After 20 minutes of holding the barrel of a pistol in his mouth, Tom removed it and tossed it onto his bed. He thought of a better way to take himself out - sitting in his garage was a 600cc Kawasaki Ninja ZX6 motorcycle. He’d always wondered how fast it would go, tonight he was going to find out. Tom was a highly skilled rider who had ridden motorcycles since he was a kid. Now he was going to put those skills to the ultimate test.
He sped onto the highway doing a 60 mph wheelie. It was amazingly invigorating, because for weeks he had been unable to do anything. He was so depressed, he could barely make himself eat. His wife of 10 years had left him, and he felt there was nothing left to live for. He dropped back down onto two wheels and pulled the throttle all the way back. Within seconds he was ripping down the road at 170 mph. He could feel wind screaming in his helmet and mosquitoes smashing into his teeth. Secretly, he hoped the police spot would him and engage him in a chase, for he had no intentions of stopping short of a fiery crash. Fortunately for Tom, at 3A.M. all the cops were busy in doughnut shops, he sped by with impunity.
He took curves so fast his shoulder was only inches from the ground. At one point, he felt his tire slipping in some loose gravel, so he gunned the accelerator harder forcing his tires to grip the pavement below. He drove for hours, always at maximum speed. He was enjoying the adrenaline rush, and it was the happiest he’d felt in weeks. When he realized that he’d survived his death-defying ride, he came to the conclusion that God had other plans for him. Ready to live again, he tapered down to the speed limit and drove home.
Today Tom is happily married. Now he has an easy riding Harley with a windshield, saddlebags, and arm-chair seat in back for his new wife.
Most of us don’t need a life-threatening experience to give us a reason to live... however, there is nothing like a good thrill to rejuvenate our spirits!
I have one friend who has been into extreme sports his entire life. Years ago he set up a one-day adventure where he parachuted to a mountain top, skied to the bottom, then got into a kayak for a trip down a river of white water rapids. Today he gets all he needs by competing in triathlons.
Another friend with more than 4000 jumps from an airplane, explained it to me this way, “It’s all about the free fall which lasts about 60 seconds, then it’s a boring parachute ride to the ground where I pack up my chute and get ready to go again.”
Most of us love the pounding heartbeat, rapid breathing, nervous perspiration, and the butterflies in the stomach that come from participating in a hazardous experience. It’s that element of fear, that stands between a thrill and just plain fun.
For me it’s mountain biking. Riding up the mountain is just hard work, the payoff is coming back down. Flying over trails that twist and turn, dip and bump, where I occasionally become airborne. All of that, and the knowledge that if I go too fast or get too close to the edge... I could die.
We enjoy feeling scared. Thrills give us a sense of our mortality and that makes us feel alive. These lyrics from the Sixx:A.M. song "Life Is Beautiful" really grasp that concept:
I know some things that you don't
I've done things that you won't
There's nothing like a trail of blood to find your way back home
I was waiting for my hearse
What came next was so much worse
It took a funeral to make me feel alive
Adrenaline junkies keep moving up the ladder of excitement: zip lining, spelunking, bungee jumping, ballooning, scuba diving, mountain climbing, hang gliding, and the scariest one of all: public speaking (OK, I couldn’t resist throwing this one in - since it is clearly one of my favorites).
It’s all about reaching that feeling we express as, “What a rush!” It feels empowering, and makes us feel that we can do anything. Unfortunately, the feeling is fleeting, but for the few moments it lingers we feel as if we’re walking on air.
Unfortunately, some people take their thrill seeking to inappropriate levels, by experimenting with illegal drugs, having sex with strangers, and committing violent crimes like bank robbery. The hangover from any one of those is hardly worth the kick.
Of course there are many safe ways we can get our “Thrill” on: roller coasters, water slides, even horror movies. What exhilarates you? And, how often do you need to get your fix?
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Robert is also the author of the humorous children’s book: The Annoying Ghost Kid. For more information on Robert, please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.