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  • Writer's pictureBurk Moreland

Learning to fly without wings

As everyone who is around me knows, I push the people around me to get out of their comfort zones. I push them to go after new markets, set higher goals, break records, or just do things they’ve never done. Recently, in the name of fair play, I started pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone. I decided to learn to fly a plane. You may imagine that flying is the challenging part. As it turns out, however, the flying part is fairly easy. It’s the landings that are stressful. As my instructor told me in the first lesson, “taking off is optional, landing is not. . . .”

It was only when I began to tell people what I was doing that I began to understand that flying lessons would push almost all people beyond their comfort zones. I got reactions ranging from people recoiling in horror and asking “Why would you do that???” to people shaking their heads and responding with a brief, but courteous “That’s nice.’” My favorite, however (since I did it for years), is “I have been thinking about doing that forever and just haven’t.” With some people, you see the fear in their eyes, with some, the disbelief, and with others, the wishful thinking, but with all of them you see the recognition that the idea of taking flying lessons is intimidating at best, and terrifying at worst.

For now, I am flying with an instructor, but doing everything by myself, for the most part, with some small tweaks along the way. I can take off, I can fly, and I can even land (albeit it’s not pretty every time). However, by the time this is published, I should be flying all by myself. . .in the plane. . .without an instructor as backup. I can tell you that I am not looking forward to that. Talk about out of your comfort zone. That’s about as far out as I can imagine at the moment!

So what does this have to do with my clients and you? Why am I telling you this? Because of what I have learned in the process. This process has taught me to have a greater respect for all of those people pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones— whatever their comfort zones are. Because, the reality is that the fear is the same—no matter what you are pushing yourself to do. I may not be afraid of making a decision about when to add a team member or when to allow a customer to seek excellence with another provider, but that doesn’t mean those are not frightening experiences for others—experiences just as frightening as landing a plane is for me right now.

Owners, managers, and executives face decisions like these every day and every time they do, they must manage the fear that comes with making those decisions. Will it be the right decision or the wrong one? And, what if it’s the wrong one? A wrong business decision isn’t likely to put you in the hospital or ruin a plane, but there are always consequences, and the team leader always carries the most responsibility.

Recognizing the parallel between my fears as I’m learning to fly and my client’s fears as they manage their businesses has allowed me to see through their eyes in a way I hadn’t before. It has helped me see what they are afraid of so that I can help them sort through their fears and rate them. For example, the decision, in some cases, is not very risky (so what are we really worried about?), in others, it is pretty risky (we better have a good plan), or, at worst, it is highly risky (what the heck are we doing?!!).

In all cases, that instinct of fear causes us to initially tense up and potentially lock up. As a pilot, I can tell you, that is a bad plan. You need to save the energy you would need for tensing and locking up and use it on the skills your training has taught you, instead.

Begin by concentrating on the data points that matter most. Have you ever seen this situation before? What was your action, and what was the result? If it is a new situation, do we have time to get opinions from other people who may have experienced the situation before? If there isn’t time, what key factors will limit the damage on the bad side, and what other factors might maximize the result on the good side? And finally, what is our ‘abort’ plan? A pilot always has an abort plan. Whether it is landing on the runway, a road or a field, a pilot always has a plan. In the case of business, one plan may be the fairly simple act of noticing that an action isn’t working and choosing a new direction.

I have told many audiences the same quote that was told to me years ago. “Grow your wings on the way down. . . .” That quote by itself can cause some uneasiness, but when I thought of it the other day as I was landing the plane, I decided it was a bit aggressive for that moment!

However, metaphorically, it is important, at some point, to just jump. Most of us are more ready than we give ourselves credit for. And if you can’t seem to convince yourself, get an opinion from a trusted advisor, or better yet, hire one.

For help with challenges like these or any others, contact us today to push you through at or 832-356-4585. Until next time, go be the rainmaker for your team.

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