Myth: An Individual Can NOT Make a Difference: SHATTERED!

“No one has ever before leapt from such a height. No parachute jump will have ever lasted so long. No man has ever broken the sound barrier in free fall.”

~Werner Jessner/Red Bulletin Magazine

What seemed to be impossible is now a reality. Enter Felix Baumgartner: the Austrian skydiver who made history Oct. 14, 2012 when he jumped 24 miles down to Earth from the stratosphere.  A single human being shattered the myth that an individual can no longer make a difference.

The cost to achieve the impossible is greater than one would imagine. Even “Fearless” Felix himself did not realize what would be involved as he explained in an interview with Red Bulletin Magazine:

A couple of privateers, a BASE jumper, a soft drink company and a few daredevils got involved in the Air Force and NASA business with the belief that in three, maximum five years, we could do something that took them decades to achieve. But we were naive. We thought we could buy a capsule, three balloons, a suit, and that I would just throw myself down and we’d write history. Wrong. It’s much bigger than that.”

Many would call Felix’s personal accomplishment incredible, inspiring and amazing. Yet, what he personally engaged to create as an individual evolved into a team effort, that not only affected his life, but all the lives of the people involved, including 8 million YouTube viewers who watched live and the world at large through the flurry of social media.  What started as a single idea, shattered world records for humans, technology and global social interaction.

Yet with this amazing human accomplishment staring us square in the face, we still hear the common belief of the myth repeated over and over: I can’t make a difference; I have no power over what is happening; We’re all powerless and there’s nothing anyone can do about it… It’s out of my control; and perhaps the granddaddy of them all: It’s not my responsibility.

Why is this myth embedded in our culture today?

Two powerful mediums train us from an early age about what is possible: Mainstream media and Advertising. Mainstream media often uses fear or entitlement to disengage the individual from participating in the process of changing the outcome of our own lives, so it can be difficult to gain perspective and believe that one person can make a difference. Not just a difference in changing their own lives, but having an effect on the world and lives around them.

Additionally, the destructive and pervasive advertising ideology of entitlement sells an ugly belief that all your dreams will come true if you follow fashion trends, attain a certain body type or own a popular brand or product.

So how did Felix make the impossible possible?

He didn’t accomplish the goal by wishing for it or because he felt entitled to breaking records. And while the act of skydiving was done as an individual, he did not achieve his aspiration alone.  Felix accomplished his ambition through seven years of difficult personal and legal hurdles. He shares some of the struggles with claustrophobia and legal battles as part of his interview with Red Bulletin Magazine:

In December 2010 we carried out the last major tests with the space suit and it was clear to me that I had a problem — one I never thought I’d have — with my psyche. I had trouble putting on my space suit, and it got worse and worse. I could barely stand a couple of minutes in it.”

…”Then came the legal case. Problem solved but project halted. And then… project ended! After receiving the call to tell me it was all off, I drove around aimlessly for four hours. Bruce Springsteen was playing on the radio, I remember. I’d been in boot camp for a month and now the war was over without even a single shot being fired. Twice in quick succession my feet had been yanked out from under me.” 

Through hard work and perseverance, he was able to achieve a dream that started, long before he was even born, on Aug. 16, 1960 when his mentor, U.S. Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger, jumped from a height of 19 miles during Project Excelsior and barely lived to tell the tale.

Felix Baumgartner's Supersonic Skydive Attempt

Kittinger just prior to his record setting jump from 102.800 feet in 1960. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Like Felix, we can point to many before us who have allowed us to glimpse at what is possible when you are unyielding in pursuit of a dream.  Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, Martin Luther King, Gandhi and most recently Steve Jobs are just a few examples of individuals who overcame major obstacles and changed our world.

As individuals we have a golden opportunity every day to shatter the myth of disbelief about what we can accomplish because of what we have learned or been taught during our life. You CAN take responsibility to create, engage and share in any way you want…

Ayn Rand states this quite simply in her book Atlas Shrugged:

Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” 

But no matter what the media, advertising or ego tells you, it takes hard work, persistence and most importantly the belief in the truth that you as an individual CAN make a difference.  Remember, you don’t have to tackle it all by yourself, but you do need to be the one to start the process.

Start NOW to make this process part of your individual story today.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the inspiration!