Lessons learned after falling from the Skyscraper

I fell from the Skyscraper!  You read that sentence correctly; I was trying to climb the Skyscraper in 1995 when I fell.  

Okay, I’ll admit, it wasn’t that kind of skyscraper. The Skyscraper is a notoriously challenging obstacle in the Darby Queen obstacle course in Fort Benning, Georgia.

During one of my many practice days on this intense obstacle course, I fell from a height of more than 30 feet (onto the hard ground below me).

I want to share a couple of painful lessons I learned falling from the Skyscraper while preparing for the Best Ranger Competition in 1995.

Don’t work without a safety net

Let me take a moment to explain this obstacle. It’s designed in platforms that are just tall enough that the average male cannot get over the next level alone. When the engineers designed this military obstacle, they had the buddy team and small unit in mind.

The obstacle is built in such a way that you can’t complete it without the help of another person.  Here’s a picture to help you visualize what I’m describing. 

The height of the Skyscraper obstacle makes this inherently dangerous. The blueprint for this military obstacle is built so that the highest platform is more than 30 feet in the air.  There have been many servicemen and women who have ended their careers by falling from this obstacle.

As a result, most units will use safety nets or large pads at the base of this obstacle to prevent someone from suffering a life-threatening or career-ending injury by falling from its heights. 

I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking while training for the Best Ranger Competition that day. However, I was practicing this obstacle course without any safety nets or padding. Murphy’s Law was in full effect that day, and what could go wrong… did go wrong as I fell from this obstacle without nets or pads below me. 

I still remember the sheer terror in a friend’s voice as he screamed my name when I lost my grip and started to fall.  He was convinced (as was I on the way down) that this injury would end my career… if not my life.  

He ran to me as I was lying on the ground after falling from this dangerous height.  Inexplicably, I was able to jump from the ground without any injury and complete my training that day.

Later that evening, we discussed the dangers of cutting corners.  We all decided to use the safety nets and pads in the future, even though they take hours to set up for only a few minutes of training.  

I hope you’ll learn from my painful lesson that day, that it’s never worth it to cut corners on safety measures.

You can’t climb skyscrapers alone

During the 1995 Best Ranger competition I trained with one of the most amazing athletes I have ever met in my life. Aaron Weaver was my partner for more than three months preparing to compete in this brutal military competition.  

Aaron was stronger and faster than I was, even though he was several inches shorter than me. Although I had a height advantage on him on these tall military obstacles, he attacked these obstacles without hesitation. Due to his courage, I found myself struggling to keep up with Aaron on these tall military obstacles while training.

Aaron was a relentless competitor. He was willing to take risks to get faster and have an advantage over other teams. In this Best Ranger competition, Aaron was always looking for the competitive advantage. His competitive nature made him fearless on the Skyscraper obstacle.

He helped develop a technique for me to jump up to the next platform, because he gave me a shove from below.  When I got to the next level, Aaron would launch himself in the air, trusting me to grab him and pull him up to me!

The Skyscraper obstacle was not made to be negotiated alone. Aaron had the courage to just leap to the next platform believing that I would be there to catch him and to pull him over the edge. When I was getting ready to jump to the next platform Aaron was already below me, pushing me to move faster. There were times when I didn’t think I was going to be able to catch him before he was already leaping to the next level.

The Skyscraper taught me a lesson that I carry with me to this day. Many of life’s obstacles were not meant to be negotiated alone. There are some times when you just can’t handle the problems on your own. It’s times like these when you need a partner like I had in Aaron Weaver.  You need someone to push or pull you over a problem that’s bigger than you can handle alone.  

Do you have someone like that in your life right now? If not, I want to challenge you to find a friend like that ASAP!  You never know when you’re going to face your next big obstacle in life.

Your partner is more important than you think

I learned on that challenging military obstacle that it’s not the size of my partner that matters, but the strength of my partner. Let that sentence sink in for a minute…

Some challenges are so big that they can become overwhelming. It’s natural to look for a big partner to handle the big challenges. However, I learned on the Skyscraper that it’s not the size and height of my partner as much as the strength of my partner that can help get me over this obstacle.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have a partner who dwells inside of you. He is the Holy Spirit of the living God. He has all of God’s power available at his disposal, which means he has the power necessary to help you get over any obstacle in life- no matter how tall that obstacle may be.  

I believe this is the whole point of the lesson Jesus is teaching in John 5:30 [“I can do nothing on my own. I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of him who sent me“]. Jesus is teaching that life was designed to be a team event.  Jesus didn’t try to climb Skyscrapers alone- nor should you!

With the indwelling power of Jesus’s Holy Spirit, you have all that you need to face the greatest challenges and the tallest obstacles in life. Don’t worry about what tomorrow brings your way.  The Holy Spirit can give you the boost necessary to get over any challenge. 


At the same time, I want you to take the rest of this article to heart. You were never made to go through life alone. God will sometimes allow obstacles in your path that are so big that you can’t possibly get over them on your own. He permits these challenges in your life to remind you of your need for him.  These challenges are a chance to trust him as your partner in life.  The skyscrapers of life are in your path to force you to admit you need his help.  And by admitting your dependency on him, to grow in your relationship with him.

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