Planes have always fascinated me. I love the idea that man can create something so large and heavy, yet keep it floating through the sky.
Every day planes are flying people and objects to far away locations. Every time I have flown on a plane, I sat in amazement at what was occurring.
While most people simply rest or read a magazine during a flight, I couldn’t stop looking out the window and contemplating what was happening.
With all of us seeing planes and most of us utilizing the technology, we should all have a general idea about how a plane flies. But most people don’t. We don’t care. We just want to know how it helps us.
But I think that learning the general principles can be helpful from a systems improvement mindset.
In the simplest explanation, a plane overcomes the downward pull of gravity by generating a force that pushes air downward, creating an upward force called lift.
Planes have to travel at a fast speed in order to create this lift, hence the use of powerful jet engines. By doing so, it pushes air quickly past the wings, which can be tilted to push that air downward.
If you have ever stuck your hand outside of your car while on the highway you experienced this. With you hand flat, it cuts through the air and stays level. But tilt your hand slightly and it suddenly gets jerked up or down by the force. A plane is utilizing this same concept but in a very controlled, yet powerful manner.
Now let’s shift gears for a moment.
When I talk to people about systematic improvement, I almost always hear about forces preventing people from reaching their goals. It could be excuses. It could be legitimate reasons. It could be external forces. It could be self-imposed.
But in every case, they point to something that is holding them back. This force is stopping them from being able to improve or do things better.
In order to improve, we have to be able to find ways to overcome this force. It might seem that we just have to push against it, but that always sounds easier than it is.
Similar to the principles behind flight, the things holding us back are similar to gravity. For the plane to fly it has to somehow go against the force of gravity.
A plane does this by using the force to push forward. It doesn’t try to initially resist gravity. It goes along with it until the speed is enough that the wings can shift slightly to create the force necessary to push the plane into the air.
To me, this mirrors the systems and habits approach to improvement. Instead of using all of our effort, motivation, willpower and might to resist those forces holding us back, we start to slowly incorporate aspects that can then be leveraged to accomplish our goal.
By spending the time and using our energy to build the right habits and routines, we can then leverage those to help lift us towards the success we desire.
Just as people fly every day, defying the powerful force holding us on the ground (gravity), you too can learn to succeed with by defying the powerful forces holding you back. But you have to be able to create enough momentum and then leverage that momentum to take you where you want to go.