Succeed in Business by Thinking Like a Fighter Pilot

Fighter pilots understand the concept of pushing the envelope. Essentially, there is a flight envelope or “Vn Diagram” within which a plane will operate – how fast the plane can go, and at what altitude, is determined by these operating parameters. It doesn’t seem like it would be very wise to push past these limitations and risk the airplane coming apart in flight, but what if the parameters were actually much different than you thought? What if you could go twice as fast, pulling more “Gs,” and it would be just as safe?

In my book, Pushing the Envelope: How to Think Like a Fighter Pilot in Life and Business, I outline this concept and explain how most people think their life parameters are much smaller than they actually are. This creates a situation where you limit yourself and live within a very narrow window instead of pushing yourself to reach the limits.

The truth is many of us live within a small and false flight envelope. We have self-perceived life parameters that are more constricting than they should be. When we trust limiting beliefs and false Vn Diagrams, we are selling ourselves short and living below our capabilities.

Where Business Owners Narrow Their Parameters

Many business owners think the opposite of the way a fighter pilot thinks. Instead of pushing the envelope, they play it safe. They don’t have a plan, and in some cases, they operate by the seat of their pants. In business, just like flying high-performance aircraft, it’s critical to know where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there.

One of the quickest ways to determine where you’ve set your parameters is by thinking about your “can’t” statements. Anytime you say, “We can’t do this or that,” you indicate a limiting parameter you have set for your business. Take the time to write out all your can’ts and see if any need to be revisited.

When I consult with a new client, one of the first things I tell them to do is list everything holding back their business performance. From there, I have them prioritize the list and then focus on only one or two of the most critical items. I then ask that they put everything else on the back burner. Business is like flying; you can’t have 15 “A-1” priorities. If everything is important, then nothing is important.

In the pilot world, we set priorities and are taught to aviate, navigate, and communicate in that order of priority. It is the same in the business world. I have them start their recovery or improvement process by taking control of the airplane by focusing on those 1-2 key/critical items, then navigating the process, observing and communicating their progress along the way. I then have them work through the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act) as they aviate and navigate their way through the changes.

Stand Out from the Crowd!

The business world is filled with competition. It can be difficult for business owners to stand out from the crowd and develop a loyal customer base. You must take control and fly your airplane (your business). Get it off autopilot, decide where you want to go, develop a plan to get there, communicate it, and execute it.

Another thing you need to do is lead your business and not operate within it. What does that mean? It is easy to get into a rut. You do the same tasks every day, but some of those tasks might not work toward growing your business. This is where you need to get off autopilot and re-evaluate where you’re spending your time. Like flying, you need to see the big picture; in business, you need to be working on your business, not operating within it. If you are doing all the busy work, it is time to delegate.

I’ve told more than one client that they have a choice. Either they run the day-to-day aspects of the business or they lead the business. Pick one, and then hire the other.

Create a Flight Plan

A good pilot has a solid, well-thought-out flight plan. This is a plan of where you want to go and how to get there. What is your destination?

List Your Goals

Start by listing your goals for your business over the next year, two years, and five years. What kind of growth do you want to see? Do you have a goal for revenue? How many new customers do you want to reach? Do you have any altruistic goals?

Make a Plan

Once you know your actual goals, you can develop a plan to reach your destination. For example, if you want to increase your annual revenue by 20%, you must figure out how many new customers you need to reach that goal and how you plan to acquire and keep those customers.

Land Smoothly

Take the time to look at your goals and plans every three months or so. Are you on course? Does anything need to be adjusted? Remember that the destination does not change—only the flight path to the destination changes. Perhaps you need to try a different tactic to reach those goals.

Set the Bar High!

In life and business, if you don’t push the envelope, you won’t change. Everything will remain status quo, and you’ll get stuck in a holding pattern going round and round, going no-where while you’re burning fuel (Time and $$$). Business leaders should set the bar high and then go for it! When you expand your parameters, the sky is the limit!