Why make it hard when you can let it be easy?Jan 31, 2022
It was shockingly easy. I’ve wanted to try paragliding for years. You know those parachutes drifting back and forth along some ridgeline, suspended in air like the birds riding the updrafts? Yeah, that. Surely there must be some kind of training course or certification. You probably have to go to a class or some orientation sessions before you jump off a cliff with a parachute. Nope. Turns out you don’t.
Doing something new together
For our wedding anniversary, Emily and I like to do something neither of us have done before. This year we decided to go paragliding. I’d done some internet research and found a place nearby. I knew if we went on a Tuesday, we could get their free photo package. We like pictures of us doing fun stuff, so we went that Tuesday. We drove up to Torrey Pines Glideport about 20 minutes from where we’re at in San Diego. We found the guy behind the counter, scanned the QR code and initialed about 50 times that we understood this was dangerous and wouldn’t sue if we got injured. Meanwhile, as we filled out the forms, dozens of men and women are gliding peacefully up and down along the steep Torrey Pines cliffs over Blacks Beach.
Emily meeting her pilot, Charlie.
We paid $165 dollars each, read the hand written sign that explaining tips were customary (assuming we had a good experience), and waited for some pilots to return to the ground. Emily went first. Her pilot greeted her, explained how to attach for the tandem flight and they walked toward the cliff’s edge. She was off in about three minutes.
My pilot swooped in from the sky, dropped off his previous passenger and I was waved over.
“You’re gonna clip this in here, and this in here,” Steve told me as I secured myself into my half of the flying harness. He was already clipped in and the parachute was billowing loosely behind us on the grass.
Getting ready for take-off
“Now I need you to walk toward that cliff,” he continued, pointing toward the ocean. I felt a tug from behind me. “Keep walking,” he said. “Keep your arms inside these two straps during take-off. Once we’re off the ground, you’re gonna scoot your butt back into the seat.” Within three minutes of saying hello I stepped off the edge of the cliff.
If a stranger told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?
I guess it depends on the stranger.
The ground fell away below me and the ocean spread out in front of me. I was flying.
I’d seen perspectives like this flying my drone, but this was no drone. It was me, seeing it with my own eyes. I felt slightly nauseas but quickly settled in.
Steve, my pilot, banked us left and we flew along Blacks Beach toward La Jolla, passing ocean view mansions, above beach combers and eye to eye with black birds riding the same updrafts.
I’d stepped into another world.
It was shockingly easy.
The only other time I’d experienced anything else like it was snorkeling. The first time I put my face in the water and swam over a coral reef, I realized I’d stepped into another world. The crazy part was that other world was right there. I mean right there. By sticking my face in the water with a mask, I entered.
Paragliding was shockingly easy. I'd stepped into another world.
Why had I made this so hard?
That afternoon some friends dropped by and Emily and I were telling them about it.
“Yeah, I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time,” Sarah said. “I walk along Blacks Beach looking up and think how cool that’d be. I keep meaning to go up there and look into.”
I could relate. I’d been one of those ‘meaning to’ people plenty of times.
Sarah told us her story: “One time I was up in San Francisco and there were guys on the beach taking people flying. I asked them how much they charged. It was like $500.”
We told her how much we paid and how little time it took.
“What?! I’m going next week!”
Don't get me wrong, cost can be a factor. But whether it's $165 or $500, think about it. You are F-L-Y-I-N-G. You’re literally in the air, with nothing below you or around you, soaring like a bird. Most people pay 10x those amounts for a tv or one month’s rent.
What would it be worth to you to see yourself and the world in a whole new way?
What I’ve learned for myself is--when it comes to something big or daunting--I’m often too scared to ask, or find out more. I might say to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to own a plane?” But I stop there, because I'm scared. I make a lot of assumptions cut myself off at the knees. I tell myself: Planes are for rich people. Planes are expensive. Planes are complicated and take a lot of time to learn how to fly. Here’s the truth:
- Some rich people have planes. Plenty of "regular people" fly planes.
- Planes can be expensive, but they don’t have to be.
- Plans can be complicated, but some planes are very simple.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t own a plane nor have a pilot’s license. But I have taken a flying lesson and sat in on a re-certification flight. I also looked up what planes cost. Did you know you can buy a used jet for about $100,000? Not a propeller piper-cub plane, a jet. I was blown away. I'm not planning to buy a plane, but that's a lot less than I'd imagined. Facts trump fears any day.
The point isn’t that everyone should go paragliding, take flying lessons or buy a plane. The point is, how often do we make things unnecessarily hard or complicated?
Blessed are the Ease Makers
I was so grateful for my conversation with Sarah. We had made something that seemed expensive and complicated feel affordable and doable. We’d made it feel easy. I love hanging around people who do that for me. I wrote about it previously here. My friend Calder made climbing El Cap sound possible, and I did it. We met a couple who made going to New Zealand sound easy, and we went. Before living on a sailboat, we found mentors who made it look possible.
Blessed are the Ease Makers, because they expand my belief in the possible.
We have the tendency to want to make things hard. We’ve been taught for generations that anything worthwhile requires effort. That can be true, but it doesn’t have to feel hard. My best example of this is our daughter, Alison. People would tell her, “Japanese is such a hard language.” Her response, “Maybe they just don’t love it as much as I do.” It didn’t feel hard because she was eager to put in the energy. Her lens, her approach made the difference whether it was hard or easy.
Why make it hard, when I can let it be easy?
This is a question I’m asking myself more and more. And I don’t think it’s about laziness. (Maybe it’s a little about laziness ; ) It’s about relaxing into the good, true and beautiful.
Emily trusting Charlie.
Emily carving turns in the sky
Big thanks to Charlie and Steve for making paragliding so easy!
Video: Emily's complete paragliding launch
Book: Today I Will Fly by Mo Willems
Song: Lift Off by Erik Orton (from my musical Berlin)
Movie: Free Guy (when he puts on the sunglasses and becomes a “sunglass person”)
History: Leonardo Da Vinci's flying machines
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