Monday, November 2, 2009

The Beauty of the Line

I don’t know how many clients I’ve had where these questions come up:

  • What should I be doing with my life?
  • Am I sure I’m doing the right thing for me?
  • How do I know when it’s right?
  • How do I get myself on the right track?

As part of the “provocative conversation” that makes up the framework of my coaching, we normally go and explore all kinds of things: strengths, preferences, joys, passions, talents, skills, and even the I-don’t-know-why-I-just-feel-drawn-to-it places.

That’s a beginning. Then we explore strategies…what has worked in the past? For others? What has failed miserably? What are the “best practices” that might need some reworking?

Then perhaps we go to some areas more subtle: What’s my image of myself, and could it use some reframing? What do I fear the most? What am I pretending not to know?

So many questions, yet after awhile, they all seem to come together to form a new picture and help bring on a transformation, filled with focus, purpose and power.

But lately, I’ve had those same questions for myself. I love the new focus on learning to fly, but in other areas I’ve felt like not enough of my own life was coming back to me. Like standing waiting for the tennis ball to come back over the net, and being really disappointed. Problem was, I hadn’t lobbed one over the net to start with. (Well, duh....No purpose or power in that!)

Somehow, I’d become very dependent on others’ actions, it seems. Waiting for others to make their move, waiting for others to DO something, SAY something, WRITE something...for something to HAPPEN…and only then would I respond. And little my little, my own momentum towards something great (okay…towards anything) was fading away.

It was a simple video on the internet that woke me up, part of my new passion to absorb most things aviation-related--an interview with the new National Champion of the 2009 Breitling Unlimited Gold Race at the famed Reno Air Races: Steven Hinton, Jr.

At only 22, Steven won the day with a blistering average speed of over 491 mph, and an elegantly perfect race. In so doing, he also claimed the Youngest Champion record from the previous record-holder: his own father, Steve Hinton, Sr. It’s a wonderful story, and a more humble champion you will never meet—except perhaps for his dad. (You can get the video podcast here. If this link doesn't work, go to the official site.)

In this interview, Steven talks about how he managed to take over first place from his starting spot in second. Here’s what he said:

”…with the line I fly, it was time to start turning, and Will [the pilot ahead of him] hadn’t started turning yet, so I stayed above him and gave him space, and started my turn, and he was gone underneath me and…[laugh] never looked back from there.”

Wow…In this simple description of what Steven did, I found 12 distinct coaching elements, with huge value for anyone pursuing anything!

Here’s what I heard (much more wordy, but you’ll see where I’m going with this):

“I have a very specific plan to achieve my goal; it’s one that I know well and am comfortable with, and it tells me what to do, and when to do it. My job is to follow that plan. What another person does, or doesn’t do, doesn’t affect my plan. I don’t need to push another out of his/her plan, since mine brings me what I want. When what I want is ahead of me, there’s no reason to be concerned with anything else.”

Now, I’m certain Steven didn’t think he did anything special with that interview; he simply described what he did. (But isn’t it amazing how we help each other, even unintentionally? He’ll never know the effect his words had on me, and he probably wouldn’t really care. He’s too busy focusing on the next perfect line for him to fly—as he should be.)

So with huge thanks to Steven anyway, I'm posing this question to myself and for all my clients in the future (you may take it on as well, if you like):

What exactly is the line that I’m going to fly?

Because, with the answer to this one question, everything changes.


  1. Thanks for this insight, Kristelle. Most enlightening. You mean there's a barameter within us that knows what our line is? Cool.

  2. Well I certainly would like to think so. On the surface, I think it's a combination of experience and advice and the mechanics of things and strategy and knowing other players and factors and strengths and conditions. But Truly? A sparkling inner compass, if we dare to look at it. An invisible Line that connects us from where we are to THERE.

  3. As you know, my dear, there is often a process end point, that when it 'works' for me is what I call "A Knowing."

    At a certain point, after processing, researching, analyzing, strategizing, contemplating, building myself up, tearning myself down, with a mix of entrail reading, finger crossing, Blue Feather visualizing, and deep breathing thrown in, "A Knowing" often materializes.

    It becomes my "line to fly"... and yes, it can be likened to a sparkling inner compass, showing a direction to THERE.

    One thing however, it usually does not tell me the precise path, or "how" to get from here to there.

    When I have "A Knowing" it is not unusual to be asked (by myself and others) "How are you going to do that?" Increasingly, I have learned, my answer can only be the truth: "I don't know. It's a mystery."

    There is no mystery or doubt about the destination, just some about how to get there from here.