For several years now many people have associated our company with our hot air balloon, which we have affectionately named Stars and Stripes.
It’s been about 20 years since I took up hot air balloon flying. When I was first learning to fly the balloon, I felt most comfortable, almost normal, when the balloon and I were flying high above the ground. Once I got the balloon to a high altitude, I didn’t have to worry about how fast I was climbing or descending. I was floating high above any obstacles that could hurt the balloon or me.
Again and again as we trained together, my instructor and good friend, Curt Bramble, would tell me to get closer to the ground, because as he would say, “You can’t land from here.” Curt knew that if I only flew 10,000 feet high, I’d never know what the wind was doing near the ground, and therefore, I’d never be able to even venture a guess as to where I might be able to land. He also knew if I’d get closer to the ground I could focus in on where I was going because I could feel the different wind directions that were going to guide me to where I needed to be at that level.
Now, years later, I can honestly say my favorite flying is close to the ground, because I know that’s where I feel a greater sense of control. That’s also where I can focus on the direction I want to fly and where I want to land.
My ballooning experiences are not much different than our experiences in life and business. Many people are like I was when I first started to fly. They are comfortable staying a great distance from the obstacles and challenges that test their skills. They may actually think they have a better view of everything in front of them and don’t want to change. And even though they continue to be fearful and uncomfortable each time they have to get close to a confrontation or problem (landing their balloon), that isn’t enough for them to want to change what they are doing.
As I look back at my career, I am amazed at all of the different challenges, obstacles and opportunities that have come my way. Learning what I have power to change or take advantage of has proven critical to my successes and failures. When I worry and fret about those things I am powerless over, I waste valuable energy that could be spent building and developing in the areas I can control.
So, that becomes our challenge, staying focused on the things you can change and not being afraid to make the change. We all need to get close to the ground and not be afraid to make that landing.
This guest blog was written by Jeff Alexander, president and CEO of Alexander’s, as part of the Chamber’s “From Our Board” guest blog series.