Never stop learning to skydive

Why goal setting is important in every part of life - A personal story

Enjoying the views over Denmark at 120mph

Enjoying the views over Denmark at 120mph

(Published in July 2016 then updated April 2017 and June 2018 - see bottom of article for recent development)

Just like many other people in the world, I always wanted to do a parachute jump. The idea I had in my head was to jump out of a plane, freefall for a short amount of time, deploy a parachute and then land safely.

What made me fulfill this ambition was simple. I was several months away from getting married and my future wife was soon to move from Denmark to join me in England.

I had been out for a motorbike ride in North Wales and saw a sign that said something like “Jump here”. I am unsure what exactly made me look in the mirror and slow my motorbike to a stop, but I turned around and made an enquiry. I signed up on the spot to make my first jump the following weekend.

Lesson Learned: Create a vision: Have once in a life time bucket list experience

Bring us back to ground – Mission: Land Safe

Working the sky

Working the sky

The course was taught by people that had several hundred jumps. I seriously thought top experts might only have jumped 200 times tops. I mean, why would you want to jump from a plane so often?

The course content was all about safety, serious points of behavior conduct and creating new habits. This was done so much that we started to develop and build automatic muscle memory – a vital piece of help in case of an emergency. It was also a reminder of how serious jumping from a plane should be taken.

The message was clear; this is fun but do it safe and expect to deal with an emergency at any time. This brought our spirits back to ground.

This is when I was first introduced to the concept of crisis management using the SARAH technique.

Lesson Learned: Create a system: Apply simple powerful systems

Learning to Fly

Flying away

Flying away

The UK weather is known to be unpredictable, at best. I would drive 45 minutes to go to the parachute centre (Dropzone/DZ) and hope for clear weather to allow me to jump.

Many times I would have to wait and watch the experienced and qualified jumpers enjoy their formation jumps in conditions considered unsafe for new entries into the sport.

I used this time to find new life-long friends, mentors and learn all about this “sport”. I did indeed find out it is a sport. People compete in style, accuracy, formation with canopy, free fall formations, wingsuit flying.

I also discovered people developed the sport to new levels of safety and created best practice ideas to enable new record formation jumps that simply would not have been possible a few years prior.

This discovery process taught me a simple lesson; you never need to stop learning or growing, no matter your start point. I jumped with people with several thousand jumps that had the same enthusiasm as people with only a handful of jumps.

The sport was starting to get under my skin with intrigue and interest and could become a long game hobby.

Making things work with work life balance



I have had a very fortunate life. My experiences in world travel exceeded the expectations in time, friendship, lessons and fun.

Such an experience makes coming back to a regular job in a regular western society so much harder.

I had for many years been a keen explorer and mountaineer. New places and mountains were my driving forces, but that story will have to be told another time. 

At this point in my life, I still climbed but realized with a possible family on the way in the near future and a new wife at home, my weekends away in rainy or snowy mountains in a tent would need to be reduced.

I sought a balance. The parachute centre was 45 minutes from my house, this meant I could have breakfast with the family and return by 5pm whilst experiencing a most wonderful sensory experience with like-minded people.

Thus I decided to make “skydiving” a regular hobby, stop climbing and make time for a new family.

Lesson Learned: Define priorities: Adjust life and actions according to principles

Keep trying to make things work

There can be no question that having a demanding job that consumes almost all of your time Monday-Friday and often spilling into the weekend, plus a new child and dog with a another new child on its way, makes it hard to balance everything together.

These early years meant I still retained my connection to the sport but could not commit as much as I would have liked. This is the price we pay to have a broader and more whole life style.

During these years I learned many things within the sport through talking to others, reading articles and attending “Boogies” (a big skydiver meetup party or competition) plus developing my own experience and technical skills.

Lesson Learned: Be flexible: Obstacles occur and need to be overcome or worked around

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Still working in the sky

Still working in the sky

I settled into the sport and had fun travelling through the England, Scotland and Spain to make several jumps and experiences.

The work distractions and family distractions continued. I would take breaks away from the sport whilst we decided to move to Denmark and establish a new life there.

Even during these years I continued to jump. I made a trip to Spain just to jump, spent several trips to Germany and whilst in Denmark I started to jump with a camera to record video and photo memories.

My new work sent me across the world, so I might return from China, USA or India on a Saturday and need to spend time with my family on the Sunday.

Occasional trips to the UK would allow me to take some special training in a wind tunnel.

These trips were great to calibrate my basic skills.

Lesson Learned: Refine the foundations: Review basic performance as a priority

Creating New Focus

Use personal accountability

Use personal accountability

Over the past 12 months my children have now become more independent and the larger renovations to our house completed.

The sport has continued to evolve at an ever faster and safer pace. The risks remain and my experience over several hundred jumps plus understanding what happens across the world sport has made me more and more respectful to the dangers we face.

In 2014 I felt the need to change my focus within the sport. I had been asked to consider taking video of tandem jumpers and coach new skydivers the safe qualification steps to become a formation skydiver yet I hesitated on these new responsibilities for a sport I had grown to simply enjoy as a weekend hobby fun experience.

Lesson Learned: Prepare to Pivot : The experience developed over years helps rapid progression.

Regained Enthusiasm

Early 2016 a new course was presented and I joined to learn how to become a qualified formation skydive coach and instructor.

I was so pleased with the course that words slightly fail me. My experience was great as it stimulated a new enthusiasm to embrace updated techniques and gave new considerations plus it challenged me to perform.

The full day’s theory was fun and informative where I started to realize some assumptions I had made in the recent years and gave me fresh eyes to view common scenarios with.

Lesson Learned: Gain ongoing training: Technology and skills develop over time, embrace them.

Broken ankles stop skydiving

I took my first test jump and realized I had become quite nervous, something I had not felt for many years. It was a nice feeling and although I thought my jump could have been better, I had passed.

The next step decision was to undertake a separate training jump and then take my final test in the air.

After an interesting training jump, I heard my smartphone ring whilst I was several hundred feet above the ground under my canopy.

When I returned to the clubhouse to pack my parachute I saw my phone with several missed calls and a simple SMS text from my wife “Call me straight away”. That type of message is not something she would word in here writing.

I knew something had gone very wrong somewhere. I called and then spoke to my wife and eventually my eldest daughter.

She had hurt her leg, (the X ray later confirmed she had broken her ankle) at an adventure park.

I simply put everything in my car and drove to the hospital to meet my daughter.

Lesson Learned: Expect Anything: External events can still impact best plans.

Making up for lost time.

360 degree turn on a formation skydive

360 degree turn on a formation skydive

The situation with my daughter meant I missed my opportunity to complete my course.

I felt disappointed due to the momentum and development I had undergone.

The next weekend my examiner would be almost 3 hours away at a drop zone. A plan to drive there and try my final jump was cancelled at the last moment due to weather. In the end we found a solution several days later where I made the jump.

I felt very nervous, even more than before but the jump went well and I am now a qualified formation skydiving coach and examiner.

My immediate sense of achievement and satisfaction was great. I feel that I can give something back to the sport and new skydivers.

The course also has stimulated me to engage in new courses and improve my flying skills in new areas and ways.

So, the lesson and reason for writing this very personal story is simple. In every area of life, no matter how you treat it as a side hobby or the most important idea in your head should be pursued and explored.

New goals and objectives and opportunities will occur. Seek always to grow, learn and set yourself goals to gain the best out of lives experiences.

I would love to hear a story from you on any long term activity you have had a changed relationship with and became closer by setting goals.

April 2017 Update - Skydive Camera Instructor

Building a Formation skydive

Building a Formation skydive

Hi, I thought I would share an update on my journey. Since I wrote the article I continued to train and develop in more areas of the sport and help as much as possible. Recently I have helped within the organization of an event with our local club and the Danish national body to create a formation skydive qualification process. I arranged the instructors and graded the students so next week they will complete their learning. This time I was unable to attend due to my commitments going to England.

The other development has been my most recent new qualification. I became an instructor to help qualify and coach skydivers who want to use a camera whilst jumping. This requires significant attention to many safety details and several clear mindset attitudes to be taught. The process included me curating material of poor examples and then compiling a presentation template that can be used for other instructors and jumpers to understand all the considerations and risk. I feel satisfied and humbled by the qualification as it comes with a large amount of responsibility for peoples safety awareness. I also feel rewarded that my progression and development continues.

Give me wings so I can fly. - 2018

"What do you want for Christmas?". That was the question my wife and children asked during the winter months of 2017. My reply was clear. "Well, for my Christmas present AND 50th birthday present just let me prioritize to become a qualified wingsuit jumper at a time that suits good weather conditions and an available instructor. Apart from that, just a smile a day is enough."

My training wingsuit

My training wingsuit

So, that was it. I have been curious about wingsuiting from fellow jumpers and of course the many videos one can find on YouTube. I decided that celebrating my 50th year floating around the sun would be a great time to explore. 

The weather remained at first rather unpredictable and catching the availability of my instructor added to the puzzle. Yet a couple of weekends ago I managed to drive 2 hours to another dropzone on the west coast of Denmark for my training.

It's so great to be coached by others. No matter the skill in question, it is possible also to learn from the style of teaching others to share. I approached the plane for my jump number 1 with calmness and confidence. However, when we had a minute before jumping, I could feel the nerves again in my body - something not felt for a long time jumping. 

All my jumps went as planned with great views, calmness, and success. I managed to become qualified in 5 jumps and am now using the next 50 jumps or so to polish my routine and basic skills. 

Lesson learned

Relax, remain ambitious and curious in new skills and embrace all aspects of development, including the methods of teaching!

So, how have you developed over the past 12 months in your hobby or interest?


  • Written by James Doyle, founder of JAMSO, success consultant and trainer. We have over 200 free articles, tools and resources for your success.

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