Raad Ahmed
December 1, 2021

what jumping out of an airplane taught me about life

For just a few hundred bucks, you can jump out of an airplane two and a half miles high, and and fall back down to earth at 120 miles per hour, and probably live.

So after a few beers, I said fuck it, let's go do that thing.

The cost of the jump wouldn't put a dent in my lifestyle, and at even 10 times the price I would still consider that to be one of the greatest bargains in life.

Ever since I was a kid I was obsessed with rollercoasters, skateboarding, and jumping out of things you're generally not supposed to jump out of.

I loved the risk, and maybe that's why I got into doing startups for a living.

The upside of running a tech company is so good that you’ll make terribly risky choices in the process.

We went from making millions to nearly broke more times than I can remember.

Startups are like sailing on a leaky boat in the open ocean.

And if one wave hits you:

Like a competing product, a pandemic, or losing a big customer — you drown.

Anyways, back to the jump.

As soon as I get to the dropzone I instantly stop thinking of everything.

For a brief moment, I got to step out the whole startup founder character I play all the time.

There's this sense of wonder mixed with deep presence and even deeper fear.

I don't particularly enjoy fear and if you claim to have no fear you're probably a psychopath.

Because fear is something you can't get rid of.

Rather than controlling or suppressing it, I watched it, followed it around, and enjoyed this low hum anxiety rise in my gut as we squeezed into a tiny aircraft like sardines.

As you ascend higher and higher in altitude, you go from "fuckyeah, let's to do this!" to sitting silently like scared little children.

Then, once you reach 10,000 ft, the doors suddenly open and the airplane fills with freezing cold air that chills you to your bone.

You're asked to scoot yourself towards this gaping hole and rock and forth for the count to 3.

And then it's 1, 2, 3...


The initial drop is nothing short of terror.

Like committing suicide.

But with a few seconds to spare, you get to change your mind.

And this fear instantly turns to utter bliss.

Words are too limiting to describe the ecstasy, that could only have been directly experienced.

The fear of death or bodily harm was actually just a lie I told myself.

It’s funny because our most strongly held beliefs can be wiped away like a layer of make-up through a moment of transcendence.

For me it was the near death experience of falling from the sky.

The truth is our lives are being swallowed by time and every inhalation could be the last.

Whether we’re jumping out of airplanes, starting a risky startup, or just writing our truth to a bunch on internet strangers, we are slowly dissolving from a corrosive chemical called oxygen.

Our genetic code is hardwired to self-destruct.

But most of us don’t truly appreciate that.

Instead, we overestimate how much time we have left.

I'm 33 years old, so if I'm super optimistic and say I'll be hanging around doing this startup thing till I'm 90, I’ll have maybe around 60 superbowls left to watch.

Or only about 300 books left to read if I read 5 books a year.

It took me falling 2 miles from the sky to understand what confucious meant when he said, that we have two lives, and the second one begins when we realize we only have one.

The cost of living a life you’ll remember is pulling fear close, embracing it, and carrying it our hearts.

When we avoid fear, we automatically create the walls to our own prison.

Facing fears and taking risks are the things that will be with us in our deathbed, not the money we didn't spend.

We must embrace the fear. Go up into it and light it up. Inside your fear is the next door holding you back. Rather than resisting, let it be your guide. That's how you'll know where to go.

Because fear doesn't stop death, it stops your life.