Base jumpers are daredevils who jump from high buildings, bridges and mountains with parachutes. Felix Baumgartner wasn’t just a base jumper, he was a space jumper. He jumped from a balloon that reached 36 km up in the sky at the edge of space. Felix is your prototypical daredevil, a person who takes risks without any regard for their own safety. He is known as Felix the Fearless, but he was so overcome with fear before his space jump that he fled the country.
Felix Baumgartner always wanted to fly. At just 16-years-old, Felix began to skydive, and soon after he began BASE jumping. He broke 14 world records. He was the first person to skydive across the English Channel using a carbon-fiber wing and he’s jumped from the world’s tallest building.
In 2012, Felix planned his biggest stunt yet. He would skydive from more than 36 kilometers above the Earth. He would travel faster than the speed of sound!
Even though he’d jumped more than 2,500 times before, this time was different. He was jumping from so high that he need a pressurized suit. He felt confined by the suit, and that terrified him. He was so freaked out that he actually fled the country. His sponsor had already invested millions into fulfilling his dream and they weren’t happy when he ran away. Neither was Felix. He says it was the lowest point in his entire life.
Felix couldn’t let his dream go. He underwent a psychological evaluation and learned that he had claustrophobia – an extreme fear of small spaces.
Felix worked with a psychologist who said he simply needed to train his brain to focus on the big picture. He needed to keep his mind off of the suit and remember his ultimate goal – the big jump.
To practice all of this, his psychologist created terrifying situations for Felix. He pushed Felix to the edge of panic, and then challenged him to maintain composure by controlling his mind and saying positive things to himself. They did this for over 30 hours.
In the end, Felix overcame his fear of the safety suit, and he completed the jump.
Felix proved that being brave isn’t about being fearless. As the famous revolutionary Nelson Mandela once said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”