Alumni Profile

James McCormick '78

Fear Buster What do you get when you cross a motivational speaker with a skydiver? Someone who talks the talk, walks the

walk and – in the case of James McCormick ’78 – jumps the jump.
Skydiving is scary, no two ways about it. Not coincidentally, McCormick is an expert on managing fear.
“I’m scared before every jump,” he admits. “I think it would be an odd person who wouldn’t be.”
A glance at McCormick’s resume is certainly not for the vertigo-prone. He’s a veteran of more than 1,300 skydives, including an international aviation record he and 245 of his closest elite-skydiving friends set when they held a single formation for 7.3 seconds in July 1998. The jumpers leapt from 12 aircraft flying in formation at an altitude of 19,500 feet. Before their parachutes opened, they fell at a speed of 119 mph. The coordination alone required to set such a record inspires fear.
“The same number of people who leave the aircraft have to join the formation, and join in a prescribed location,” says McCormick, speaking from his office in San Mateo, Calif. “It’s not a matter of throwing [hundreds of] people out and seeing how many can join together.”
His passion for adventure was sparked by fellow Trojan John Goddard ’55, a renowned world adventurer whom McCormick first heard speak in high school. The kindred spirits have become friends over the years. “I like to think of it as passing a generational torch,” says McCormick.

DESPITE HIS LOFTY aerial accomplishments, McCormick regards motivational speaking as his earthly calling.
In “Exceed Terminal Velocity!” – a keynote presentation he frequently gives to corporations and associations – McCormick reminds his clients that fear is a major part of the human emotional makeup.
“I would argue that fear is probably the most significant limiter we all confront,” he says. “Some of it is appropriate, and a huge amount isn’t.”
McCormick uses experiences like the group-skydive to illustrate certain points about fear. “I’m not encouraging people to jump out of planes,” he says. “But there are risks they face that are every bit as frightening. The whole point is to prepare yourself in such a way that you lower your anxiety and give yourself every chance to succeed.”
What’s next for the soaring speaker? He’d like to follow up his successful 1995 North Pole jump with a South Pole jump. And an attempt to rewrite the group-jump record – with at least 300 skydivers – is planned for July 2000. McCormick has every intention of being on the team.
“I want to retain my status as a world record holder,” he says. .

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photos courtesy of James McCormick

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