3 Mindset Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Extreme Athletes

Let adrenaline junkies and extreme athletes like Karina Hollekim show inspire you to live fearlessly in life and business.

Afraid to pitch your startup to investors? Are you feeling nervous about an upcoming meeting with a new client? Many of us let fear rule our businesses and our lives.

Maybe you’ve decided your dream is too far out of reach. Perhaps fear has paralyzed you, and it’s increasingly harder to take steps towards a smaller goal.

Whether you dream of winning a pitch competition or scaling your company to the next level, you must move past the fear that holds you back.


Tap into the mindset of extreme athletes

Consider some of the most fearless people you’ve witnessed take extreme risks?

Adrenaline junkies come to mind. They’re jumping off cliffs and falling out of planes instead of pitching VC’s and scaling ideas, but you can harness that same fearlessness in business.

Professional BASE jumper, skydiver and extreme free-skier Karina Hollekim shares how her life philosophy changed drastically after a near-death skydiving accident. Her lessons are insights we can all apply as we feel the fear and move forward anyway.


1. Take charge of your life

Hollekim had reached the height of her professional BASE jumping career when she crash-landed during a routine skydiving performance. A knot in the lines of her chute took control of her descent and sent her spiraling to the ground at 100 km per hour. When she hit the ground, her body, below the waist, was destroyed.

She woke up in a hospital three days later, to find out she would never walk again. After four months of surgeries, the doctors found a piece of grass lodged between the steel implants in her leg that had caused severe infections. With its removal came hope.

Photo: Connor Gardenhire, Pexels
Photo: Connor Gardenhire, YFS Magazine

Hollekim realized the accident had taken a huge part of her, something more than her ability to walk. The accident made her feel helpless. She had lived her whole life making her own decisions, which most of the time were life or death. Bed-ridden in the hospital, uncertainty about her future robbed her of hope as doctors made decisions for her.

She was dependent on others for her recovery and relearning how to walk. She couldn’t make big life changes, so she decided to put her energy towards making daily little changes. When she reclaimed the power to control her life, in spite of circumstances she couldn’t control, she found she could grow.

The task in front of you may not be as daunting as relearning how to walk. Regardless of how big or small, taking control of your life – despite the hand you were dealt – will help you achieve greatness. Create realistic, small goals and those small wins will empower you to reach further.


2. The only failure is not trying

Doctors told Hollekim she may never walk again, but she set a greater goal to inspire her recovery — she wanted to return to free-skiing.

On the long road of recovery, Hollekim had moments of fear paralysis. When things weren’t moving at the pace she wanted, she would be struck with self-doubt. It was in those moments when she looked to her experience BASE jumping and questioned the origin of her fear.

“She reminded herself that the biggest failure is not trying at all and abandoning her dreams.”

The answer was: failure. She looked at her jumping and realized she was never afraid of death—her true fear was failing to reach her goals. Once she acknowledged her fear of failure, it became easier to combat it. She reminded herself that the biggest failure is not trying at all and abandoning her dreams.

When you focus on what-if scenarios, remind yourself you might not be able to control the outcome, but you can control your actions. So leap! Put yourself out there. The only real failure is never trying at all.


3. Cultivate positivity

When the doctors found the source of her extended pain—a little piece of grass—her world pivoted 180 degrees. She went from complete devastation to a sense of renewed hope. At that moment, she decided to eliminate all negative energy from her life.

Photo: Rodolfo Quirós, Pexels
Photo: Rodolfo Quirós, YFS Magazine

She then realized months of grief did not serve her best interests. So she moved forward to cultivate positive thoughts, hope, and audacious goals.

Before the accident, she lived without embracing positivity. As she strived for the next bigger and better thing, she rarely appreciated the present. When you focus on the good of the here and now, new opportunities sprout up.

A renewed focus on gratitude, in life and business, will overcome limiting thoughts.


Fight your way back

Ultimately, it took Hollekim four years to start skiing again and six years to fully enjoy it. She harnessed her BASE jumping mindset to get past her greatest obstacle.

Through dedication and some hard-won life lessons, she climbed her way back to her passion. Let adrenaline junkies and extreme athletes like Hollekim show inspire you to live fearlessly in life and business.


Jessica Welch is passionate about helping others and sees her work with BigSpeak as a great way to help spread knowledge. Jessica received a Bachelor’s degree in English, Creative Writing with a minor in Anthropology from California Polytechnic State University. After graduating, she spent a year teaching at a low-income high school in Oahu, HI.


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