Losing control for a better career: The lesson pilots teach the rest of us

Paul Oberschneider
Bomber Pilots
It’s not about sticking doggedly to the course, but regular re-evaluation (Source: Getty)

Did you know that a pilot may spend as much as 95 per cent of a flight off the charted course? Weather, wind, and a variety of other factors shift a plane off its intended flight plan, so it is the pilot’s job to keep re-evaluating their position and make corrections to ensure that it ultimately lands exactly on target.

In the same way, the route to business success is never a straight line from A to Z. When I left my career on Wall Street, I thought I’d follow the path everyone seemed to be taking: going to business school to get an MBA. I thought that was my path, but just a few months later, I found myself half way around the world in Estonia, where I would begin building businesses that would go on to be valued at more than $200m.

Any business journey is inevitably going to have twists and turns along the way, so it is important for business leaders to have a clear vision of what “Z” looks like in order to ensure they, and their team, are always working towards the right goal.

Often ignored by busy people, however, is the importance of taking the time to really understand what “A” looks like too. I didn’t give it much thought when I started out, but at any given moment, every employee, entrepreneur, and leader faces their own unique set of circumstances that will impact the opportunities and challenges they are likely to face.

So it is vital to continually ask yourself the question “where are you now?” Here are some actions to take so that, like all the best pilots, you too can constantly revise your path to successfully reach your destination.

Knowing Unknowns

When you’re hungry for success in business the temptation can be to throw all your energy and efforts into forcing things to happen. It is important to remember, however, that often the genuine golden opportunities will only come your way in the right circumstances, regardless of how hard you push.

Sometimes, if your circumstances are not providing the opportunities you need, you may need to look at or change some things about your life, thereby changing your circumstances. That might mean reconsidering the resources or skills you have at your disposal, or even re-evaluating your location, as I did, which led to making the leap from Wall Street to Estonia.

Letting go

While there is value in evaluating your current circumstances, you can also miss opportunities by spending too long scrutinising every little detail and waiting for the circumstances to be just right. Procrastination is the enemy of progress.

If you are going to successfully lead a business, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you cannot control anything or anybody except yourself. Once you have got to grips with your circumstances, focus on your own responses and what you personally can do to make positive steps towards your goal.

Try, Try again

Remember, the path from A to Z in business is never entirely straight, which means you will inevitably make mistakes along the way. But you are also going to discover some different off-piste paths that may be even better.

If something doesn’t work or you have a setback, try something new. The crucial thing is to keep learning as you build, so that every time you are wrong, you leave yourself in a better position to make the necessary adjustments until you get the model right.

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