Apr 22, 2019 | Leadership

Sitting in the queue for takeoff from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, a father spoke softly to his son who was gripping the armrests in white-knuckled terror. Though I could not hear their exchange, I recognized the look on the boy’s face. It’s the same one I often see on my clients’ faces when they are getting ready to make a significant change.

My clients get excited when talking about the goals they want to achieve. But, in order to reach those goals, they must strap themselves in and, like the boy, face the fear of G-force acceleration and climb 2,000 feet per minute through bumpy air pockets in order to reach cruising altitude.

Resistance. It’s the invisible force that you feel any time you try to make an improvement in your personal or professional life. Want to write a book? Start a business? Innovate? Be prepared for resistance. As soon as you declare your goal, you can be sure that fear, uncertainty and doubt will not be far behind. They will come from you, from your friends, from your colleagues, from the world.

The next time you face resistance, recognize that it is a natural part of the process required to reach new heights. In keeping with the flight theme, consider these three lessons from The Wright Brothers as recounted by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough.


1. Don’t focus on what you lack.

The Wrights grew up in a house with no electricity, no running water, and no indoor plumbing. Yet, they did not feel disadvantaged because their house was filled with books. They were encouraged and stimulated to read and to write by their father. They took advantage of what they had to feed their curiosity.

2. You can’t take off unless you face the wind.

The brothers tested their aircrafts at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. They chose Kitty Hawk for two critical elements. First, sand dunes made for softer landings. Second, the constant wind added the lift needed for their craft to take flight. To quote Wilbur Wright, “No bird soars in the calm.” If you want to take off, you must harness the power of the wind.

3. A setback is a setup for a comeback.

They never gave up. They crashed, they got sick, and they were ridiculed. They had everything you can imagine go wrong on their way to achieve their goal, but they would not quit. Orville was nearly killed and was crippled — they thought for life — but he came back and was still flying well into his forties. How we handle failure and setbacks is directly correlated to our success.

Our goals are too important to let resistance stop us. The resistance is real. But when we recognize that it is a natural part of the process, we can overcome it, instead of letting it overcome us.

Question: If you could recognize resistance as part of the natural process of climbing to new heights, what could you make happen?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News

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