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Conquering your fear in a single bound

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28th Sep 2010
Melinda Ham   all articles by this author
Dr Glenn Singleman flying in his wing suit over Mt Conner in central Australia. Photo Heather Swan

Melinda Ham talks to one doctor who prefers to have his head in the clouds.

DR GLENN Singleman has learned the secret of overcoming fear. Not dissimilar to fictitious superheroes, this 50-year-old leaps off cliffs in a ‘wing suit’, soaring at 200 km/h before opening his parachute and wafting down to earth.

In 2006, Dr Singleman, with his wife, Heather Swan, set the world’s highest altitude BASE-jump record by jumping from a height of more than 6500 m off Meru Peak in India, and in July he finished editing a documentary, No Ceiling – the BASEClimb 3 Story, about the six-year training process to achieve this amazing feat.

“Part of the power of this film is that it is about the journey of an ordinary person: my wife, Heather,” Dr Singleman says. “She is the emotional centre of the film.” 

Before 2000, when she embarked on her quest to do the highest BASE-jump, 46-year-old Ms Swan had never parachuted before, let alone BASE-jumped. In the next few years, she had to learn mountaineering, rock climbing and ice climbing so she could scale the heights of Meru Peak with Dr Singleman and a support crew.

BASE-jumping differs from skydiving in that it involves leaping from fixed objects, such as cliffs or skyscrapers, with a specially designed parachute system.

Without giving too much away about No Ceiling, Ms Swan lived through her ordeal, although she did sustain life-threatening injuries that almost forced her to abandon her dream. Her agony is depicted in heart-wrenching detail on camera.

“It was a real mental, emotional and physical challenge,” Dr Singleman says. 

Before this latest project, Dr Singleman was involved in half a dozen other documentaries, including BASEClimb, the film he made about BASE-jumping off the Great Trango Tower (6258 m high) in Pakistan, setting a world record in 1992. 

The film was seen by more than 700 million people in 157 countries, won more than 21 international awards and was one of National Geographic’s most popular adventure documentaries. 

At the moment, Dr Singleman is still looking for an international distributor for No Ceiling. He has had to finance and edit the project himself over the last three years. He juggled this endeavour with his job at Sydney Adventist Hospital in emergency and intensive care, which he says balanced perfectly as he had every other week off to edit his film.

So how does he, and now Ms Swan, deal with fear? This is a topic they focus on in their numerous motivational speaking presentations to corporate audiences in Australia and around the world.

“Many people live their lives ruled by fear,” Dr Singleman says. Overcoming that fear has huge payoffs. It gives you a level of control that you can use in many situations that scare you. It makes you more self-confident and self-aware.” 

Dr Singleman controls his own fear by meditating up to 30 minutes a day. He also uses intense visualisation techniques to imagine a successful BASE-jump in minute detail before he does it. Lots of positive self-talk is his other tool.

The run down

The Talent: Dr Glenn Singleman

The Skill: Documentary maker and BASE-jumper 

The Achievement: Holds four world records and has been involved in six documentaries

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