A skydiving student of mine remarked to me recently, “My non-skydiving friends just don’t understand why I skydive. They don’t take chances with their lives.” I replied, “That’s not true. Do they ever drive on a two lane highway? When another car comes from the other direction, there’s a closing speed of 120 mph, same as our closing speed to the ground when we are in freefall, yet at a distance of only a few feet. The difference is, I can see this huge planet Earth coming at me 10,000 feet away, but I can avoid hitting it at deadly speed simply by pulling a little handle. On the highway, you never know what that guy in the other lane will do at the last second. He could be messing with his cell phone or under the influence… or eating his sandwich or texting grandma.”
What are the risks we accept unaware, without thinking?
After being DZO of Skydive Kansas for 21 years, I accepted a full time position at USPA as Director of IT. I'm still traveling to teach courses as an eXaminer with Xcelskydiving. But I have never believed in spreading thin or watering down. After much contemplation, I made the bittersweet decision to close my dropzone. In an email to regular jumpers, I explain by starting with:
The only thing that stays the same is that things change.
Here's a collection of some of my best projects I developed throughout my work as JenSharp.com, web programmer. They included e-commerce, e-learning, data management systems, and high functioning websites.
In the third century BC, Aristotle penned the timeless words, “The more I know, the more I know I don’t know.” Since then, countless people in numerous time periods have restated this realization using various wording. Aristotle’s statement and the others like it are the hallmark of those who are recovering casualties of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a phenomenon explored in a series of experiments by David Dunning and Justin Kruger at the Cornell University Department of Psychology in 1999. These experiments—reportedly inspired by a bank robber who knew that lemon juice could be used as invisible ink and covered his face in it thinking it would render him invisible—set out to test a human psychological trait many before have witnessed: People with below average skill or knowledge tend to grossly overestimate their own abilities.
In a coach certification course, a particularly verbose candidate felt compelled to spill his brains at every turn during a mock ground-prep session. A real student would have been overloaded with all the explanations and details and then simply tuned him out. How could I get this candidate to see how ineffective his words were? I made him a bet. I stopped the guided practice, stepped in as coach and asked the talkative candidate to count the number of words I said as I performed the mock ground prep. I guaranteed I would say fewer than 50 words. Naturally, he agreed to such a sure bet.
So why have rules at all, if they don’t always do the job they’re intended for? Because there is a limit, even if rules can only approximate it. And although there is no way to regulate good judgment, jumpers still need to use their reasoning skills. By studying what elements cause risk, those risks can be reduced. By ethically adhering without exception to the established set of rules and applying good safety practices based on your experience and reasoning, you can reduce the risk for your students and your liability as an instructional rating holder.