Evel Knievel died today. I am hard pressed to explain the uncontrollable outpouring of emotion I experienced when I learned the news, and watched a tribute to his life on ESPN tonight.
Evel Knievel will always be one of my heroes. Until today, he was the only living “super hero” I ever knew. The only one who actually leapt off the comic book pages and came to life for me when I was a young boy. As I grew a bit older, I realized what an impact Evel had on the formative years of my life. We know how impressionable we are just before we turn teenager. For the years leading up to that milestone for me, I vividly recall being transfixed less than two feet from the screen of a small 15-inch black and white TV watching ABC’s Wide World of Sports portray the larger-than-life daredevil attempt so many of his death defying motorcycle jumps. My world came to a halt when these events were shown on TV. Yes, I was infatuated with the stunts, but I wanted to understand how Evel thought. What caused for him to be able to take such enormous risks when the rest of the world were just spectators.
Oh, how I wanted to be him.
We lived on 16 acres in rural Indiana. After watching his jump over many double-decker buses in Wembley Stadium in London in the mid-70’s, I recall sprinting outside to discard the measly 10 stacked bricks out from underneath my own ramp, and inserting a 3-foot tall metal trash can turned upside down under the ramp. This would give me greater distance, yet more fear. I grabbed my Schwinn bike with banana seat, my pee-wee football helmet and raced to the top of a steep hill in our back yard.
As I sat trembling on my bike on the top of that hill I imagined I was Evel at the top of his ramp inside a stadium with thousands of cheering fans.
With my heart racing and mouth dry, I pedaled and sped as fast as I could toward that over 45-degree take off ramp. With a friend watching, I hit the ramp, and launched what seemed to be 10′ in the air. I remember looking down, as I was sailing so unbelievably high in the air, at my friend’s face staring up at me in total amazement. He seemed so far below me. I landed with such force that I cracked all the welds from my bike frame (probably cracked a couple of other things too), and ruined my bike, but I made the jump. Just like Evel. It is a memory that I will never forget. Getting over the fear, following through with a challenge and pretending to be one of my heroes for one chilly Indiana Sunday afternoon.
I am proud and even fortunate to say Evel Kneivel’s life influenced how I choose to live mine. I am now aware that he taught me a behavioral pattern when I was unaware I was learning one.
It just occurred to me, look at the moniker below my name on my homepage “The Maverick Daredevil Real Estate Artist.” I will never forget how I felt when I was referred to by the Wall Street Journal as a real estate “Daredevil.” Not worthy of the comparison, but blushed with the honor nonetheless. For further proof of the influence, see a news archive photo of me launching over a replica of my 1st $50,000 fixer-upper at the launch party for my 2nd best seller, Frank McKinney’s Maverick Approach to Real Estate Success
Evel Knievel was a performer, daredevil and professional risk taker. He made millions (over 300 million). One of my favorite life’s mantras, actually it is the 25th Chapter in my first book Make it Big! 49 Secrets for Building a Life of Extreme Success “Gently Yet Often Exercise Your Risk Threshold like a Muscle. Eventually It Will Become Stronger and Able to Withstand Greater Pressure.”
Just like Evel starting out with a small ramp, two cars and a few rattlesnakes to jump over, we should all learn from those who embrace fear, then slowly expand their tolerance for risk (higher ramps and more busses) and succeed in life because they chose to do so.
Thank you Evel Knievel for helping me understand that. If you read all the way to the end, thank you for allowing me to share on an unanticipated emotional evening.
Before his death, Evel Knievel sued Kanye West and his record company for the use of Knievel’s trademarked image in a popular West music video. He took issue with a 2006 music video for the song “Touch the Sky,” in which the rapper takes on the persona of “Evel Kanyevel” and tries to jump a rocket-powered motorcycle over a canyon.
In addition to hawking Legend Power Scooters, Knievel made somewhat of a marketing comeback in the 1990s, representing Maxim Casino, Little Caesar’s and Harley-Davidson.
Evel Knievel (real name Robert Craig Knievel) used to own a motorcycle dealership in Washington State. After much success as a daredevil performer, he ended up losing several homes and oweing the federal government more than $5M in backtaxes.
Kelly Knievel, Evel’s oldest son, owns a construction firm in Las Vegas. (In 1995, Kelly’s telemarketing company was sued by Missouri for targeting senior citizens with high-pressure calls. He agreed to stop the calls, and the company paid $150,000 in restitution.)
On April 1, 2007, Knievel announced to a worldwide audience that he “believed in Jesus Christ” for the first time. He professed his personal faith in Christ to more than 4,000 people who gathered inside the Crystal Cathedral for Palm Sunday services in Orange County, California, and to millions via an Hour of Power telecast of the service to over 100 countries.
Knievel told how he had refused for 68 years to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior because he didnâ€™t want to surrender his lifestyle of “the gold and the gambling and the booze and the women.” He explained his conversion experience by saying, “All of a sudden, I just believed in Jesus Christ. I did, I believed in him!” Knievel said he knew people were praying for him, including his daughter’s church, his ex-wife’s church, and the hundreds of people who wrote letters urging him to believe.
Knievel recounted how he “rose up in bed and, I was by myself, and I said, ‘Devil, Devil, you bastard you, get away from me. I cast you out of my lifeâ€¦.’ I just got on my knees and prayed that God would put his arms around me and never, ever, ever let me go.” At his request, he was baptized before the congregation and TV cameras by Dr. Robert H. Schuller, Founding Pastor of the Crystal Cathedral. Christianity Today reported that “â€¦Knievel’s testimony triggered mass baptisms at the Crystal Cathedral.”
While I do not have a picture of Evel being baptized, I do have a cool photo of me and a couple of my boys taken at the Crystal Cathedral just a few days after Knievels miraculous conversion. I just had to see the enormous edifice that Pastor Dr. Robert H. Schuller built with all the millions of dollars his television ministry had brought in to his church.