Travis Haley checking gear before a jump at high altitude.
(Photo by Haley Strategic)

Braving the Unknown as It Equates to Being a Military Freefall Parachutist

One of my most memorable moments of experiencing the unknown was the first time I jumped out of an airplane. At that time, I was very excited and motivated to take my career to the next level as a military freefall parachutist. 

A Solid Foundation

I had all the education and ground training that I needed. I knew and trusted my equipment, and I trusted my instructor to save me if it came down to that. Clearly I also knew what it had taken me to get to that point, and I had never felt more ready to excel in my life until it was time to step over that line into the sky. When my instructor told me to stand and move to the edge of the ramp, I remember that he gave me a high five and asked me if I was ready.

At that moment, I looked down at the earth and then back to him and said, “Whether I am or not, I guess at this point I don’t have a choice.” He just smiled and then pushed me out into the wild blue unknown. I’m sure I speak for every person who has ever taken this step by saying that you can have all the knowledge and training possible, but you will either consciously or unconsciously have more uncertainty than at any other time in your life as you cross this threshold.   

Travis Haley of Haley Strategic shares his view from the ramp before a military freefall jump.
(Photo by Haley Strategic)

I think I tensed up every muscle in my body as I fell over the edge; however, the amazing part was about five seconds into the freefall when I realized how invigorating and different this experience was from my previously held assumptions about high-altitude parachuting. Because of this enormous contrast between my perceptions and reality, I realized right then and there that I wanted to feel this feeling every single day of my life — not just while jumping out of an airplane, but in anything I tackled. From that moment on, I welcomed the unknown more than ever before.          


Experience in our lives consists of the things that we know for certain and the things that are unknown. Likewise, the one problem we all share is the need to bridge the gap between the known and the unknown. I call it a problem because that’s what it is, and it is a recurring one that we all need to solve to get to the next levels in our lives. One of the oldest and strongest kinds of fear for humans is the fear of the unknown.

Every day this challenges us. We deal with it in our families, our jobs and careers, and our sicknesses and health. Many people try to avoid these fears entirely, and others deal with them as they come. Then there are some who venture into the dark, inviting risk and uncertainty. They thrive on the rewards of success, or else learning that adversity and failure can be the greatest opportunities for growth.  

As I mention above, we all deal with everyday unknowns. Examples include not knowing how to break a bad habit, how a new job may affect us, how to start a business, how to raise a family, or how to cope with illness, disability or even death. We need to help each other realize that no matter how good or bad the unknown may be, only we can control our realities. That we deserve what we ask or don’t ask for in life. 


The painting “The Unknown” is part of the Keomaka Signature Series that I am involved with, and it serves as a reminder of your “ramp” into the unknown. It is about who you are and what your significance in the world is, the fights you take on every day, and how you balance opposites, so that you might put it all together in order to fully embrace “The Unknown.”  

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