Skydive Chicago founder Roger Nelson used to speak often about the importance of using knowledge to dispel fear. That philosophy drove him to do some pretty uncommon things in the skydiving world — like creating a 20-minute tandem class to help educate brand-new skydiving students on gear, procedure and what to expect. Over the years, that training has introduced countless new skydivers to the fundamentals of skydiving, and it has helped each one of its participants set aside nail-biting terror for healthy curiosity. It made them more educated, more comfortable and more open to enjoying their experience fully.
To find out how it works, we can dig in a little to the work of cognitive researcher Robert A. Monroe. Monroe proposed the notion that we should turn our ‘unknowns’ into ‘knowns,’ partaking of a “different overview” as a method of eliminating fear.
What Is an “Overview,” And Why Should We Change It?
Monroe defines “overview” as our self-concept. (Our self-concept includes — and often reflects — our concept of the world at large.) This is how each of us perceives ourselves and the world in which we live. We built our overview through experience, creating an interwoven pattern of beliefs that drive our thoughts and our actions. Where that pattern is interrupted by open space, fear has a chance to move on. Believing that something is true, without doing the work of logic, creates fear. So does an educational vacuum.
In his experience as a legendary skydiving athlete, a dropzone owner and a skydiving educator, Roger Nelson realized that the reason his students and customers were scared of skydiving is that they didn’t understand the foundational information they needed to feel comfortable learning how to do it. Most skydiving dropzones then — as now — didn’t bother teaching first-time jumpers about what they were about to undergo, imagining that it was wasted time to try to teach a wealth of information to someone who would probably only jump once. Nelson disagreed.
Monroe believed — and so did Roger Nelson — that each person’s overview is dynamic. It changes every day, a little bit, no matter whether we’re striving to control it or not. He believed that it’s our responsibility to change it for the better, which requires focus and attention on the parts of the overview that its creator is seeking to change.
How to Change Your Overview
Monroe gave a very specific rubric for changing a troubled overview. It involves getting your fear of the unknown down on paper, getting very specific about the unknown quantity and starting to position them in a way that the fear starts to buckle under the specificity.
In skydiving, Roger figured that the best way to do that was by making sure the nervous new tandem student knew as much as possible about the process of tandem skydiving, the equipment to be used, the aircraft, the exit, the body position and the landing. He discovered that erasing surprises paves the way to student confidence.
Inspired by our founder, Skydive Chicago strives to help students dispel fear with knowledge even today. When you arrive on the dropzone, you’ll be immediately invited to learn more, to gaze deeper and to have a more informed, educational, fulfilling experience on your first-time tandem skydive. Make a reservation today! You’ll see what we mean.