Lost at 3,000 Feet

Everything seemed to be going great except for one little detail – I was lost.  I was on the first leg of my first big solo cross-country flight, flying along somewhere between Lafayette, LA and Natchez, MS.  On my navigation chart, I had drawn a nice neat line between the Lafayette and Natchez airports, and as I looked down at the river below me, I realized that the river bends below didn’t match up with what I saw on my map.  This was not good.  However, I had been trained on how to successfully handle this exact kind of situation.  Let’s look at how you can use an old fashioned airplane navigation method to help you keep your business on the right course.

Staying on course can be a challenge in the cockpit or the office chair.

Staying on course can be a challenge in the cockpit or the office chair.


On this flight leg, my primary means of navigation was dead reckoning.  Dead reckoning is a navigation method that enables a pilot to navigate from one point to another without the use of modern electronics, such as GPS, and is an essential skill to have in certain kinds of situations if things get hairy.  Essentially, this is about flying by waypoints – or from landmark to landmark.  Each waypoint along the route of flight represents a milestone of progress and the opportunity to make whatever adjustments are needed to stay on course.

In business, the four quarters of the calendar year serve as waypoints against which progress is plotted.  When December or January roll around, we think about what things will be like in our business twelve months from now.  New leafs are turned over and goals are set, and then life happens.

Scheduled Course Correction

Have you ever watched the clouds float past?  Have you ever thought about the effect that those wind currents that push the clouds along have on airplanes in flight?  Modern electronic flight navigation equipment provides the pilot with real-time information on the precise location of the airplane.  The pilot can immediately see the effect that the wind has on the airplane and compensate instantly by turning slightly into the wind so that the airplane stays exactly on course.  Dead reckoning provides no such real-time location information to the pilot.  Instead, the pilot must match up the landmarks on the ground, with what appears on the navigation chart, and then based on this adjust the airplane’s heading to compensate for the wind in order to reach the next landmark.

At three thousand feet, the bends in the river below me didn’t match the ones on my navigation chart at the point where I should be.  Obviously, I needed to make an adjustment in my direction of flight in order to get back on course, but which way should I turn?  To answer this question I decided to climb to a higher altitude so that I could gain a larger field of view.  From a little higher up I had a bigger view of my environment and was able to see exactly how much course correction I needed in order to get back on track for my next destination.

Actively Guiding Your Business Forward

In your business, there are often things that require your time and energy to address that only serve to get you through another day or week and don’t have anything to do with your quarterly or annual goals.  These arise in the form of customer service issues to attend to, emails to reply to, requests for…, the list goes on and on.  As important as all those things may be, they tend to blow you off course and away from your big goals.  Use the calendar quarters as waypoints in your business.  Make sure that your 90 day goals are always in the forefront of your mind.

What works great for me is to write out my 90 day goals on paper so that I can cross them off.  For me there is no substitute for putting it on paper – putting it on my computer just doesn’t have the same effect – the key is to find the method that works best for you and the way that your brain is wired.  I also write my big objectives on my annual wall calendar – this helps me keep focused on where my business is in relation to these navigational waypoints that I’ve carefully chosen.  When your objectives are clear and keep the big picture in view you don’t have to wonder where you are, because it is right there in front of you.

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