To understand where you are you should know where you came from

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

With Jerry Bird and Brian Williams

I just returned from the Skydiving Museum and Hall of Fame event. What a fabulous experience. With my 25,000+ skydives and 32 years in the sport I am often looked upon by younger jumpers as a true skydiving pioneer. After hearing that enough times I had actually started to believe it myself, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you want to know where you are and where you’re going be sure and find out where you’ve been.

I started skydiving in 1980. By that time our sport had really started to come of age. There were established schools, commercial drop zones and world championships in a variety of events. A few years later first time students were doing Tandem Jumps, where they are actually attached to their Instructors who would protect them from harm.  Automatic Activation Devices which deploy our reserve parachutes for us if we lose track of altitude or pass out were installed in nearly every parachute system.  With all the advances in equipment and training anyone who had the desire to experience freefall could do it.

Not the case when the men and women who are the real pioneers of sport parachuting were literally discovering and inventing skydiving.  In the late 50s and early 60s they had to buy used parachutes from Army, Navy surplus stores and figure out how to pack them. They had to find people with airplanes who would let them jump out of them and a place to land. There were no books to read or Instructors to teach them because no one had done it before.  They plummeted at the earth at 120mph until they finally figured out they could “fly”. It was crazy, nuts, dangerous, unregulated and sometimes illegal.   There was every reason not to do it.  But they couldn’t help themselves. They were drawn to the sky. They loved the idea of flying only for the sake of flying.  They thought they could do it so they had to try.

What an incredible group of people, to be compared with the likes of the early aviators and astronauts. A special breed with a love of living matched by very few. Some of them are still jumping and set a World Record for the largest freefall formation of people over 80, six people to be exact. Others can no longer jump.  But when they look up at the sky I could still see that same gleam in their eyes they must have had 50+ years ago. I wished there was a time machine that could take me back to that time to share that with them. I spent the weekend talking with them, learning from them and being inspired by every story they cared to tell.  It was such an honor, such a privilege.

Whether it’s your family or your chosen field of work or recreation, if you want to know where you are and where you’re going be sure and find out where you’ve been.  Find those that went before you and hear everything they have to say.




About Dan

Author, Speaker, Coach and World Champion Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld will show you how to create champions and build winning teams.

9 thoughts on “To understand where you are you should know where you came from”

  1. Dan your words, “Find those that went before you and hear everything they have to say.” cannot be emphasized enough. We cannot not understand ourselves in any aspect of life without understanding our heritage. Thank you for making this important point so clearly.

  2. Dan, your words about finding those who went before you and hearing (learning!) everything they have to say are eternally true. We live in a fast and young culture, with celebrity flashing up and crashing down in short cycles, and celebrate the “now.” But cut loose from the past, from our roots, we cannot long survive. This is true at the family level, the community level, the national level, even the global level. But it starts close to home. Starting with the rich history of skydiving is as good a place as any and better than many, for the pioneers of our sport paid huge prices and made tremendous sacrifices (sometimes unintentionally) to bring us to the amazing place we are today. You and I started jumping about the same time, and back then, you could do everything right and there was still a good chance the gear could kill you. And that was much improved over what the pioneers did. For all the young skygods out there, you could do worse than offer a beer to a beat up old skydiver around the campfire one night, and ask him or her about their best NSTIWTIWGD story, and take it from there! You could just think they had nothing to offer you, and keep your beer to yourself. Blue Skies, Dan. Good words, bro.

  3. Hey Dan. This was a terrific reminder. Years ago I met with one of the pioneers in my industry and when I came away from the meeting I said to my mentor how I felt that he knew so much and had done so much and I knew so little. A few days later she sent me a carton on piglet and Winnie the Pooh where Piglet was saying that Mozart at the age of 5 years had been writing music and how he felt like he had achieved nothing. Winnie the Pooh responded with “that’s right Piglet we are non-achievers and we are darned good at it!”.



  4. Reading Shirley’s comment I immediately flashed to the Piglet I prototype I snagged second-hand in college during the mid 1970s and patched with duct tape and hand stitching so that I could continue to make team practice and competition jumps. We were Southern Conference Champions in 8 & 10-way before my aerospace engineer dad happened to spot the tape. He forced me to buy a new Sierra RW canopy . Probably saved my life after a half dozen functions with the Piglet in a year.

  5. Dan, your words are so true. Many men and women before us worked hard to take the sport to where we are able to enjoy it today. I started jumping in the 82nd Airborne in 1976 and when I got out of the Army, my first free fall was on military surplus gear (T-10). So many before me jumped with early gear and started the disciplines we all enjoy today. We must honor our past to really be able to enjoy the present.

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