Questions for Pursuing & Achieving Dreams

QuestionsForLiving interview with Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld, January 12, 2013 based on his book Above All Else. Dan's interview shares his incredible lessons regarding what it takes to pursue and achieve one's dreams. Dan learned his lessons, through his experience as a champion skydiver who overcame life-threatening injuries sustained through a plane crash, to achieve his dream of creating a world champion skydiving team.


QuestionsForLiving: Were there specific questions that you were asking that attracted you to skydiving? If so, what were some of these questions?

Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld: Like many young children, as a small boy I was fascinated by flight.  I would watch birds soaring through the sky and wonder:

Why can't I fly? Everyone says it's impossible, but is it really?  

If I can't completely fly, how close to flying can I come?

For every ambitious idea there are a hundred people who say it's impossible.  Where would mankind be if everyone thought because something had never been done before it must be impossible?  We'd be living in caves.   Even if something seems impossible now, the only way that will ever change is by people pushing the accepted limitations and seeing how close they can come.  It is very cool to be one of those people even if you never actually reach the goal yourself. 

QFL: Were there specific questions that guided you toward pursuing a life long career in skydiving?  If so, what were some of these questions?

Brodsky-Chenfeld: Sometimes before you can answer the right questions you need to stop asking the wrong questions.  That's what happened here.  After graduating college with a pilots license and a degree in Aviation the first questions I asked myself were: What should I do?,  What's the "right" path to follow?,  What do others expect me to do? 

None of these questions produced clear answers and of those answers none inspired me at all. Then I replaced them with this single, simple question:  What do I want to do more than anything?  The answer to this question was clear.  I wanted to skydive, to fly with speed and precision, to fly better than anyone had ever flown before, to win the skydiving world championships.  I didn't yet know how I was going to do it, or if I could do it, but I knew I had to try. 

QFL: Were there specific questions that you ask yourself that enabled, or contributed to, your success as a four time world champion? If so, what were some of these questions?

Brodsky-Chenfeld: Every year after winning the World Championships, and before committing to going after the Gold Medal again, I asked questions which tested my commitment.  The first question was: Why should I do this?  Every year I was able to fully commit with all my heart and soul.  I would not have been able to do that if my motivation wasn't sincere.  And to me that meant it had to be about more than just winning.  Before I won it was all about winning.  But after getting my first Gold Medal I realized that victory in itself was a single moment in time.  It was the pursuit of that victory that gave me the chance to grow as a person, teammate, competitor and to become a champion.  The victory alone did not define the value of the experience.  It has to be about more than just winning.  That being said, the value of the experience is built around doing all you can to win (However, you define "winning" for yourself.).  Committing 150% to be coming the best you can possibly be.

Another question was: At any point from now until the final competition will I wish I had made a different decision?  There will always be days you'd rather sleep in than get up and run 4 miles at 5:00 in the morning.  And moments that you wish you were somewhere else.  But if I ever anticipated that I would regret having made the decision to go for the gold again I wouldn't have done it.

The final questions were:  What will the sacrifices be?  What am I willing to give up?  Pursuing excellence in any field will require great sacrifices.  It is important to know what they are and to have accepted them so that you don't have any regrets.

QFL: Were there specific questions that you were asking when you wrote Above All Else? If so, what were these questions?

Brodsky-Chenfeld: Mostly the same questions. 

  • Is it possible? 
  • Why do would I want to work so hard at this? 

For me writing Above All Else was much the same process as going after the World Championships.  Getting the book published and having it be well received was the gold medal.  For both of these the potential risks and costs greatly out numbered the likely rewards.  But I was so driven and passionate about both that I was almost possessed.  The idea kept me up at night and demanded my attention in every waking hour.  I had no choice.  I had to try, I had to go for it.  It was clear that I would have forever regretted it if I hadn't.  It is that kind of passion towards the purpose of your goal and love of the activity itself that creates champions.  And in the pursuit of those  goals you "win" even if you don't actually achieve the specific goal you were aiming for.

QFL: Are there some specific questions that you asked that enabled you to recover from the plane crash and continue your career as a skydiver?

Brodsky-Chenfeld: In a situation like that you don't ask questions.  The answers are often too much to face.  You make decisions and you have faith that everything will work out as it should.  Then you take action.  At times it is all in tiny steps forward, baby steps.  But day by day, minute by minute, second by second you keep taking whatever tiny step you can, reaching forward for any degree of minuscule progress you can.  Over time it starts to add up.  I never stopped to ask myself if it was possible or why.  Because it didn't seem possible, and I couldn't figure out why.  I just woke up every day and refused to give up.

QFL: Based on your experiences, are there some specific questions that you would advise people to ask for increasing their resilience for recovering from personal setbacks.

Brodsky-Chenfeld: I would venture to say that no successful person has ever lived a life that didn't include many personal setbacks.  Each one is an opportunity to learn from it and recover as a stronger, smarter person with greater true potential than you had previously.  Don't complain, don't drown in self pity.  Shut up, get to work and turn that setback into the opportunity it is supposed to be.

QFL: Are there some specific questions that you would suggest people ask themselves to achieve world class performance? If so what are some of these questions?

Brodsky-Chenfeld: Every time before taking on big challenges I've asked myself the same two questions.

Is it possible for me to succeed?  Not: Is it likely?.  Not: If I do the work am I guaranteed to win? 

But could the circumstances exist that make it even remotely possible that I could reach my goal?  Most things we can imagine and truly believe in are possible.  But there are some that aren't.  If my dream had been to become the greatest basketball player of all time, and I asked myself this question, the answer would probably have been "no".  I'm 5'8" (if I stand up really straight) and can't jump very high.  I could have become a great basketball player, and my pursuit of becoming the best may have lead to other fantastic experiences and opportunities.  But, it wouldn't seem possible that I could become better than Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. 

If we decide it is possible to succeed then we need to ask ourselves: Do I want it badly enough to do what it's going to take to make it happen?

That's the real question. Many people have the potential and capabilities to succeed.  Far fewer are willing to make the commitments, accept the sacrifices, take the risks and simply do the hard work that's going to be necessary.  Committing to the goal is easy.  Committing to the pursuit of that goal is what will be required to achieve it.  

QFL: Independent of your work in skydiving, what questions do you believe that people should / could ask themselves to make our world a happier and healthier place?

Brodsky-Chenfeld: No personal achievement, world championship or world record has ever given me the fulfillment and reward that being a great friend, father, or teammate has.  Competitive victories are short lived and soon forgotten. The relationships we build with "teammates" from every type of team last far longer than the team itself.  The respect, admiration, trust and love that are at the core of these relationships is what life is about.  And if we live to achieve greatness in those areas the world will certainly be a better place.

For more information regarding Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld, please view his website at:

For a preview of Dan's, movie Above All Else, please view his video at:

A motion picture based on Dan's life story is currently in development,

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