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How to Not Hate Skydiving

Written by James La Barrie

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Originally printed in issue #58 (October 2014) of Blue Skies Magazine.
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It’s October. The end of the season is nearly here. If you’re a DZO, how do you feel? You’re tired. No, you’re exhausted, both physically and emotionally. While physical exhaustion is easy to identify and remedy, the tolls of emotional exhaustion are more subtle and can slowly eat away at the passion you once had for your business.

Burnout is a common trend among DZOs, especially at this time of year. Most DZOs are the chief cooks and bottle washers and if they seem like they’re a little grumpy, it might be because they’re tired of so much cooking and cleaning. Between issues of aircraft, having enough staff, rigging, the stressful toll of paying fuel bills after multiple weekends of bad weather and even flying the plane, DZOs can easily lose sight of the big picture or why they ever got into this blasted business to begin with! As a DZ grows, so does the frenetic pace. Toss in serious injury or a fatality, add a dose of intense media scrutiny … you get the picture: Burnout starts to set in. This isn’t unique to our industry; keeping the passion is the challenge of entrepreneurs everywhere in every industry.

If you’re a frustrated and exhausted DZO, please read this paragraph. If you’re a frustrated worker at a DZ, please share this with your frustrated DZO, because this next sentence is the most important. Take time out to clear your mind … as in, unplug. Get away from your business and once you’ve had an opportunity to relax, write some things down.

My life coach, Melanie Curtis, once asked me, “What are you tolerating?” What a powerful question. I didn’t know I was tolerating anything. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was tolerating a lot of things.

So, let me ask you: What did you tolerate this season?

What went right?

What went wrong?

Who are the bad apples in your organization?

What do you want for your business?

If you don’t take the time to reflect and thoughtfully answer these questions, then next season will be the same as this season. A year from now, you’ll be more bitter and jaded than you were this year.

You want change? It starts with you.

All DZOs know that there really isn’t an offseason. There’s always something to be done in preparation for the season ahead. So this winter, why not make a game plan? Here are a few steps to help you lay the groundwork for a successful year while reducing emotional fatigue.

1. Rest. It’s been a rigorous year … take some time out for self-care. Get away from the office—no emails, no phone calls—UNPLUG.

2. Reflect. What are you tolerating? What is important to you? What are the values you wish to have for your business? Write them down and be specific. Identifying where you are in relation to where you want to be will provide clarity, which is a major step in the right direction.

3. Vision. At the beginning of your new season, share your vision and specific goals with your crew. Stephen Covey said it best: “Begin with the end result in mind.” To have cooperation, everyone needs to have a common purpose.

4. Execute. With a clear vision in mind, start to make changes that will lead you where you want to go. As you see progress toward your goals, the satisfaction and passion you once felt for your business will begin to return.

5. Communicate. Perhaps the biggest downfall for the majority of DZs is communication. Share what’s happening with your staff on the regular … the ups and the downs. Again, everyone is in it together.

6. Nurture. People need to feel appreciated on the journey. Praise publicly, punish privately and be consistent.

It’s said if you want to punish someone you don’t like, encourage them to own a drop zone. The DZ gig is a tough one made worse if approached with the macho mentality of handling anything as it comes … over time you’ll gradually turn into a hardened cynic. Pausing, evaluating and making adjustments are parts of the journey—don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

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2 Comments

  • Great article! My husband owns a DZ and this describes exactly how he feels at the end of the season. He was the one who forwarded me the link to the article and I absolutely relished the moment, after reading it, when I could say to him “I told you so!!” – he wouldn’t listen to me before. Hopefully this article has made it sink in a little. Thank you. :)

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