something seems daunting, do it as soon as you can. Do not procrastinate. You will either not do it at all or do it with so many scary thoughts inside you that you won’t enjoy the experience. I am almost a bit jealous of the guy who turned up at the skydiving spot with a blindfold on and was told by his gleeful friends that he was getting a tandem jump for his birthday.

Setting deadlines is ultra important if you want to do things. I set a goal to tick 40 things off my bucket list during the calendar year of 2016. I jumped out of a plane on the 30th December, one day before my deadline. Yes it was self-imposed. And no one would care if I jumped out on the 1st January 2017. But I would. As I had completed the rest of the list and there was a deadline looming, completing the jump became more important than the fear.

Stepping out of your comfort zone once in a while is really good for you. And there are not a lot of things in this world that are further out of your comfort zone than jumping out of a plane. Afterwards, I felt like a superhero.

People ask me what I was thinking during 45 seconds of free-fall and I don’t really know. I can tell you what I was NOT thinking about and that was my inbox. Jumping out of a plane reminds us to live in the present moment, which is what everyone needs more of in this frantic world. Although from now on, I can remind myself of this with my feet firmly on the ground.

Perhaps the most surprising learning was now I have done a tandem skydive, other things seem less frightening. Since then I have seen a film (‘The Cabin in the Woods’) that I previously decided was too terrifying to watch. I am looking forward to where my newfound courage takes me – I may one day be quite okay being in close quarters with a spider.

 

Best Year Ever

Completing the bucket list, and especially the skydive, contributed to 2016 being the best year of my life (so far). I was trying to work out what made it so great and came up with a few reasons.

Firstly, I designed the bucket list to cover many things I had wanted to do for some time. I felt in control of my own life, and that is a rarity these days. Also, the whole idea took some planning and hard work to execute and when I put time and effort into things I often feel more satisfied. I was probably better off than the guy who got the surprise tandem jump gift after all. Plus as I set myself a challenge and told everyone about it I built discipline, confidence and integrity. These are attributes I always want more of and I hope they rub off onto my children too.

 

Fun

And in case this is getting too ‘rah-rah’ motivational for you, what I would really like my children and others to learn from all this is that life is for living.

So live it.

Have some fun.

This is not a selfish sentiment. It is actually the complete opposite. Doing something that fills you up inside and gives you a boost of joy makes you happier and this is then spread to your loved ones and the world at large.

So jump out of plane and save the world.

Jumping out of a Plane Blog Post - Julie Skydive 2

 

 

NANOWRIMO Blog Post - Julie the Writer at a Cafe

Surprising Lessons from NaNoWriMo

NANOWRIMO Blog Post - Julie the Writer at a Cafe

NaNoWriMo – No, it’s Not a Rude Word

I have just written ‘The End’ on the first draft of my very first novel. I wrote it during National Novel Writing Month. This is a mouthful so it gets abbreviated to NaNoWriMo, which really is only slightly less of a mouthful. Each year, in November, thousands of writers all around the world take up the challenge to write a 50,000 word (approximately 180 page) novel for NaNoWriMo.

I can now count myself as a NaNoWriMo ‘winner’. Winners succeed in getting 50,000 words written before the end of the month. Other participants have varying levels of success up to that magic number.

The point is quantity of words, possibly organised in sentences and paragraphs and hopefully in some semblance of a story with characters, settings, dialogue and maybe even a plot. You are to ignore your inner editor and critic and plough on regardless. Just get those words down. My silly little romance may never be seen by anyone else but it more or less contained these essential elements that make it a complete work of fiction.

I understand that doing something like this seems perhaps too ambitious or too ridiculous or certainly quite pointless, but that is exactly why I did it. And I must say, I am extremely proud of achieving this big, hairy, audacious goal.

 

The Big 4-0

In the middle of this big challenge, something significant occurred. Yes, the next leader of the free world was elected; there were earthquakes here in New Zealand and around the world and possibly some other major news events that I only caught a whiff of as I was locked in my office. But the most important thing to me was…

I TURNED 40!!!

I wanted to write some sort of blog post on what I had learnt in my first 40 years on this planet but quickly worked out that not only would that be dull, but I can’t remember much of it anyway.

Then I realised that the insights I gained from doing NaNoWriMo were actually the main points of wisdom I wanted to share. Here they are:

 

Goal Setting and All that Blah

That entire goal setting stuff really makes sense. Set a goal, write it down and commit to doing it. I heard about NaNoWriMo seven years ago didn’t make it a must until this year. Seven years – I could have seven novels by now!

Also all that guff that goes along with goal setting – having a deadline (30 November), taking action every day (writing some words even though I would regularly think they were crap), focused commitment (unimportant things like the watching TV, interacting with my family and showering were reduced to a minimum) and rewarding milestones (mmmm chocolate, I have never loved you more) are essential facets to achieving a huge goal.

 

Accountability is Key

When you aim to do something big, hairy or audacious, tell everyone about it. They don’t have to understand or even like it, but by golly they will have a great time holding you accountable to your lofty ambitions.

Doing NaNoWriMo was part of the ‘Top 40 Bucket List’ of 40 bucket list items I am ticking off throughout the calendar year of 2016 to coincide with turning 40. I tell everyone I meet about this list. There was no chance of backing out of NaNoWriMo this year.

Telling people may even mean you get a little support for your wacky endeavors. Here is my public great big THANK YOU to my family and friends and especially to my husband who at various times pulled tiny humans off me while I was tapping at the keyboard and entertained my kids well out of earshot.

But I got a lot more out this challenge than being reminded of how important the goal setting dogma of deadlines, focus, action, rewards and accountability can be. Three of the more unexpected learnings were:

 

State of Flow

Creating something, anything at all, feels great. Sometimes it is frustrating, sometimes it is fun, but the great feeling comes from being present with your creation. Yes I have written non-fiction books and blogged now for years, but it took writing a big hulk of a novel to really drive this point home.

Being in this state of flow is what humans want and need more of and it is becoming increasingly rare these days with constant distractions only a tap of the finger away. Flow is always there for the taking. In the throes of creativity you can’t help but be in flow, be really present. And it feels amazing.

 

Leap Off the Cliff

It is perfectly okay to start something with absolutely no idea of how the process will go, how it should look or how on earth you are going to finish it. This doesn’t just apply to creative projects, but a lot of things in life. As the old adage states: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Sometimes it is better not to have the whole thing perfectly mapped out. Trust the process; let yourself be pleasantly surprised by where the project takes you. I am a very organised person and thought I would have a perfect outline and screeds of character notes before I started NaNoWriMo. In fact all I did was draw a giant mind map which I then proceeded to ignore and instead ‘pantsed’ my way through my novel – essentially wrote it from the top of my head or from my proverbial, if you prefer that image.

After all, the journey never goes exactly how you think anyway, so why try to control it? I thought I would be god-like in maneouvering my characters through the plot, but instead they took on a life of their own and surprised me with things they said and did. I thought writing every day would be a hard slog, but instead I had a really awesome time.

 

Creating IS the Point

Sometimes you just need to create. It doesn’t have to be important, you don’t have to think of a monetary reason for it and you certainly do not need to show it to anyone. As a society we consume, consume, consume, so it is important to re-address that balance by allowing ourselves the gift of pure creativity.

Putting your stamp on the universe, even in some tiny, perhaps frivolous way, not only makes you a better person, fills your tank and allows you to want to contribute in other ways, but makes the world a richer, fuller place for having you and your creation as a part of it.

Sure, all I have is one gigantic Word document sitting on my computer, but it feels darn good.

 

Relearning

I wanted to impart all this newfound wisdom onto my children. But then I realised that tiny humans already know this stuff. They are easily able to be in flow many of the hours of the day – look at how they play, eat, laugh. Kids live entirely in the present. Our 18-month-old daughter, Eloise, does everything without thinking of how to finish it, like climbing up onto the kitchen table. Dylan, at four, spends days at kindergarten creating artwork that no one sees but him, just because he enjoys doing so.

I don’t need to teach this, I just have to find a way to not forget it like I did 30-something years ago. And I need to be vigilant to ensure our beautiful tiny humans never lose this essential knowledge at all.

 

References

No Plot? No Problem! – A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days – Chris Batey (USA, 2004)

NOTE: If you wish to see some of the things I have done for the Top 40 Bucket List, friend me on Facebook and look for that photo album

NANOWRIMO Blog Post - NANOWRIMO Winner Screen Shot

 

Grow Up Blog Post - Selfie-Stick

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Selfie-Stick

Pirates and Lawn Mowers

What do you want to be when you grow up? Can you remember being asked that as a child? How did people react to your aspirations?

I have asked Dylan – who is a typical boisterous four-year-old boy – a few times now – what he wants to be when he grows up. The latest response was, per usual, esoteric and convoluted. Dylan wants to be an army tank driver who mows lawns on a pirate ship.

What would you say to that? I loved everything about Dylan’s answer and here is why…

 

Creativity

Firstly, I loved the imagination in his response. Being creative is not just a cherry on top to cultivate in our kids when the time is right. It is an essential skill that needs to be encouraged daily.

In fact, it’s already a key competitive advantage at work. Whether we like it or not, we live in an unfair world where the privileged few in first world countries can get the opportunity to do interesting and advanced work. This involves all the imagination and creativity that can be conjured up. Mundane and repetitive jobs will be increasingly outsourced to computers, robots and people from less wealthy countries. Creativity will equal pay cheque in the future economy.

 

The End of Jobs

Secondly, Dylan’s answer implied a succession of different skills and hence not one job. A straightforward, upwards trajectory of a single career is a rare thing nowadays, and will become even less common in the future. I was relieved to know that not having one true calling is actually a thing. Check out Emilie Wapnick’s TED talk on ‘multipotentialites’ to hear more about this.

It is becoming less common to even apply for a ‘job’ as such. A working life is likely to consist of different opportunities to earn income via freelancing, being an employee, or owning a business. It could involve stints at home or travelling or re-education and picking up casual work where it arises. There is likely to be a fading out of the notion of retirement, so our children will have to think about how they will earn a living over the space of 50 years or more.

 

The Start of Jobs

But being a lawn mower man and army tanker driver on a pirate ship is not even a JOB, you say. It simply does not exist. And you are probably right.

However, there are some reputable sources that state that at least 65% of the jobs and work opportunities available ten to twenty years in the future do not exist at all today. Think of the impact that virtual reality and artificial intelligence will have on our lives in the not too distant future.

After all, the first employees of Facebook, ten years ago, certainly did not grow up with the desire to work for that company. And who would have thought even five years back that regular people would have the income opportunities now available thanks to Uber (driving people around) and AirBnB (renting out rooms in your house)? The inventor of the selfie-stick probably didn’t have that as part of his life plan when he was four years old, but he currently must be pretty happy with his ability to monetise a growing trend in a timely manner.

 

Show Me the Money

Also, it may be argued that even if there was such a job, there does not seem to be a way to actually make money from it. How would you actually generate a revenue stream from lawn mowing on a pirate ship?

Actually, people can make income from any opportunity, especially if they are passionate and apply a great work ethic to it. A recent newspaper story discussed a 24-year-old Pokémon enthusiast who has been hired by the gaming company behind Pokémon Go to be a Pokémon Go coach. His first task is to find and capture all the Pokémon in New Zealand. Now think about this for a second – this guy is being paid to hunt for game characters. If you can make money doing that, then very little seems impossible in the way of income opportunities.

 

Dream Big

I really loved how passionate Dylan was about his future occupation(s). There were no limits, no holding back, he had a vision, he was dreaming big.

As parents we need to keep our children safe, but try not to limit them. We need to move out of the way. Let them think anything is possible. Let them fail. Let them pick themselves back up and try something new. This is one of our core conflicts as parents and I know it is hard! But at the very least, never ever, ever, ever tell them that what they want to do is impossible.

After all, someone’s child is now earning good money to chase after imaginary monsters.

 

References

TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling?language=en

Job Statistics: http://www.successperformancesolutions.com/2013/65-percent-of-todays-students-will-be-employed-in-jobs-that-dont-exist-yet/

Pokémon: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11675973

Grow Up Blog Post - Pokemon