July 16, 2023


by: tguerry


Categories: Current Culture

Eyes On The Prize

Eyes on the Prize

Around 7:00AM on a balmy Saturday morning in May of 1974, I eased back on the yoke of a single-engine Cessna and set off with my flying instructor for my first cross-country flight. “Cross-country” was a bit of a misnomer since we were barely leaving the state.

Prior to take-off, we’d gone over weather conditions, including the impact of wind speed/direction on our projected ground speeds and fuel usage — and how much extra fuel we would have as a safety margin at the end of our trip. As soon as we cleared the Love Field control zone (DFW Airport was not yet operational), my instructor told me to climb to 5,000 feet and point the nose at a specific heading.

After I’d spent thirty minutes eyeing the altimeter, the artificial horizon, and the compass, the instructor finally told me to “get my head out of the cockpit and watch the airspace.” He mentioned that we’d encountered two other aircraft — although not closely — while I was fidgeting with controls. I’d never noticed them. That was bad.

My instructor told me to pick a point on the horizon and fly towards that spot. By keeping it aligned and the same distance above the control panel, I could keep us headed in the right direction and sustain level flight, all while maintaining an awareness of my surroundings. It also made the whole experience much more enjoyable.

Holding the Vision
In their book “Go-Giver Leadership”, authors Bob Burg and John David Mann, outline key principles of leading a business (or any other organization). The first and foremost principle is “Holding the Vision”. For any endeavor to succeed, someone must first have a clear vision of what that endeavor should be — where it’s going and how it’s going to get there.

Equally important, they must be able to hold onto that vision, even when everyone around them has lost sight of that spot on the horizon and is questioning the organization’s direction. Every organization, every endeavor, every meeting, must have a guide with a clear and unshakeable vision of the path to the desired result. Gino Wickman, in his book “Traction” calls those people visionaries and he makes it clear that without them, only chaos proliferates.

A bit later, the instructor began to berate me. “Do you have any idea where you’re headed? How do you know you’re not looking at the wrong spot?” But, by then, I’d been my own pilot for a full hour, and I had confidence. “See that ribbon of highway down there to our right?”, I said, “That’s I-20 and it goes right into Tyler, our first stop. We’re headed in the right direction.”

Sometimes, even the best-meaning friends and fellow employees take potshots at your vision. Sometimes, like my instructor, they’re just testing you and still have your best interest in mind. Sometimes, they have their own vision which conflicts with yours. So where do you draw the line between appreciating their enthusiasm and shoving them out of the cockpit with hopes they remembered to wear a parachute?

I’m intimately aware of a local organization who’s visionary holds a dramatically divergent vision from one of her trusted advisors. Both are well-intentioned and sincere individuals. Both have the organization’s well-being at heart. But only one can be right. If they both hold unyieldingly to their visions, the organization will be divided and fall. Yet, if the wrong vision wins out, the organization will be destroyed. Who should yield?

Nothing is Ever Easy
On the final leg of my cross-country, we had flown from Tyler, Texas to Durant, Oklahoma and were returning to Addison when two previously benign weather fronts took a typically North Texas Spring attitude and collided violently, directly between us and our destination. The obvious solution would have been to land in Sherman, Texas, pay to hanger the plane overnight, have a hearty dinner, and return to Addison the next day.

The lesson I learned on that previously-sunny Saturday morning is that ex-military pilots, even as right-seat instructors, rarely opt for the easy solution. We charged ahead as my new-found confidence wavered.

Within a half hour, we hit the rain, and rain, experienced in a small, single-engine aircraft is nothing like even the most violent rain experienced in an automobile. First, there are no windshield wipers. Second, there is a propeller only four feet in front of the windshield, driving that rain backwards at 110 miles per hour and creating an opaque wall of gray. Third, there are no parking lots to pull into and wait it out.

My instructor advised me that I needed some instrument time anyway and that he would man the radio while I paid careful attention to the gauges. So much for picking a point on the horizon. After a harrowing hour of bone-jarring bounces, rollercoaster drops, and witnessing the spidery fingers of lightening only yards off our wingtip, we finally crossed over the outer fence of Addison Airport. Surprisingly, we dropped out of the clouds only a few hundred feet above the runway and landed in one piece, with fuel to spare.

I discovered two things that morning: First, when adrenaline floods your system, all the things you’ve practiced up until that time just become natural and there is a great calm in doing what you’ve learned to do and trusting God for the outcome. Second, having someone by your side who both shares the vision of where you’re headed, and has real-life experience at traversing the storm, is the most valuable asset on Earth. Anyone else is just dead weight.

I hope you’re never in the position of conflicting visions, but if you are, I hope you maintain sight of the original vision and I hope you have trust in the greatest visionary of all.

Cup-Of-CoffeeWant to discuss the ups and downs of trusted advisors? Email me at guy@lawsoncomm.com. We can meet for coffee and I’ll even buy. If you’re interested, I’ll bring along a great book on the subject.


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A Conflict of Visions

— Thomas Sowell

This fantastic book by award winning author and economist, Thomas Sowell, presents the two most divergent world-views as “the constrained vision” and “the unconstrained vision”. He exhibits no preference for either vision but rather, he attempts to explain how these two dueling understandings of humanity play out in a host of social, political, and economic battlefields. This isn’t bedtime reading, but investing the effort to understand it will undoubtedly enlighten your view of what’s happening all around us. If you have Audible, this book is free.

A meeting of great minds who think alike