OPTIMISM IN THE FACE OF DANGER
There’s something wrong with Todd Sampson’s brain.
Where you or I might perceive an obstacle, he sees a positive challenge. This optimism bias explains why he went ahead with a dangerous high wire walk despite being badly injured while making a second season of Redesign My Brain.
“What people don’t know, because it wasn’t covered in the show, is that I was already really badly injured,” Sampson says.
“I was training at six metres a couple of weeks before and took a fall, really bad. I had a level two tear of my abdominals, and I tore my left rotator cuff, and my right bicep. It really messed me up, physically.”
Ever the optimist, Sampson chose not to tell anyone.
“I didn’t tell the production company. I went to the doctor, and, of course, the recommendation was ‘don’t do the show’, but I kept that quiet as well. So then I just tried to heal myself, and trained around it. Luckily it worked.”
In the three-part series, Sampson tests the science of making the brain more adaptable, sharpening the senses and managing fear. He travelled the globe, tackling feats such as climbing a 120m rock face blindfolded. It’s hard to watch in parts, and presumably would have kept his wife awake at night.
“She doesn’t know,” Sampson admits. “She hasn’t seen anything. She knew I was doing a highwire, of course, and she very quickly said ‘How’s our insurance?’ But she doesn’t know the details.
“I didn’t want to scare (the kids) too much. I’m going to sit with them and watch the show ... The thing they’re going to love the most is seeing me get beaten up.”
Knowing now that he has a scientifically proven disregard for danger, would he do it all again? “Uh, yes. I know I should say no. Common sense says, ‘say no’, but my mind says ‘absolutely’.” REDESIGN MY BRAIN, ABC, THURSDAY, 8.30PM