Mark Danger Powers

drummer • educator • author

Increase Your Bump Tolerance

Thought I was going to die last week . . .

Seriously. Have you ever been “that guy,” dry-heaving over the toilet (or next to a tree) late at night, swearing that, if you make it through just this one time, you’ll never touch alcohol again?

Well, that was me. Except I was suspended 2,000 feet above the ground.

One week ago was my first opportunity this year to get back into the skies with my paraglider. Early Friday morning, I got bundled up, loaded up the wing, harness and radio, and headed east of Portland on I-84. Reaching the town of White Salmon, I cross the bridge into Bingen, Washington and meet my flight instructor, Dan, at our LZ (landing zone) along the Columbia River.

After a pre-flight equipment check and a bit of review, we’re on our way up a nearby mountain. We throw on our packs and hike out to the launch site.

I lay my glider in a clearing, wait for an acceptable puff of wind, pull the wing overhead, and I’m off! I run down the hillside until the air being forced into the canopy pulls me away from the ground. Ahhh . . . it’s been months, but I’m flying again! It’s been a while since I’ve hung under this nylon and kevlar aircraft. I definitely noticed my hands shaking a little as they held onto the brakes. But those nerves disappeared as I got comfortable, nestles into my harness, crossed my legs, and began admiring the unbelievably beautiful Columbia River Gorge a couple thousand feet below me. The flight . . . this flight . . . was fantastic. Smooth air and a decent landing, right near the center of the LZ. Awesome!

On to flight #2 . . . Not so good. Back up the mountain, hiked in, all set to go.

A little wind and I’m in the air again. However, not so smooth this time. What we call “ratty” air. Unpredictable. Bumpy. Providing the kind of ride that makes you sick to your stomach. Which I might have felt, had I not been more consumed with thoughts of sheer and utter death. As I got away from the mountain, the ride got worse and worse. It felt like God was using me as a yo-yo, throwing me around from side to side. One second, I see my canopy shooting straight out to my left (rather than staying above me). The next second, it’s headed the other direction. Meanwhile, I’m hanging on for dear life, probably overcompensating on one brake to the next the entire time.

No amount of reading proper techniques and troubleshooting in a textbook can ever prepare you for an “oh s#!t” moment like this. Let me please get both feet safely on the ground and I will never do this again.

Nearby in the sky is Dan, calmly radioing instructions- most of which went misunderstood or completely ignored by me in my current state. It seemed like getting out of that turbulent air took an eternity. But we did eventually get out of it. Dan raced ahead, beat me to the LZ and talked me through my approach and landing.

Still feeling like my heart was ready to blast through my chest, I shoved the glider into its stuffsack and walked over to meet up again with Dan. I spoke the only thought that was in my head. “Dude, for a little bit, I thought I was gonna die up there.” His response: “Yeah . . . you could’ve.” And that’s the number one thing I love about Dan- he’s just a no-s#!t sort of guy.

—–

He went on to explain that situations like this (and my landing in powerlines last year) are giving me the experience so that I will be able to think clearly during similar scenarios in the future. “You’ve got to increase your bump tolerance,” he said. “You’ll get used to being tossed around. Even my pucker factor was high.” [Pucker factor I take as how tightly the fear makes you tense up and squeeze your butt cheeks together 🙂 ] “I was just glad I wasn’t you up there. You were probably scared to death.” Thanks, Dan . . . yes, yes, I was.

Hmm. Increasing your Bump Tolerance. Oh, man- how that applies to other areas of life. We all hit so many bumps, roadblocks and obstacles in our paths as we pursue goals we’d like to accomplish. How many times have you (or someone you know) run into one of those . . . and quit? And why do we quit when that bump is actually just our first opportunity to learn and gain valuable experience? Experience that the next guy/girl doesn’t have. Because they did quit.

All of our goals are different. I’m not saying that you need to go build your Bump Tolerance by jumping off mountaintops. But I am encouraging you to stick it out, especially when the going gets tough. Well, unless that’s you heaving over the toilet. Then maybe you should let that one go. Put the money from those fourth, fifth and seventeen beers toward that trip you’ve always wanted to go on!

As I’ve said before, and regularly preach to my drumming students: If you do now what other people won’t do, you’ll be able to do (for the rest of your life) what other people can’t do.

—–

How can this concept of increasing your Bump Tolerance be applied to your life?
Share your thoughts in a comment below!

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(photo by Andrew Rivett)

25 Comments

  1. How have you applied this bump factor/will you apply this bump factor to other areas in YOUR life? I think what you’ve said here is spot on, but sometimes things are easier said than done, no? Understandably, no one WANTS to go into a situation like your second flight. But look what comes out of it! 🙂
    Love this post. Thanks, Mark.

    • Oops . . . guess I didn’t cover that, did I?! Definitely, as you said, easier said than done. But as I wrote this post, I certainly saw a gazillion areas in my life where I could apply this myself- from current projects to relationships.

      Many bloggers will attest to the fact that, oftentimes, the audience that most needs to hear the words we are writing is . . . ourself. I know I can benefit from taking my own advice. Time to kick my own butt, I guess. 🙂 Thanks for the comment- and keeping me in check!

  2. Mark,

    The most incredible thing about these situations is that you learn what you are capable of. My hardest and best lessons have been through adversity.

    I’m in the midst of trying a couple of business ventures….and hitting several roadblocks. I’m tempted on giving in…..but that just sooooo goes against my grain.

    So I’m going to suck it up….increase my bump tolerance….and keep on keeping on!

    I absolutely love what you preach to your students….words to live by my friend. As always, thanks for the perspective….and inspiration!

    • Best lessons learned amidst adversity?! Of course . . . what do any of us ever really learn (and how do we grow) when things are all hunky-dory?

      Stick with those ventures. Soon you’ll be posting here about their success and fruition! Thanks for reading, Maria!

  3. Mark,
    WOW! Another example of “what does not kill you makes you stronger!” I love how you applied this experience to life. Amen, “we all need to increase our bump tolerance,” and how hard it is to own this lesson when we are in the “Oh Shit!” place. Whew! Glad you survived the lesson to share it with the rest of us and thank you for this reminder of how these experiences serve to help us grow.

    Lauri Lumby
    Authentic Freedom Ministries
    http://yourspiritualtruth.com

    • Thanks, Lauri! Dan’s little flying insights regularly give me food-for-thought for other aspects of my life. I’m sure I’ll (he’ll) have more to come . . .

  4. Maybe we won’t share this one with mom! ☺

    Proud to know that you’re the kind of person that one “little” bump isn’t going to slow down. Also glad you’re OK! This is certainly one of those “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger” moments. Love ya’!

    • Ha! Thanks . . . that’d be much appreciated!
      Love you, too, bro.

  5. This is really great! Well, not that you almost died, but that you live to tell… =)

    Having only paraglided once, I know that my bump tolerance for that sort of action is ZERO. Glad I did it, but never again.

    I will now, however, be introducing “Pucker Factor” into my daily vocabulary. =)

    • Nice- I’ll pass on to Dan that you’re adopting his phrase. I thought it was pretty stellar, as well! I haven’t quite reached my P2 pilot rating, so much paragliding lies ahead in my future. That translates into many more opportunities to experience a wide range of PF’s. 🙂 Thanks a ton for the comment, Dalene!

  6. Perfectly stated, Mark. You KNOW I can relate, too! My “bump tolerance” has been limited to perfectly benign conditions at the coast ONLY. I’ve had enough of the thrills and chills of ratty air, sketchy launches, and near-death experiences. It’s not that I’ll completely avoid all of this at the coast, but the chances are much more narrow if I’m careful in my choice of when to or when not to fly.

    Maybe that’s a key to lowering your chances of quitting — mitigate your harrowing experiences to a minimum, use discretion when making decisions, and be glad you’re still alive to go again!

    • Ha! After this last experience, I can completely understand you limiting your flying to less hectic coastal air! Perhaps I’ll see you out that way soon?

  7. Wow! What a great and inspiring story! I love the part at the end “If you do now what other people won’t do, you’ll be able to do (for the rest of your life) what other people can’t do.” I wish I had heard that years ago, but I’m going to keep that quote around to inspire me to keep moving forward. Thanks so much!

    • Thank you for reading and dropping a line, Angela!

  8. Great post, Mark! I have a strict feet-firmly-on-the-ground policy so have no idea about bumps in the sky, but it definitely applies to every day life too. I’ve had a lot of bumps on my journey to adulthood (starting to think the legal age of emancipation should be 28 not 18, haha.), but each one prepared for something else and slowly but surely I’m figuring out to adjust my sails for smoother sailing. …. Please ignore the mixed metaphors. The sky scares me. The sea scares me a little less, lol, so I gravitated to boat metaphors.

    • Hey, Chase- thanks for the comment! Right you are about each of life’s bumps preparing you for the next. Leaving home when I was 16, my early challenges and lessons definitely gave me the skills to face those I do now.

  9. I have been in a life-or-death situation myself, which is horrible, and I totally relate to your feelings of ‘sheer and utter death’.

    It’s cool that you have not let your fears get in the way of giving up on paragliding and
    I’m glad you’re still alive to tell the tale.

    I’m keeping my bump tolerance to a low at the moment, doing things slowly and building up my confidence again. Are you going to jump right back in to paragliding again after this? Or take things a little easier at first?

    • I am definitely jumping right back in! That is, as soon as this Oregon weather dries up a bit . . .
      🙂
      Thanks for paying a visit, Tom. Love your site!

  10. I used to love the Tilt-a-Whirl.

    Not so much anymore.

    • Guess you need to work on increasing your Tilt Tolerance, eh?! Although, I think I do also recall that ride making me a little sick a time or two. :-

  11. Oh man, that sounds terrifying. I’m sort of jealous though. What an experience!

    I like the idea of bump tolerance. That’s a nice metaphor. I’ve noticed in my own life, that pretty much any new pursuit starts out with a teething period. And the more worthwhile something is, usually the more pain you feel. But you’ve just gotta get through it. Once you do, things get so much easier.

    Great post Mark.

    • Teething period . . . I like. And, no reason to be jealous, you’ll have plenty of time to come flying yourself when you move to Portland! 😉 Thanks, Emilie!

  12. Hey Mark,

    “If you do now what other people won’t do, you’ll be able to do (for the rest of your life) what other people can’t do.”

    Wonderfull – it’s all about expanding your comfort zone and PUSHING yourself as much as you can – every single day ! It’s such a grreat motto, and SADLY, I haven’t been following it as much as I SHOULD have (ahh, the dreaded “SHOULD HAVE” , a terrible mumble)
    But as I go through life, I make it a conscious EFFORT to continually stretch myself in order to enjoy any new BUMPS coming my way.
    Super story, important message.

    YOU rock !

    • Honored to have you pass through these pages, MD! Glad you dug the post. It is difficult to constantly push ourselves. That tends to ebb and flow with myself, as well. But perhaps it wouldn’t be 100% healthy to never reign things in, slow down and idle for a bit. I find that a little time to refuel gets me set to kick into higher gears than ever before. Thanks for the read and comment, dude!

  13. Gad! I missed this post Mr. Daedalus and I don’t know how -wow! You always give me
    giggles or shivers or third eye contemplations when I follow your chronicles. With guidance I
    “pucker up” as well as remember how dry heaves feel. Yup, what a fab metaphor for
    “high flying ambitions” . Failure here– is death. Living , the reward. Now, the reward is Life Lived.
    You may have felt your feathers were melting but you held your course and I can’t even imagine
    the feeling of God pummeling me- dangling 2,000 ft. in the air and not being able to resist– and yet…..here a lesson ….surrender- to unseen forces greater than you. Here too much resistance is futile and dangerous. With surrender to the fear I might imagine for a few seconds — joy for the moment -magnified by the heights of the heavens. Staying the course here on earth is a long long bump sometimes, but yes, indeed can be as rewarding especailly if one lives through it! thank you, Mark

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