We all started in the same place. Jump.number.one.
That first exit created an awakening within that revealed a different way to experience life than the way we had been experiencing it, and if you’re reading this, it meant you wanted more.
For many, getting that fix means working in the sport, usually as a packer followed by instructional ratings. Ironically, this progression to get more ‘stoke’ can be the cause for losing it. Usually, when you tie your passion to work, it’s easy to lose your enthusiasm.
As a tandem instructor, when you’re on a 20-minute call with only 20 minutes of daylight left, the decision to ground yourself should be easy. You factor that after the 15-minute climb to altitude, the ambient light has long since dipped below the horizon making this an unofficial night jump.
However, the group of four who’ve been waiting for five hours is now desperate to go; the other three instructors are comfortable with going and are hustling to get geared up. You don’t want to disappoint the DZO, your coworkers and most of all the group of four… faced with compromising decisions, it’s easy to see how the passion for the sport can wane.
Having visited my fair share of DZs and having met instructors from around the world, there are common triggers that leave the best-intentioned, bitter towards the sport they once loved. Here’s my top 10 list of how to reduce skydiver burnout if you’re making a life of it.
In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes, “Begin with the end result in mind.” Having goals and keeping them ever-present is necessary to maintaining perspective. You must be working towards something that fulfills you. In skydiving, it’s easy to become subjective and falling into the trap of DZ drama or feeling the frustration of scenarios like the night jump tandem, above. These are passion killers, so write your goals down and stay focused on them.
Refresh. To keep the fire going, you have to take a break and refresh the mind, body and soul. To be a working skydiver equates to a life of extremes – continuous hustle on a busy day to sitting around for hours. It’s a road filled with emotional highs and lows and the only way to combat that is to maintain perspective; you can’t have perspective when you’re in it all the time. Get away, reset and return to the DZ with a renewed passion and focus towards your goals.
Stick to your convictions. In this sport, it’s inevitable that you’ll be asked to do something you’re not entirely comfortable with. You may be unpopular for saying no; stick to your convictions anyway. Compromising your safety standards will lead to you feeling animosity with burnout not far behind. This is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?
Partying is part of the culture. We party with our friends in the sky then cook, eat and drink as a community and that shouldn’t stop. If you’re hungover every weekend then this lifestyle will start to eat away at you because your goals are now starting to take a backseat plus feeling like shit all the time doesn’t feel good. It’s all about balance.
Living at the DZ saves money and affords you many more jumps, but make sure this is temporary. To be in it and around it 24/7 seems like it would be a good idea, but there’s a lot of cons. As with point two, you’ve got to allow for a reset.
Growth is key. Getting locked into one discipline, becoming awesome at it, and then plateauing will cause boredom. Part of the fun in learning to free fly or get on a record is learning and constantly being challenged; once the challenge diminishes, so can your passion. Keep challenging yourself with different things.
This is especially true if you’re an instructor. I see it at every DZ; full-time instructors who don’t fun jump. How did that happen? You jump all day and by the end of it, you’re exhausted… wash, rinse, repeat every weekend. Those weekends turn into months which turn into years. Make time to fun jump and clear the cobwebs. Sometimes you need to skydive just for you and no one else. Again, this is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?
If your entire world rotates around all that happens at the DZ burnout is inevitable. There is much more to life than skydiving and while it can be all-consuming, you’ve got to maintain a social life off the DZ in order to appreciate the people and activities on the DZ.
I have no data that supports this, just some Yoda-wisdom to say that putting your relationship with skydiving in the “It’s Complicated” category can accelerate when dating another jumper. DZ dating can be a blood sport as the unbalanced ratio of girls to guys can get super uncomfortable when the girl (or guy) you fell head over heels for ends up in your buddy’s camper. That heartache can lead to an aversion from the DZ and have you losing your passion for the sport in a heartfelt second. Reference point number 8 above.
It’s really hard to do because we’re part of a close-knit community that can feel like a high school. Much of the drama can stem from point 9 above, but the reality is we’re on the ground far more than we’re in the air and that’s where drama happens. I’ll reference the first and most important point in the whole list – point number 1 – have goals, stay focused on them and the passion will still burn. Once you accomplish your goals, set new ones and enjoy a long and passionate life in the sport.