Penelope Magnani talks about battling fears and living life to the fullest.


On the 25th of September 2018, Will Smith turned 50. A birthday like any other, a celebrity like no other, except for a twist: this birthday celebration wasn’t going to be like every other birthday. On his 50th birthday, Will Smith jumped from a helicopter onto the Grand Canyon. The jump itself was talked about all over the news, and it was streamed live on Will Smith’s YouTube channel. It was impressive and terrifying at the same time, the ultimate discomfort. What, however, wasn’t extensively covered was how Will Smith got to do the jump, and how that jump was the culmination of three years of hard work. 

Photo credit: Will Smith/YouTube

Seven months before the Will Smith heli-jump a group called, Yes Theory challenged the actor to the jump. Yes Theory is a YouTube channel and group composed of Ammar Kandil from Egypt, Thomas Brag from France, and Matt Dajer from the USA (and formerly Derin Bobby from Turkey) who met in Montreal, Canada, three years ago with the aim of seeking discomfort in everyday life.

The group of friends have always been huge fans of the actor and his philosophy on life and decided to challenge the actor to the heli-jump through a video, back in February 2018.  Just a week later Will Smith replied, accepting the challenge. Yes Theory and Will Smith met for the first time in August, only one month before the challenge was due to take place and six months after the video challenging the actor was issued. But who are Yes Theory and why did Will Smith accept the challenge done by a then very small YouTube channel?

Challenge yourself and seek discomfort

Yes Theory started making videos the summer of 2015 through Project 30: thirty challenges over 30 days with each video aiming to seek discomfort in a different way. At the end of the 30 days they all realised that they didn’t want to stop making these videos, hence the Yes Theory channel was born and continues. Now, three years later, Yes Theory continues to seek discomfort in more ways than just challenging celebrities to jump of helicopters, but rather through the kindness of strangers. One of their more popular series is the “Abandoned In […]”, where one of the team members gets abandoned in a city they have never visited before for 24 hours with no food or money having to survive solely on the kindness of strangers.

 Yes Theory’s YouTube channel

Through all these challenges, Yes Theory aims to show that in a world where reportage on the news is constantly negative and bringing light to the most brutal and terrifying news, the reality isn’t always a terrible place. There is still beauty and generosity in the world and not all strangers aren’t untrustworthy. 

We then ask ourselves if the message being sent by Yes Theory is too positive, are they tricking us into believing that the world which they show as helpful and kind to everyone, is all a façade? There is no real answer to this question. Yes Theory provides the strength to stand up, to have an attitude to life which is not controlled by fear. A not irrational fear but fear nonetheless. Seek discomfort, their motto, does not have to mean something extreme, it can be the simplest of tasks: getting on a plane, asking someone out, going on a solo trip, confronting a phobia or anxiety. The most basic of tasks can be the most challenging of them all.

We aren’t supposed to jump from a helicopter like Will Smith on his 50th birthday, we aren’t supposed to experiment life by going out without our wallet for 24 hours and hoping that everything goes according to plan. Seeking discomfort is hard, and its challenging. Moving to university alone is one of the ultimate ways to seek discomfort, starting a life on your own and having to learn how to do everything without anybody’s help. Meeting new people and forming friendships. Life is all about seeking discomfort, we just have to learn to master the fear around it.  

Battle your public speaking fear.


Andreea Szasz
as16010@essex.ac.uk