First Flight

Peering through the ski goggles that kept my eyes from the sting of sub-zero air, I looked down through my feet at the frozen ground, which now stood 2,500 feet below me. It was my first flight in an ultralight, in fact, my first flight in a small aircraft.

I somehow had convinced my parents of the necessity of taking this flight. Feeling invincible as most fifteen year old boys do, I was sandwiched between a cold grey overcast and the flat grey terrain on the precarious perch-of-a-seat that resembled a lawn chair with bicycle pedals. I felt the rush of my life as the pilot sitting behind me weaved a course over the airfield and then handed the controls over to me.

Was I scared? Not one bit. In fact, as soon as my hand wrapped around the control stick, I knew that I had to learn to fly. A childhood dream was born on the impetuous winds of youth! To give the kind reader an idea of what it feels like to be in an ultralight in winter, I found this YouTube video below. It is not of me but of another aviatior.

The smile plastered on my face was set even more permanently by the ice forming on my ski mask around my mouth and nostrils. As we began our descent and I handed the controls over to the pilot, my mind began spinning about how to convince my parents that their first child needed to learn to fly in a homebuilt ultralight.

Wasting no time, I worked on my dad the entire trip home from the airfield. Like any good father, he listened dutifully, noting the points I was making that justified my readiness while he looked at me no doubt thinking, “but he’s just a baby!” That evening, we presented my case to my mother.

Back and forth the conversation went – the pros, the cons, the risks, the rewards – and then came the long overnight wait as the jury deliberated. To my surprise, they came to me in the morning with a counter-proposal.

“We are very excited about your excitement,” my dad began, “but…” My mind started to race, “Oh no, nothing good comes after the conjunction “but” no matter how much PBS tried to brainwash me with the ditty ‘Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?'”

“But…” he continued “we would like you to train in a real airplane and not an ultralight.”

“Real airplane?” Did I hear him correctly? I am going to learn to fly in a real airplane? Woo hoo! I never would have thought I would have a bigger, deeper grin shining on my face than the day before, but out it came.

In retrospect I find myself even more thankful for my understanding and supportive parents than I was then. Some 23 years have gone under the bridge since that first flight and yet their unwavering encouragement and support has not waned. Their support inspires me to assist others to fulfill their dreams and to know happiness.

My parents typically required that I generated and contributed half of the financial requirement of anything new I took on in my youth. It made sense then and it makes sense now. I valued the opportunity so much more because it cost me something!

I’ve found over the years that giving too much to people without a balanced quid pro quo can create a fatal imbalance. The balance of giving and receiving is the basis of mutually respected value. For example, giving children allowance without responsibilities doesn’t help children.

When you invest in others in your world, take care not to overindulge them. If they become spoiled, they will not value what they’re receiving and they ultimately will lose their respect for you and for others. There is a delicate balance, for parsimoniousness is of no help either.

Enjoy the opportunities you have to develop those around you. Be willing to be surprised by their achievements and remember, your fulfillment depends on your ability to assist others to theirs.

18 thoughts on “First Flight

  1. This may be what sets you apart from many others and it is very inspiring, “…Their support inspires me to assist others to fulfill their dreams and to know happiness.”

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  2. Joshua

    Inspiring those around us to understand and “Experience” the fine balance between privilege and responsibility is most certainly a challenge, but definitely one worth investing care in. Thanks for this perfectly timed highlight of how to properly handle assisting others. I am currently reviewing the handling of 3 little ones, and how to best bridge the gap of understanding, and amazingly enough it has been easier at times than I could have imagined, as though there was an external force guiding the agreement, bringing things together. Practice what you preach is one way to ease the transition, cause you can be certain they will call you on it….and at the most pivotal moments.
    Thanks Gregg!!!!

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  3. Kimberly

    My hat is off to your parents. As a parent I have find letting my children do things that I have never tried, things I considered dangerous or have no personal experience with is a big challenge. How do you keep them safe if they are swimming in deeper water then you can swim in?
    Conversely I want my children to live their lives to the fullest that their intellect, drive and interests will take them.
    Helping people to develop starts with teaching but then it can come to getting out of their way, trusting and believing in them.
    Wonderful story for all parents…thanks.

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    1. I suppose a starting point is to take care not to overlay personal experience, limitations and preferences on your children while offering any kernels of wisdom that you might have to offer to save them a bruise or two. Rather than worry about what their limits are, teach them to recognize their limits. I know that can be challenging with some children, but all the more reason to put your well-earned experience wisely to work!

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  5. Reina

    What a wonderful example of giving and recieving. I have often found that indeed, when I have given freely without asking for anything in return from my children, it had backfired on me, as their understanding of value and deep appreciation was undermined, even though my intentions were always good. There was not enough balance, lot’s given yet very little was asked of them in return. This is a wonderful post for parents who have made similar mistakes or are making these mistakes and have looked for solutions to help “spoiled” children learn the value of earning an experience such as yours. I know from my own life how much sweeter the return was when it was my efforts and creativity that went into the earning process. Parent’s have the ability to “cultivate” the most beautiful garden by raising well balanced children, what a difference it can make! Thanks to you and those who have commented on this post!

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  6. Kolya

    What a great story! I think the examples that parents give (such as you mentioned) are the ones that we tend to remember the most and make the greatest impact on our lives. It’s good to see this in respect to what we can do to develop those around us.

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  7. S.B.

    Great points! I’ve been reading about the failures associated with under cultivation and over cultivation in gardening and the same principle applies to anything we are seeking to assist grow and evolve. How wonderful your parents recognized your passion and your level of responsibility and readiness. This may seem a silly example, but if you are looking to grow a carrot to it’s perfect potential, you have to create the environment for it to do so. It will take shape according to that. So if the soil is rocky or the carrot can only grow a short ways before it hits hard clay, it’s growth will be stunted and misshapen according to that obstacle. But if the carrot is given a healthy soil with the freedom for it to grow to it’s potential then it will mature rightly. How wonderful when parents have the sensitivity, critical thinking skills and real empathy to help their children mature into their right potential. How wonderful when anyone can provide that for anyone else!

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  8. Andrea

    I think this is one of my favorite posts Gregg. Not only because I so agree with the principles within … but mostly because I never knew the story of your first flight! Knowing your parents – and remembering the teenage years makes this so much more special! Some of the best memories!

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  9. K.N.

    Your post caused me to be really thankful for family and teachers who were as thoughtful, balanced and dedicated as you are describing. It really brightened my morning – thanks!

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  10. Ed Barnes, Sr

    I absolutely agree with all your points here. I have handled my son’s interest in flight in a similar way, and I appreciate hearing your mature perspective a few years down the road from where he is now.

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  11. Brad

    a mentor of mind reminds me to never prejudge. It’s interesting to note that your parents came back to you, perhaps not with the answer you had hoped for but yet something even better! Emotions tend to swing rapidly when we here conjunctions like “but”, but need we be so reactive?? – if we wait just a little who knows what might result! – in your case the chance to learn to fly in a real plane!! – cool – and not with a free ride “but” a lesson to learn about cost and i bet you appreciate it more so – that’s way cool! – and then the opportunity to develop your character so that you now write this blog to share with others in their personal development – that’s the coolest!!!
    (guess it’s gonna be a cool day)
    – thanks again Gregg.

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