Faster than a Speeding Bullet – The Key to Accomplishment

On October 14, 1927, just a month after the U.S. Air Force was created as a separate service, test pilot Chuck Yeager officially exceeded the speed of sound in level flight in a Bell X-1 aircraft. An incredible accomplishment!

Previous attempts had been stymied by a buffeting and a loss of control as the aircraft approached the speed of sound, but a discovery made by German Luftwaffe pilot Dr. Hans Guido Mutke in his attempts to achieve the same result allowed Yeager to stabilize his plane through the period of buffeting. Much to his surprise, Yeager reported that after passing through the speed of sound control returns and the plane behaves normally.

My brother-in-law was telling me this story yesterday evening and he made an interesting correlation that I thought you’d like to hear. He observed that many achievements in life follow a pattern similar to what occurs when breaking the sound barrier. Momentum increases, buffeting occurs before the goal is reached and then once the goal is accomplished, the buffeting ceases and control returns.

Have you ever had that experience? It seemed like you should have been there already, that you did what it took to succeed, yet the finish line was not around the corner you expected. Or perhaps you were moving along nicely, the finish line in sight and then all hell broke loose. No matter how it shows up, navigating that phase of pre-victory requires an uncommon steadiness.

I wonder if one of the differences between those who succeed regularly and those who don’t is in how they handle the brief period just before the finish line is crossed. Those who panic, who overreact, or who freeze are more likely to know the agony of defeat than they are to taste the fruits of their labor. Conversely, those who dig deep down, who have faith in their abilities and who hold steady in the face of adversity keep control of their ship past the finish line and beyond.

Here are a few tips for navigating the buffeting:

  1. Don’t panic. When the buffeting starts, relax into it rather than tense up. Relaxation promotes clear thinking.
  2. When things don’t go as expected, resist the temptation to blame and maim. Lashing out is rarely effective. Instead, look to tie up loose ends.
  3. The pressure will likely be on, as it is when the sound wave compresses in front of the aircraft as it approaches the sound barrier. Note your tendencies when under pressure and don’t beat yourself up, instead, find creative ways to overcome your weaknesses.
  4. Don’t take shortcuts. Stick to the plan unless a change is absolutely necessary. Making dramatic changes while passing through the buffeting is rarely advisable.
  5. Don’t forget to breathe out. Express your appreciation externally to those around you and internally for your progress to that point. Thank whoever you thank for getting you there.

Perhaps you have other tips that have helped you along the way? I’d love to hear them!

9 thoughts on “Faster than a Speeding Bullet – The Key to Accomplishment

  1. Kolya

    Here’s another tip to add to your list: Have confidence in your abilities and enjoy the experience. (You must have some skills and abilities if you’ve even got to the point where you could break through to a new level, so why not enjoy it. As an added bonus, you’ll have something great to share with others!)

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  2. Joshua

    A Story I heard once comes directly to mind and it goes something like this….
    A man comes across a cocoon, and observes the buffeting, and seeming struggle within that cocoon and seeks to “Be of assistance”. Ripping the cocoon open for what he is anticipating to be a fully formed beautiful butterflies release…however to his dismay he realizes the butterfly within is not fully formed and cannot fly upon release, as it was the “Seeming struggle or Buffeting” that develops the muscles that the butterfly depends upon for flight, therefore although the mans intentions were to be helpful the net result was pre-mature release from a pivotal phase of development.

    It is always wise to trust in the greater cycles and principals at work rather than allow our own concepts of what is needed to gain control over a situation, for so often we are attempting to gain control over something about which is none of our business!
    Thanks again Gregg for your consistent ability to perceive those larger cycles at work!!!!

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  3. Doug

    I’ve had to learn not to start second guessing myself or start to rethink my plan when things hit that stage. While I have had to change my course on occasion it is usually after things have settled down and I could see where to make adjustments.
    One other thought is don’t keep asking everyone for their opinion at this stage, more opinions are usually just that!

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  4. Colin

    I appreciate the way you took this analogy and broke it down to its finer points. I know it is scarier the first time you cross one of these barriers, but it only gets easier the more you do it. Imagine that test pilot: he probably thought the plane would disintegrate when he crossed the sound barrier, but he went for it anyway. Now pilots do it every day. It just goes to show that what once was deemed difficult can be made a common occurrence if one person is willing to lead the way.

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  5. Brad

    these are great points Gregg.
    i was part of a backpacking trip this weekend and on our way to a mountain summit part of the group began to lag and with it attitudes – easy enough to rectify with a little team work – part of the encouragement was –
    ~ keep your view out in front, looking at your feet can cause you to loose your balance)
    ~ keep going no matter how slowly – be steady with your stride no matter what pace – momentum is your friend

    keep up the great posts – there are so many ways to apply these suggestions in life

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