“Embrace your own weirdness and you’ll never be alone.”- Barefoot Ted
When we were children our parents taught us to sit down, shut up, and do what you’re told to do; but sometimes going against conventional wisdom can save your life. Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run, gave a speech to Appalachian State about man named Kevin Hillary who survived a 96 ft fall by following his own instincts. Just because society tells it’s you impossible doesn’t mean that it’s true.
Kevin Hillary was a climbing grunt- someone who’ll climb anything just because it’s there. He and four of his buddies decide to celebrate the Winter Solstice in 1993 by watching the sunset in a 300 ft sequoia tree. Getting in that tree is no fruit pie considering that a 15 story building can fit under the first branch. A fishing line was attached to a bow and arrow which was shot over the lowest branch. A rope was then tied to the end of the fishing line and that was pulled up and over. Leaving the tree was not as easy because the thought of after sunset means darkness didn’t reach their minds.
Hillary was the last one to go down and it was pitch black. He threw his rope over what he thought was a big, strong branch- it was actually little ones close together. The guys below him heard three things: a snap, Hillary saying ‘Headache’ (which is a climbing term which means that something got dropped), and hissing of air.
When falling out of a tree three things happen: you scream your lungs empty, gravity makes your head point down and you travel at one mile per foot. Death seems eminent. Hillary had a split second of thought and decided to defy conventional wisdom. He maintains what his buddies called a professional silence. This caused his lungs to be full of air which acted like an internal airbag.
Instead of being head first, Hillary started to ‘swim’ in the air and made his body become horizontal with the ground which protected his spinal cord. Finally at the last second he put his arm perpendicular with the ground–like he was doing a push up–and pushed away from the ground. When his friends came to see him, Hillary was in a crater in the ground. He opens his eyes and said “So sorry that you had to see that”. He left the hospital four days later with fractured ribs and a broken pelvis.
If Kevin Hillary had not followed his own unique idea he would be dead. We shouldn’t let society make all of our decisions. Be imaginative in the way you approach the world.