My favorite part of flying lasts about 2 seconds. It comes after the worst part of the flight, when we’re strapped into our full upright positions without our electronics or air conditioning. Then the engines fire, noise fills the cabin, and we’re barreling down the runway as the whole craft bumps and shakes.
At about 180 mph, the nose of the plane points up, the rear wheels leave the ground, and there is a moment where we physically break Earth’s gravitational force.
This is my favorite part. My stomach gets queasy from the torque of breaking Earth’s grip. But in less than 2 seconds the queasy fades and I feel joy – we’re up, we’re free. Then we climb, level off, seats and tray tables recline, the AC kicks in, and we’re in that effortless place of just maintaining altitude.
To me, this is the same process it takes to get any new creative effort up and running. Whether it’s a new business, a stand up routine or a job search, any new effort must survive takeoff. If we’re not successful in each of the three stages of launch, we’ll crash and burn. Picking up the pieces of a failed attempt can be demoralizing and painful, but if you master these three stages you won’t need to perform triage.
Momentum – here’s where you need to point yourself in the right direction and build up some speed. Follow your gut and put action to your ideas. You can’t know in advance everything you’ll encounter along the way, so don’t over think it. Pack your bags, get onboard, and head down the runway.
As you build speed and head for lift off, make sure your behaviors are in alignment with your goal. Yes, you have to put in the work, but look up now and then to see that you’re on course. Then celebrate your wins, no matter how small, to build your momentum down the runway.
Maximum Thrust – just before take off you’ll need an incredible burst to get past the gravity working against you. Whether it’s your bad habits, your self-doubt, or your frenemies who say they want you to succeed but really don’t, there’s a lot of force trying to keep you on the ground. This does not feel good! Sometimes we quit on things because of this uncomfortable phase. But that’s all it is, a phase, and it’s triggered by your attack on the status quo.
To take off for real, you need an incredible push to get past the queasy part and up where the air is lighter. Consider an accountability partner or team, people who will remind you of your commitments and hold your feet to the fire. Hire some help, pull in some favors, get moral support. There’s a lot riding on this dream, so push like hell to get it off the ground.
Maintaining Altitude – Once your hard work, momentum and thrust help you break through, you’ll need to keep your mind right to stay airborne. The hardest part is behind you, but there are still plenty of hazards. Staying aloft is easy if you’re focused and have enough fuel. Let your engines sputter and you’ll drop like a stone.
Having milestones helps. Aiming for new targets can keep you focused. This is the part where you remind yourself of all the problems you’ve overcome to get off the ground. That’s how you stay alert so you don’t take this for granted.
Getting feedback is another good tool. A focus group, a mentor, even strangers can show you what you can’t see about your creation. What worked to get you airborne may not be what works to maintain your success. So fresh ideas and challenges are almost always a good thing.
When your effort has run its course, it’s time to land. Then find the next best idea, head out to the runway, and start all over again…