Brandon Mikesell on Pursuing your Passions while Impacting Others
You never know the day that you might see a video or post that will pique your interest and possibly change your life forever. One day in his mid-twenties, Brandon Mikesell saw a jaw-dropping video of a wingsuiter soaring through the sky, and it was in that moment that his lifestyle would completely transform. For the past 12 years, Brandon has been tirelessly crafting his skills to become the talented wingsuiter, stuntman, BASE jumper, and skydiver he is today. He has made content from his flights that are featured in many commercials for major companies like GoPro. On top of his personal flying goals, Brandon is also started his own flight school, BM Wingsuit School, so he can share the life lessons that lie within skydiving with others, especially young people.
Twelve years ago, Brandon came across a video of famous wingsuiter, Jokke Sommer, where he was free-flying in his wingsuit amidst beautiful mountains. This idea enticed Brandon given that he had always had an interest in flying since his brother and father had both been professional pilots in the military. The video also felt like a sign since Brandon was at a crossroads point in his life. He had very recently decided it was time to make a change and redirect his time and energy toward more productive, positive activities rather than partying his way through his 20s. Brandon explains, “Once you hit rock bottom there’s only one way to go, up. You can only go up.” He considers this instance to be a key turning point in his life journey.
“[Flying in a wingsuit is] the purest form of human flying that there is.” - Brandon Mikesell
Once Brandon’s interest was sparked, he went all-in on researching the steps it would take to get him in a wingsuit soaring in the air through beautiful landscapes. The process for a person to even be able to think about putting on a wingsuit requires intense training and hundreds of jumps out of a plane. First, an individual must get their skydiving license. They must then complete 200 skydives before they can put on the most basic version of a wingsuit. As a person gets more experience in a wingsuit, they graduate to wearing increasingly more aerodynamic suits. These advanced suits allow for more freedom and options when in the air, but require a heightened level of skills to control, especially since they can allow a flyer to go up to 120 mph. Brandon explains that the videos of wingsuiters that often go viral or that are used in commercials are with the higher leveled suits because they allow a person to be able to fly in much more interesting locations. This is the level of expertise that Brandon has achieved through his constant commitment to his passion over the past 10+ years. He is now able to not only fly through some of the most beautiful natural wonders around the world, but he has also flown amidst skyscraper in cities like Panama City. Brandon describes the sensation of flying in a wingsuit as “the purest form of human flying that there is.”
“I have the same fears as everybody else like I’m scared of spiders, heights… but because I wanted to do [wingsuit jumping] so badly, I just dropped everything and I was like ‘I don’t care what I have to do.’ Then it’ll work out like it’s supposed to... It’s a full process of how you go about it.” - Brandon Mikesell
Brandon emphasized the level of dedication that is required of a person to truly pursue a career centered around their passions. Progress does not just come overnight. There are lots of hurdles to jump over when it comes to any level of skydiving. The most obviously glaring hurdle being the jump from such a tall height. When we asked Brandon how he overcame that seemingly terrifying feat, he said, “I have the same fears as everybody else like I’m scared of spiders, heights… but because I wanted to do [wingsuit jumping] so badly, I just dropped everything and I was like ‘I don’t care what I have to do.’ Then it’ll work out like it’s supposed to... It’s a full process of how you go about it.” After Brandon overrode that initial fear, he explains that personal motivation must take over. He believes people must constantly ask themselves the reasons why they are chasing this dream. If it is a powerful enough reason, it will continue to propel them through the hard work that is necessary to achieve their goals. Regarding any passion, he says, “It doesn’t have to be all at once. You are slowly working toward it. You have to work really hard for it and put in the work and time to make it happen.” This is insight is important to remember when you start to get impatient with the time it takes to go through the steps to reach the heights you want to achieve. Just keep the end goal in mind and remember how much insight that can be learned about yourself during the process.
“It doesn’t have to be all at once. You are slowly working toward it. You have to work really hard for it and put in the work and time to make it happen.” - Brandon Mikesell
Throughout Brandon’s wingsuiting journey, he came to learn a few lessons about his internal drivers and the motives that kept him flying through all the hard times. He has learned that he must have two main pillars present within all his endeavors to ensure his motivations are in the right place. Brandon classifies these two pillars as having fun and inspiring others. He realized how important it was to inspire others six years ago when he created a YouTube video called, “What’s Your Greatest Fear?” The video touched on how his greatest fear used to be his stuttering problem, but the audience realizes throughout the video that his love for wingsuiting has taught him that often the common small fears in life are, in reality, somewhat obsolete. This video became very popular, especially during the earlier stages of YouTube in 2014. Many people shared how inspiring this video was for them and it also got the attention of brands to sponsor his future jumps. It registered for Brandon how impactful sharing his passion could be on the lives other, on top of personally having the time of his life wingsuiting all over the world. He says, “Inspiring other people, inside the sport and outside of it, that is realistically the number one thing that continues to actually inspire me and makes me get up every morning and want to do those things.” Brandon’s drive is a good reminder of how people must not get too wrapped up in their passion and forget the amount of good that they can do at the same time.
Brandon’s desire to open his own wingsuit school with one of his friends is strongly influenced by his need to leave a positive impact on the world. He believes that wingsuiting can be an extremely life-changing practice because it helps people override many mental barriers that society has influenced them to build up over time. When flying with different students, Brandon talks about the visible change that he can see once they have landed on the ground. In the air, they are in somewhat in a state of shock, but the second they land on the ground, joy radiates out of the student because they know that just got over one of their greatest fears. Brandon hopes to share this passion for flying with his students, but he also aims to remind all people that he meets that very often the only thing holding us back from our dreams is the fear of failing or the fear of going all-in. Sometimes it will be hard and we will have to make sacrifices but in the end, if the motivations are right, we can achieve a lot more in life once those barriers are broken down.
Thank you Brandon for sharing your inspiring story and advice! If you want to see more of the amazing places Brandon is wingsuiting or learn more about his school, check out the links below.
Written by: Anna Rice
Interview by: Jason Crowe