The Jeff Wise Blog

The Ultimate Daredevil’s Guide to Conquering Fear

No one alive has done more hair-raising crazy stunts than Travis Pastrana. The first person to ever pull a double-backflip on a motorcycle, he has also jumped out of an airplane without a parachute (video here) and back-flipped a child’s Big Wheel off a huge jump called a megaramp (video here). But contrary to common belief, Pastrana is not immune to fear — in fact, almost every night he wakes up in the grip of night terrors. So how does he keep cool when his life is on the line? Here are some tips.

Be Prepared. “The scariest thing for me is when I go into something unprepared. When I jumped a Big Wheel on the megaramp, that was scary. I didn’t know if it was going to blow up on the takeoff. It’s not made to be going 55 mph and withstanding four g’s.”

Use Your Fear. “When I’m not nervous, I’m not 100 percent focused on something. When I jumped out of the plane without a parachute, the part that scared me the most was that I wasn’t scared enough. I had to deliberately re-set my mind: ‘Okay, Travis, you have the rest of your life to find those other jumpers and make this work.’”

Trust Your Crew. “The hardest part about putting the jump together was finding people that were a) good enough and b) willing to risk being involved with a stunt like this. But once I found a good crew, we all trusted each other. The guys that I was jumping with had 10,000 jumps apiece.”

Commit Yourself. “Before I did the double backflip, I was scared all day. I didn’t know if I would decide to do it or not. And then the second I was on the jump, and I knew that I was going to do it, the fear just went away. It was like, ‘Well, okay, it’s inevitably going to happen — let’s try to make it work.’”

Pastrana shared these tips with me as I was interviewing him for an article in Red Bulletin, which you can check out here.

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Filed under: Mastering Fear

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Thinking About Fear & the Brain

If I find myself in a severe crisis, will I be able to keep it together? How can I control anxiety and panic? Is it possible to lead a life less bounded by fear? These are the sorts of questions that I'll be exploring in this blog, an offshoot of my book, Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger, published on December 8, 2009 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Video Introduction

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