One day I woke up feeling a little sad at the grey and stressing sky of São Paulo. I’ve always believed that only two things are real problems in life: health issues or death. If your “problem” is not related to one of these things, get up and face life with the best makeup you can use: a huge smile! So I started to practice meditation and decided that it was time to realize a dream instead of watch the grey skies. I checked my bucket list (Yes: I have one that I always update!) and realized that it was the perfect moment to live one of my biggest dreams: becoming a skydiver!

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Since my first tandem jump in Brasília in 2009, I couldn’t stop dreaming about becoming a skydiver. I took the jump with a great friend who was also a fire fighter. When we landed the first thing he said was, “Girl, are you fearless? I can´t believe how calm and happy you were all the time. You were born to be a skydiver. You must be one!” Needless to say, since that day I never had doubts that my place was in the sky… 

Dreams Taking Flight

Two years later I finally decided it was time to live this dream. I remember it as if it were today. The national city of skydiving in Brazil is called Boituva – one hour driving from São Paulo. I did an extensive Google search on the best schools for the Accelerated Freefall (AFF) course and scheduled my first theoretical class. The following week after the course, I was ready for the first jump level with my own parachute (okay, I was being held by two instructors to get out of the airplane but in the moment that my parachute opened it was me, myself and thank Buddha the radio equipment to help me on my first landing).

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It is hard to summarize what I felt during this first experience: it was amazing to deal with the “crazy butterflies” inside my stomach as the airplane lifted in flight and at the same time, I felt aware and conscious of all the steps I needed to do during the jump. I loved being in the edge of the door of the airplane; I cried of happiness when my parachute opened and my first flight alone was full of gratitude and fulfillment. And last but not least, when my feet touched the ground for the first time I could only thank, thank and thank life for being so amazing… It was a mix of accomplishment and pride but at the same time, I knew that I still had a long road along and that we are always learning.

While I advanced levels (eight total), the more I lived and I the more I learned that life is really a journey, not a destination. So I decided that I didn´t want to rush the end of the process because in fact I was there to learn about myself and to feel raw feelings like fear, anxiety, adrenalin and especially, how amazing life can be when you overcome something – no matter what! Becoming a skydiver actually became secondary during that moment…

50 Jumps and Counting

My passion for flying grew every day. I loved it and I can say that it was the most amazing transcendental time of my life: fear became an abstraction. My learning process was so intense that the only thing I could think about it that moment was when I could schedule my next jump. I jumped more than 50 times. I became so deeply involved in the skydiving lifestyle that I seriously considered becoming a professional skydiver.

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I learned in practice some very important lessons that I already knew in theory, and I always joke that I could write a book about “skydiving and philosophy”. To be a great skydiver you must keep three basic tips in mind: first, you only free fall correctly when you fix your eyes in a specific point on the horizon; second, you need to relax your body during the free fall or you will be swinging all the time; and third, you need to smile and enjoy the ride. 

Just like in any challenge in life, we need to see the big picture, we need to have a reference and we need to be friendly and nice not only with people around us, but also with ourselves. When we realize and really add this into our day to day life, we start learning what is truly important in life. And miracles start to happen because you simply understand that nothing can stop someone who is really prepared and at the same time is humble enough to know that in fact, we are not in control of anything besides our power to do good and to be a good person. As Steve Jobs says: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

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Onward, Upward, and Inward!

At some point I saw that my “real” public affairs life here at Coke was equally amazing and full of adrenalin. In fact here at Coke we never know when our parachutes are going to open – as for life in general. And the only thing I can say is that the same passion that drove me to my "sky life" is the one that I keep here in my heart.

Quoting Mr. Jobs once again, "We can only connect the dots looking backwards." I just finished reading Arianna Huffington´s (excellent) book, Thrive. It was wonderful to realize that my entry point to the third metric was the skydiving journey. Since then I gained some added perspective on what matters in my life. 

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During the free falling I learned the real meaning of “mindfulness/heartfulness” and I´ve been living a much healthier, balanced and meaningful life. As she says “so find your place to stand – your place of wisdom and peace and strength. And from that place, remake the world in your own image, according to your own definition of success, so that all of us – women and men – can thrive and live our lives with more grace, more joy, more compassion, more gratitude, and yes, more love. Onward, upward, and inward!” 

So choose the airplanes you want to go inside, jump out of them, relax, smile and trust that your parachute is always going to open. Life is too short to be so serious: be grateful and live it to the fullest. 

Giovana Araujo is a Government Affairs Manager for Coca-Cola Brazil, on a short-term assignment with the International Government Relations and Public Affairs team at the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta.