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Running Your Business At Altitude

If you own a business, you may find yourself occasionally figuring out where you are in relation to where you want to be.

Personally, I’ve gotten a bit philosophical about my business this year.  Although change is constant in any growing business, I’ve been facing a lot of it lately because I’m transforming key elements of my services to respond to market demand.  I think that we can determine at what level our business is operating by relating to altitude. Most everyone has flown in a plane – and unless you suffer from acrophobia, we’ve all seen what the world looks from the window.

3,500 Feet – Working Hard

My friend, Heman, invited me to join him for a flying lunch recently.   It was a clear day and he wanted to get some time in his Piper Cherokee, a little single engine plane about the size of an SUV (not including the wings).  Sitting in the co-pilot seat, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information coming at me: the radio chatter with air traffic control speaking a language I couldn’t translate; the myriad gauges and displays conveying seemingly important information; the terrain below that appeared simultaneously familiar and alien.

There are times when working in my business feels like this cockpit.  There’s so much information coming at me at one time that it’s hard to know what’s important.  While the business is moving forward, it’s not always clear if I’m heading in the right direction or if a course correction is needed. 

So, the most important thing to do is pay attention and fly the damn plane.  Because if you relax, it can quickly become a bad day.

13,000 Feet – Being in the Zone

“Head back, knees bent, arms out”.  These were the 3 things my instructor calmly repeated in my ear, like a mantra.  As we shimmied down the floor of the fuselage, I found myself sitting on the edge of the open doorway with my legs hanging over the side.  Seeing nothing but blue sky there was only one thing I had to do … fall out of the plane.

When you’re hurtling through the air to your imminent death (a.k.a. skydiving), there’s not a lot to think about.  “Head back, knees bent, arms out”.  It’s both thrilling and peaceful at the same time.  Everything is in focus. 

In business, we can translate this feeling to being in the zone. We know what to do and we’re doing it. All of the forces that control the experience are aligned.  Gravity is doing its thing.  You’re maneuvering your body to maintain position.  Your equipment works!

In this state, seconds feel like minutes and you’re acutely aware of where you are and what comes next.

35,000 Feet – Making the Connections

While heading home over the Pacific, I was able to enjoy that feeling of suspended animation one gets by traveling across multiple time zones.  For all of the hassle and discomfort we associate with commercial air travel, it really is an astounding experience to travel at 550 miles per hour 6 miles above the Earth and see where ocean meets continent.

We can all be in this state of mind – appreciating how quickly we can cross vast distances with minimal effort and understanding how accessible the world is.  It’s where I want to be in my work.  To see the connections, close the gaps, and move forward with ease and speed.

As business owners, we’re  fortunate to have the freedom and resourcefulness to create something of value with just our minds.  Let’s climb as high as our vision can take us and make the world just a little bit better.

See, I told you I was getting a bit philosophical.
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