The name Evel Knievel will probably ring a bell in the minds of many of you reading this.
For those who don’t know, Evel Knievel was the greatest motorcycle daredevil that ever lived. In his career he made over 300 jumps. He once jumped over 19 automobiles. He jumped over 14 buses. And he was the first to attempt a jump over the water fountain at Caesars’ Palace, Las Vegas, NV.
When attempting the Caesar’s Palace jump, he made the distance over the fountain but missed his landing ramp. And because of that the Caesars Palace jump went down in recorded history as the most watched sporting event in television history, but for the wrong reason. What made it famous was this: It was the most horrific crash ever recorded on film. When he hit the ground, Evel tumbled and slid on concrete and asphalt for over 100 feet. In this wreck he broke thirty-nine bones and suffered a skull fracture. “Thirty nine (39) broken bones in that wreck and fractured his skull”–hard to imagine how he survived it. But survive it he did.
Evel Knievel spent 29 days in a coma after the Caeser’s Palace jump. His Doctors told him he may never walk again; and, that he would never ride a motorcycle again. So certainly daredevil jumping the bike was out. But Evel Knievel didn’t believe the Doctors. He believed in himself. And because of his own powerful beliefs, he walked out of the hospital in three months. And, five months after the accident he was doing another jump, this time he was attempting to jump over fifteen cars—unfortunately, he crashed again—this time he broke a foot and a leg. Incredible as it may seem, the best was yet to come.
These accidents only furthered Evel’s fame; in fact the terrible accident at Caesars’ had catapulted him to National Fame and hero worship status; and now history was about to be written because Evel believed in himself.
I have something in common with Evil Knievel. You see, when he attempted to jump the fountain at Caesars’ Palace, it was November 1967. And just a few short years later, I too made a jump on a cold November day, only the year was 1973.
The story begins in Pittsburgh on a cold, gray fall day. The leaves had all fallen and it was damp all around, having rained recently. The air was crisp and you could see your breath as you exhaled. The ground was sloppy mud and wet leaves with puddles here and there. I was thirteen at the time and as was usual in those days I hung out at a local ball park with my friends. On this chilly November Saturday we had gathered with our bikes at the field.
We noticed when we arrived that some construction activity had taken place since we where there last. They were adding a new drainage system to the football field, and the contractor had dug pits here and there. Also there was some lumber lying around here and there. Being that there was wood for jump ramps, we gathered together some materials for making them and built a couple of small ones. On these ramps we practiced making small jumps with our bikes.
Then someone asked me if I thought I could jump over one of the pits. Now these pits, well don’t hold me to it, it was a long time ago, I think they were about six feet in length by three feet across and maybe two feet deep. Since it had been rained recently, there was standing water in the pit as well. The water wasn’t deep, maybe four to six inches, enough to get you good wet if you fell in though. And since I was asked, I accepted the challenge. “Sure”, I said.
So we built a make shift ramp on the edge of one of the pits.
Now, I’d seen Evel Kneivel do this many times (on TV) so I knew what I had to do.
First, a couple of warm–up laps. Then a couple of “approaches”, where you drive right up to the very top of the ramp, stop there and survey the obstacle and landing site. Then one final warm-up lap, and this time as you come around towards the ramp you get up to full speed, and go off the ramp.
So as I’m coming around the final lap, here’s the scene: I was probably thinking something along the lines “I can do it.” And I hit that ramp at full speed. About three quarters of the way to the top something in my head changes, a doubt pops up, and I slam the brake and skid off the end of the ramp. Even at that I almost made it across the pit, but not quite. My bike crashed hard into the bank of dirt directly opposite the ramp. And at the same instant, one of the peddles slammed into my shin. The cross bar was into my groin. My face smashes into the dirt bank. My arms mangled in the handle bars between the dirt and the bike. My feet and legs partially submersed in cold water. My friends laughing hard.
Now as quickly as I could, I crawl out of the pit. And as I begin to hobble aimlessly, trying to remove the pain by walking it off, one of my friends walks up along side of me and says, “Why, why did you hit the brake. You know you had it made easily–if you wouldn’t have hit the brake.” I said, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” But, they knew and I knew, I had panicked. For some reason, a doubt popped into my head and with that doubt I tried to abort the mission; but it was too late, I was going too fast to stop in time, for I was out of ramp. If only I wouldn’t have had that doubt I would’ve made that jump easily.
Why did that doubt show up right there and then? What went wrong in my head? Back then I never gave it much thought; I didn’t go home and analyze my psyche and beliefs. But I sure was embarrassed and mad at myself for failing; and yet I learned something important. For now I knew after that I didn’t want to be a daredevil. It hurt too darn much.
After my small and basically harmless mishap, I respected Evel Knievel even more so. How did he do it? How could he return to jumping after major crashes that nearly killed him? And how could he be come so successful at doing something so dangerous?
So what was the difference between me that day, and Evel Knievel when he did his jumps?
In a word, BELIEF.
Evel Knievel had enormous belief. And on that cold November day in 1973, I had a teeny, tiny belief.
Evel Knievel had enormous belief in himself. And that is the Secret to his success–and yours!