My Love Affair With Backflips – How To Find Happiness Through Fear

Today I did a backflip off of the top of a park bench; it was my first time ever.

And, considering the fact I am still alive and here to write about it, I suppose it turned out okay. ;)

Here’s the proof:

Doing backflips makes me happy. It brings me joy, actually.

But, to understand why, you first have to understand that:

I wasn’t born with the ability to do backflips.

Now, that part may be obvious, but let me clarify. This wasn’t a talent I developed in elementary school or middle school. I didn’t even learn this magical feat in high school…. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The Strength of our Dreams Determines the Size of our Action

As a young child, I always wanted to be a ninja, with amazing acrobatic skills. I dreamed about it for years, and finally, in the 8th grade, I took massive action on it. I attempted a backflip. In the gym at school, I set up a big foam pit and launched off the bleachers. It was glorious and magnificent… until I landed, on my neck. To say that it hurt was an understatement.

Young & foolish, I decided to try again. Weeks later (after my neck healed) I tried it again. This time, I did it in pool, where I thought the water would be safer. Somehow, I managed to land in a very awkward way that my grandchildren felt… and once again, it hurt. It hurt bad.

No more backflips… I give up. I resign to the thought that I can’t do it. I’m too afraid to even try.

How You Do One Thing… You Do Everything

Fast forward 15 years. I realize that backflips aren’t the only area of my life in which I have fear holding me back. I realize that fear holds me back from chasing after my dreams in so many areas:

  • In business, I wasn’t taking risks…. because of fear.
  • In relationships, I wasn’t going after what I wanted… because of fear.
  • In life, I wasn’t pursuing my passions… all because of fear.

Fear was controlling my life.

Change Is More Than Possible, It’s Necessary

I knew that if I wanted to no longer be controlled by my fear, I needed to change my approach. Like Jim Rohn said:

If you want to amend your errors, you must begin by amending your philosophy.

My philosophy consisted of letting fear hold me back from that which I wanted. That’s a pretty sucky philosophy.

Long story short, I sought out a coach who taught me how to overcome my fear and adopt a philosophy that fear is a green light to take action. With this new mindset, I run in to face my fears, head-on.

And so, at 28 years of age, I decided to be a gymnast. :)

Here’s one of my earlier attempts:

Pathetic, I know. BUT, here’s the moral of the story:

Imperfect action is better than perfect procrastination.

Backflip off cliff

Conquering fear... one back flip at a time.

I landed on my head. I hurt my neck. I looked like an idiot. I’m okay with that, because it didn’t stop me this time. I kept moving.

It was a baby step, but it was a step…

  • a step in the right direction
  • a step in the face of fear
  • a step toward my dreams

Now, almost 4 years later, I do backflips. I do them off of park benches, in the grass, on concrete, on first dates, for my nephew, off of cliffs, near, far, with a red fish or with a blue fish, etc. (Okay, maybe the fish part isn’t true, but you get the point)

I do backflips now, to symbolize that fear has no claim on us, except that which we allow. I am happy when I back flip, because I am reminded that I am bigger than my fears.

What is something that you fear?

Will you take action on it today?

  • Camihewett

    Awesome writing, Joseph. Thanks for sharing! I agree about back flips bringing joy: I recently resurrected my roundoff back-handspring (dusty after years of non-use) and it thrills me. At my kids’ gymnastics camp in July, I sneaked out onto the floor and threw a roundoff with two back-handsprings. I’d been surreptitiously tucking in my shirt and stretching a bit, but then I tied up my hair and went. It was so much fun. The other parents were like, “what??”
    Maybe someday I’ll be cool enough to do backflips off park benches, but not yet. I’m still wary of the landing. I relied too much on my spotters when I was learning–I could do flips with them just standing there, but when they moved their hands my brain stopped me from throwing the flip. I crashed enough times to remember the feeling well, like you said. So I’m inspired by your writing here to overcome fear. 

  • Endoclothing

    I am more inspired that I was a moment ago.  thanks Joseph.

  • Joseph Ranseth

    1) Thank you for the kind words of encouragement… I’m flattered. (Coming from you, it’s an honor that I’d put on my resume if I had one)
    2) You used the word “surreptitiously” and I had to google it. This reminds me of why I had such a crush on you 10 years ago…
    3) Way to go with the back handspring! It took 3 years, after I first did a backflip on the gym floor, to find the courage to do it on my own, on the concrete. THAT was the liberating moment in my mind… the major milestone that signified victory.

    Thank you so much for stopping by. :)

  • Joseph Ranseth

    You’re welcome… Who’s the person behind Endo Clothing? Have we met in person yet? :)

  • Anonymous

    I wondered about the park bench backflip… I remember responding when you tweeted about it, and I just now came to read the story.  Really awesome. Thanks for the inspiration :)