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World Renowned Aerialist Nik Wallenda Steps Out in Faith in ‘Facing Fear’

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

You cringe every time you watch him, but you just can’t look away.  That’s because what Nik Wallenda does is simply fascinating. 

As a world renowned aerialist, Wallenda has wowed and inspired audiences for decades by walking on a wire across such places as Niagara Falls, between skyscrapers in downtown Chicago, and his latest feat, an 1,800 foot jaunt over Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua

Based on these spectacular feats of courage, you would think that this holder of 11 Guinness World Records is fearless.  But he is not.  This came squarely into focus in 2017 when he nearly lost his life in a freakish training accident.  For the first time in his life, the 41 year old Wallenda felt fear.  Rather than retreat into a dark pit of depression and anxiety, he made a choice to tackle it head on.

In his latest book, Facing Fear: Step Out in Faith and Rise Above What’s Holding You Back, Wallenda offers insight into what happened to him that fateful day and provides practical advice on how to be bold in overcoming this affliction that emotionally grips so many people.

I recently spoke to Wallenda about his calling to show people what is possible in life, how to find healing from fear, and the best way to re-ignite your dreams after turning it away.

Point blank, where do you find the courage to do what you do?

It's funny. I have been doing this literally my entire life. In fact, my mom was six months pregnant with me and (was still) walking the wire. So, for me, as far as courage goes, I guess it just comes from experience and from within because I have done it so long, I don't really know anything else to be honest.

Walking the wire is obviously in your blood. You are a seventh generation member of the The Flying Wallendas. Has there ever been an event you have been scheduled to do that at the 11th hour you got cold feet?  If so, how did you or do you overcome that?

I don't know that there was ever a time that I thought this isn't for me. I would say there was a time when my parents didn't want me to carry on the family legacy because they didn't feel like there was necessarily a future in it. In fact, my mom wrote a book in the 1980s called The Last of the Wallendas because she just felt like there was no future. This has always been my passion in my life. There were times where I considered doing other things in order to support my family financially, but my number one choice would have been to be a wire walker.

What was the inspiration or the catalyst for writing Facing Fear: Step Out in Faith and Rise Above What’s Holding You Back?

About two years ago, we had a really bad accident where we were attempting to break a world record for an eight person pyramid. The pyramid collapsed and five of my family members fell and hit the ground. I caught the wire but to make a long story short that is when that seed of fear took root and started to grow in my mind. I went through a long lengthy process of getting myself back. The first process was getting back on the wire immediately and avoiding the actual fear and doubt that I had in my mind. Eventually it came back up and the process that I took to overcome, the journey that I went through in battling that fear, was the greatest challenge of my career. This was certainly the battle of a lifetime. My thoughts are that anything that I go through, as long as I get to the other side, I can use it to help others that are possibly battling the same thing. However, they are probably not battling fear of getting on a wire. It's not very likely, but the fears that we all deal with in life, with this pandemic, I think we're dealing with more than we ever have before.

Very early in your book you write, “I grew up hearing the stories of my family’s calling, the dangers of risking our lives to show people what is possible.”  Is this why you do what you do? To show people to step outside themselves to see what is possible in life?

Absolutely. I do it to inspire people that nothing is impossible more than anything. That if you set your mind to it, you can climb the highest mountain and you can overcome the biggest challenges. Again, with God, all things are possible. And the reality is if we truly keep God as the center in our life, even through those trials, like Job, even through the challenges that we went through, there's always a bigger purpose in those challenges. The reality is, what could have destroyed my family, through that accident, if one life can be changed outside of ours, then it's worth it all. That bad situation still will be used to hopefully change people's lives for the better. And that's the reason why I wrote this book.

You write about so many valuable lessons that you have learned in your years taking on these challenges that are there for the world to see.  Is there any one lesson that you feel is the most valuable in helping people face their fear?

If I had to name one, it is that fear often comes creeping in, in the middle of the night. We don't expect it. And as I mentioned, there was a seed planted in my head during that accident. I didn't realize it, but I began watering that seed and it eventually started to germinate, spread and take over my whole mind to the point where it became debilitating. I was ready to quit walking the wire altogether. The biggest lesson I've learned is that we can control our mind. Our mind is not in control of us. And if we can overcome that battle we can overcome anything. Also, knowing that we are in control of our mind, our thoughts, and where we allow it to go. We have an enemy that seeks to devour, kill, and destroy us but we have a Heavenly Father that goes before us, and as long as we maintain that balance, I think that we can pretty much accomplish anything in life.

As believers in Christ, knowing what we know about fear and how to handle it from Scripture, why is it so hard to let go of our fears and put complete trust in Him?

The Bible is clear. Faith of a mustard seed can move a mountain, right? So, it shows how little faith we really have. For me, everything is about practice. It just applies back to my career. The more that I practice, the more comfortable I get, the less fear that's there. It’s the same with speaking. Let's say you're speaking to a crowd. It is natural. One of the greatest fears is public speaking. But the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. The more you can overcome it. The biggest challenge is actually facing your fear. As my book title says, rather than succumbing to, or letting that fear overcome you, take control of your thoughts, take control of that fear and use the wisdom God has given us in order to approach that fear and overcome it.

Obviously everyone is different in how they approach fear. Is there any right or wrong way to walk towards healing in this process?

I think if God's the center of it, I don't think there's any right or wrong way as long as His Word, and the process you're dealing with aligns. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. God created everybody differently and individually. Although we're all created in His image, we're all created with our own minds. We all think differently. We all have different backstories, different strengths, and different weaknesses. There is no wrong or right way. I think that the issue is just deal with it.  Our guidebook for getting through fear should be God's Word. And as long as you're going to God's Word and leaning on Him, I believe anything is possible. The Bible is clear. All things are possible with God who strengthens me.

Assuming you've walked through this process and you have indeed found healing, what's the best way to get back on track? What is the best way to resurrect your dreams after turning fear away?

Be proactive. Things aren't just going to come to you. There are so many people that sit back, especially in the faith world that go, ‘Well, if God wants it to happen, it's going to happen.’ God didn't give us a mind of our own for stuff to just happen. Life happens. Accidents happen. Why are children starving? Why are people injured? That's life, right? That is us. We're in a world. We make decisions that lead to consequences often. It is about just keeping God first, no matter what challenge you're facing. Then, when you overcome that challenge, continuing to keep God first, but also God says that he will fill the desires of your heart if you acknowledge Him in all your ways.

Final question for you, after people have read Facing Fear, what would you like readers to take away from the experience? What is your greatest hope for the book?

Honestly, that people are set free from fear. That is really the deal. I wrote it to the person who is miserable every week going to work, but they do it because they have to earn a paycheck to support their family. My hopes are that they are able to step out and pursue the career that God has created for them. Stop accepting and settling for the status quo. Face that fear. In my first book, I talk about where I pursued my dreams but still worked at a restaurant. I didn't like going to work every day, but I still showed up no matter what. I still performed to the best of my ability to the point where I started out as a busboy at 15, doing something I didn't want to do because I wanted to perform. At 21, I was the general manager. I didn't enjoy going to work every day, but I still did it because I was an example of God. I did it to the best of my ability. And because of that, I believe God has blessed the things that I've done.

To Purchase Facing Fear: Step Out in Faith and Rise Above What's Holding You Back:

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