How to Jump Off Cliffs (And Create Fearlessly)

Here’s a little background about me. I have an M.A. in biblical studies from one of the top five seminaries in the country (and the numbers separating the top five are thin at best). During my tenure of study, I learned from some of the most highly published and respected Bible scholars and theologians currently in the game. Furthermore, I had opportunities to listen to sermons and guest-lectures from some of the world’s most elite ministers. I assure you that this isn’t a flex, I just want to be sure that you, my dear reader, know where I am coming from when you read this next sentence. Even with this educational and ecumenical background, I can confidently say that the two entities who have had the most profound spiritual impact on my life are, both reformed and recovering, Mike Tyson (the former heavyweight boxing champion) and Steve-O (of Jackass fame). The story of how Mike Tyson came to dramatically affect my spiritual journey is perhaps one for another time (simply know it involves his interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast, a subsequent dream, and a tearful realization in the middle of the night), but for now the focus is on Steve-O and one specific lesson that I’ve learned from him. 

Steve-O’s journey of sobriety is one of the most captivating, awe-inspiring, and motivational tales that I can think of in recent memory, and I would highly suggest that anyone inclined to do so listen to one of his many podcast and talk show appearances, as well as check out his Youtube channel (if for nothing else but his adorable dog, Wendy, who he rescued off the streets of Peru). Most recently, as far as I know, Steve-O appeared on The Nine Club with Chris Roberts to talk about his skateboarding career (some language involved here—it is Steve-O). However, skateboarding took up relatively little of this over two and half hour podcast. Steve-O talks about his school days, his training as a clown, his aforementioned journey of sobriety and recovery, and, what I want to talk about, his “1, 2, 3, Go” method of approaching scary obstacles. 

At about one hour and forty-five minutes in, Steve-O is asked if he has a ritual for doing some of the crazy stunts, that you may or may not be familiar with from Jackass, that he’s done throughout his life and career. Steve-O explains that he simply counts, “1… 2… 3… GO” and that he has never once, and that makes for an impressive catalog of crazy activities, backed out of a stunt when he’s used that method. We’re talking about walking over a pond of alligators with meat hanging from a jockstrap, jumping off of a speeding truck in between two highway overpasses into a thin strip of municipal water, and any other number of stunts involving stilts and fire breathing. All it took was three little numbers and an exclamation to give Steve-O the courage he needed. 

Steve-O then goes on to explain that during his journey of sobriety he would at times have to resort to his tried and true method while tackling some of the harder steps of his program. This is all certainly Steve-O’s story to tell, so I won’t rob him of any more than I already have, but rather, once again, encourage you to check out any of his interviews for the full story (and some great entertainment—again, some language here). Maybe he’ll inspire you as much as he did me. In a more focused sense, his “1… 2… 3… GO” method of approaching things that scare us is surprisingly effective. At the end of his TEDTalk, “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator,” Tim Urban relays the stories of people who have not accomplished the things that they’ve wished to accomplish due to the nature of their procrastination. However, I think it’s not just procrastination alone that stops people from going after their passions and their goals, but rather procrastination bolstered by fear. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of effort, fear of self; the list of fears that we all have that keep us from chasing our creative endeavors or life goals is probably near endless and unique to each of us. I have the standard fear of failure and fear of effort, but whatever you might be facing is surely as terrible and debilitating as my struggles. 

I invite you to think about something with me for a second. What if the only thing that was stopping us from achieving our goals was simply starting? What if the great barrier between who we are and who we want to be was less of a barrier and more of a hurdle that could easily be stepped over? What if all we had to do was start? Indulge my pedanticism for a second—once you’ve started it’s a hell of a lot more difficult to stop than if you never started at all. When Steve-O was going to jump off of a speeding truck to the narrow waters below, with certain concrete death on either side, he wasn’t going to jump unless he just jumped. And so, when faced with cowardice or stuntman glory, Steve-O counted. 

No one is going to run that race for you. No one is going to write that book and then put your name on it. Your amazing screenplay won’t see the light of day unless you coax it out into the sun. The only thing standing between you, between us, and the satisfaction of doing it, is starting. And this is what I’ve learned from Steve-O, this is how that hot-sauce-in-the-eye maniac has formed me spiritually: no one is going to do it but you, so take a breath, reconcile yourself with whatever deity you need reconciled with, and count with me: “1… 2… 3…”  ready? Go.