Monday, March 11, 2013

Mining my Mojo

I was sitting on the rock wall at Diamond Head talking with Fireman Dave the other day, and we got into a discussion about confidence, and its role in paragliding. It is undeniable that a good paraglider must have real confidence in their abilities as a pilot. Self-doubt and hesitation can lead to indecisive or counter-productive movements that might just be enough to ruin a launch or a landing, or even get you into real trouble. But as Dave said, confidence isn't something that you can just tell yourself to have. It creeps in over time through a combination of experience, situational awareness and an elusive brazenness. It's almost like if you think about it too much, then it slips away. It's mojo – part magic and part tapping into your own uncanny personal power.

— n, pl mojos, mojoes
1. a. an amulet, charm, or magic spell
    b. (as modifier): ancient mojo spells
2. the art of casting magic spells
3. uncanny personal power or influence

I have been having a lot of firsts lately - first bay crossing and bowtie at Kahana, first flight at Diamond Head, first top landing at Makapuu – and I have been increasingly learning to trust my mojo. Not in a dangerous or reckless way, nor egotistical way, but in the way that if I have made a decision to go for something, than I must trust that decision and then execute fluid, confident movements to realize that goal. Because the truth is, every pilot has to fly their own flight, so you have to learn to trust yourself. For some of us, that nagging doubt can be tough to drown out.

I have heard many of you teasing the go-pro videos where the pilots talk to themselves, and here is my confession: I talk to myself (yes, out loud) every single flight. Usually it's either when I am debating a decision and trying to think out all the angles of the decision, or when I am concerned I might be facing something difficult or dangerous and want to talk myself out of it. Although I do let out an occasional, "Oh $h!t", or "Weeee". I'm starting to wonder if talking to myself helps me trust my mojo. For example, when I was trying to do the last upwind leg of the bowtie at Kahana, I was pushing on my speed bar with all of my might, meanwhile talking to my tired, shaking legs, "Come on legs, hang in there. There's a field there if you need it. There's a field over there if you need it. There's a field back there if you need it. But legs, just hold on, almost there." Or today, when I was coming to topland, I was saying, "If you get down there, and it seems bad, just fly through. Get close so you can tell, and then it's okay to fly through if you need to." I think what it comes down to is that I'm talking about what's causing my doubt, to get it out and not let it make decisions for me.

Confidence is certainly a difficult thing to negotiate. A lot of my doubt is based on a sense of self-preservation in a sport that can have pretty serious consequences. But always in the background, my mojo is egging me on to try new things, push a little further and challenge myself. Grad school sucked up all of my mojo for the past 3.5 years, but it's obviously got eyes on a new mistress, and paragliding, you are it.

Thanks to all of you for help, encouragement, and some serious fun times – especially Duck for letting me fly the Sigma. (I promise I will pay you for it!) I love it. The picture is one I took of Bonnie on our second flight today – a lovely sunset flight. Gotta love Bonkers, she's always willing to go for another flight.


Alex said...

You go girl. :-) I love your story. I have to talk to myself while flying too. I just don't put the silly pep talk comments I make on my go pro videos. Maybe I should start...

Thom said...

Holly Crap another Writer, I mean a real writer.

This is a superlative read and one that should be read by all.

I am at a loss of words which does not happen...ever.

You can always override the Go-Pro audio with a song.

I hope I find my mojo on my next flight and I will start talking outloud to myself.

We are hoping to see you more in the air or at least trying to follow you.

I will be expecting more coffee reads from you now as well......I am going to buy an expresso machine just to keep up.

A very happy,
JJ Jameson

Ka'a'awa Larry said...

Beautifully written and timely. Worthy of some expansion for submission to USHPA for a magazine article.

Unfortunately you have painted a target on your back for J.J. and he'll be giving you grief for more at every opportunity.

Again, well done!

Thom said...

At KLarry.
I was thinking the same thing, about submitting it to the Mag. not the target thing but since you opened the door....oh ya she better be writing a bunch more. I was just texting her the same note when I saw a 3rd comment come up. I am glad I am not the only one.

This of course means flying a bunch more....sorry Gaza put your retirement on hold you might have a pilot to sponsor for awhile. Architecture needs inspiration and I can see no better inspiration than flying EVERY DAY!

Go SWAN !!!

Waianae Jim said...

Great story Laurel, maybe we should give you a new nickname Ms. Mojo!

Kristjan said...

Definitely submit that one to the magazine. Awesome work. I talk to myself often as well, especially when trying to get my brain back in it when flying strong thermals. I will recite that line from Top Gun when Maverick kinda chickens out of the dog fight: "Engage Maverick! Engage goddammit!"

Bon Bon said...

Nice write-up, Swan. And, yes, I will ALWAYS go again! I always do when someone wants company.

Here is my video from our flight(s):

My first flight, upon landing, I was pitching in and was low, almost landing and decided to swoop once more and ended up "jumping" over Tommy's car.