Look South Column

Some lessons from Fearless Felix

Brandon Hamber
3 min readOct 26, 2012

Watching Felix Baumgartner free-fall from space and break the sound barrier was extraordinary. As he climbed out of his little balloon with the curve of the earth below him, I was in awe of both what he had decided to do and the sheer beauty of the earth below.

But what I found equally remarkable was his attitude. Despite the seeming madness of his space dive, he says he is not an adrenaline junkie — rather, he says, he is a ‘risk manager’. He also seemed acutely aware of his family throughout the feat, saying he was worried about dying in front of his loved ones. If you google ‘Fearless Felix’ you will find many references to his family — they are obviously important to him. He seems to have used his family’s support as a foundation rather than a ceiling for achieving his outlandish dreams.

Further, as he stepped out of the capsule, he says, all he could think of was returning home alive. The world record, or so he claims, was not his primary concern at that moment. In other words, despite his ostensibly daredevil antics, when staring potential death in the face, it was his family and his life he valued the most. This is natural, although his words and deeds got me thinking about the idea of what is important in this life.

Family is obviously one of the most vital parts of our lives. Most of us would think about them at a time of danger, whether self-inflicted or not. But the notion of family can also be twisted, especially politically. More and more politicians these days are exploiting our basic urges to want to be with and to look after those closest to us.

Returning to family values is the rallying cry of many politicians across the globe. Even Jacob Zuma, who perhaps cannot escape the issue of family, given the size of his, recently also called for a return to family values.

But what does this really mean? Of course, it makes intuitive sense as we all care for our families, and growing up in a supportive environment of any form is important in human development. But putting your family first can also be a selfish act.

Thinking of your family in the first instance can be reduced to doing what- ever is necessary to improve their life chances. The extreme end of this equates with…

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Brandon Hamber

Hume O'Neill Professor of Peace at Ulster University in Northern Ireland. Medium is my popular writing space. Academic publications at brandonhamber.com