On Flying

There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] suggests, and try it.
The first part is easy. All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it's going to hurt.
That is, it's going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground. Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.
- Douglas Adams

The more I go back to this quote, the more I wisdom I see in it. Especially when you are dusting yourself off after a particularly hard fall. That is when the pain is still fresh. You are laying there with skinned knees, sore elbows, and a variety of bumps and bruises, just hoping nothing broke. They are not just physical wounds, but mental ones as well. Laying on the ground, staring up at the sky, it is not a far step from packing it all up and heading home. You know there is a comfortable couch and a mountain of books you have not read. It is a place that even if you fall, the floor is not THAT far off. 

While the couch thoughts float through your head, thoughts of "How did I get here?" are probably mixed in with them. If you are like me, you look back through the work that you have done and the decisions you have made. If you are exceptionally smart, you start to look at the moments before and after impact and evaluating those. Patterns should form. Right now you are focusing on your human frailties, but stay there long enough and you figure out your strengths as well. Some of the time spent needs to be separating out what part of the crash was caused by you, and what part of the crash had nothing to do with you. The tricky part is understanding it all and working through it. 

These are thoughts that are never going to come to you on a couch, buried in a good book. You have to be in a much more uncomfortable place to start to figure out what you are doing. Throwing yourself at the ground on a regular basis. As Mr. Adams says, if you are trying properly, you are going to hurt yourself quite a bit if you are indeed putting and effort into it. There will be periodic spurts where you glide a little higher than normal, or you sail a little bit longer than you did before. After the inevitable landing, complete with flailing limbs and cursing, you will find yourself in the same place with a new set of injuries. The process will start over, but with a little more understanding of what went wrong.

It will eventually come down to a simple cost/benefit equation: do you want to fly more than you want to be comfortable? People who want to fly came to grips a long time ago that they will, more or less, be in some constant pain. It is not going to stop them from getting up and doing the work; it is just going to be there as a reminder as they get ready to take the leap again. The ones that are getting their voices heard and the work accomplished are the people who are working through the soreness. Even when they figure out how to fly, when they are soaring at the greatest heights of their field, there is a need for a landing. The best case scenario is the landing is a soft one as they bow our of their field gracefully. The worst case is they finally crash so hard there is no way for them to get back into the sky. 

All the amazingly successful people you see around you have hit the ground hard at some point in their career. Many of them with a disturbing amount of impact. You may not see the scars from where you are standing, but they are there. And they got back up, spent the time healing, and went right back out to throw themselves at the ground again. Some of them still have very rough landings. But they found the thing that gets them off the ground. 

If you are laying there with a tear rolling down your cheek in a shallow impact crater, get back up and throw yourself at the ground again. If you are prepping for another leap to try avoid hitting terra firma, good luck to you! And if you are flying, keep flying. Don't listen to the people trying to distract you from your flight. As Mr. Adams puts it:

Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of "Good God, you can't possibly be flying!" It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right.