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FALLING FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF SOUND: Three Simple Ways to Find Your Inner Felix Baumgartner

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If you were anywhere but under a rock this morning, you have heard about Felix Baumgartner. If you haven’t heard about or seen Felix yet on the news, well, you will as soon as you turn on your television. Felix just set a world record. The Red Bull YouTube channel reports:

“After flying to an altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled balloon, Felix Baumgartner completed a record-breaking jump for the ages from the edge of space, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane. Felix reached a maximum of speed of 1,342.8 km/h (833mph) through the near vacuum of the stratosphere before being slowed by the atmosphere later during his 4:20minute long freefall. The 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert also broke two other world records (highest freefall, highest manned balloon flight), leaving the one for the longest freefall to project mentor Col. Joe Kittinger.”

No doubt RedBull and Felix will be able to capitalize off of this historic jump well until he drinks his last RedBull. But, I would like to use his jump and preparation therein as a metaphor for how any change we undertake requires these three things (at a minimum):

1. VISION: Where do you want to be? Where do you see yourself in “X” days/weeks/ months/years/decades from now? What is the vision you have for yourself? Have you written your vision and made it plain?

2. A PLAN: How have you prepared yourself and what is your plan? Is there a plan B? Plan C? What will you do if something comes up that you did not predict? Have you prepared yourself to handle unforeseen obstacles or unforeseen reward?

3. SUPPORT: “I will be there to catch you when you fall.”  You need others to hold you accountable to your goals along the way. Just as much as you need others to be there when you fall to help you get back up. Further, and maybe the less obvious support you need, is your own personal parachute. How can you create reinforcing systems within yourself to make sure you are not only staying on course but to know how to recover when the “crazy spin” of life happens to find a smooth patch of air before reaching your destination. You will need self-correcting systems. Such systems could include journaling, making video diaries, meditating, and any other form of reflexive activity that you can use to track the ebbs and flows of your journey. Comparing and contrasting your progress overtime will no doubt help you course correct quicker than if you weren’t looking for patterns and trends in your own behavior.

So where is my inner Felix? Well, I often tell people about a time when I was interviewing for a job in 2007. I knew one of the big requirements of the job would include weekly travel on a plane, and I was literally petrified to fly. So much so, that while I was at Harvard in grad school I would take the bus 36 hours to Memphis, TN — my hometown — to avoid getting on a plane during our holiday breaks. Even still, I interviewed for  the job and received an offer. However, I did not reply back immediately. I prayed. I called a few friends (and maybe even my mother if I am honest). I had to think to myself: “This is a dream job…am I going to let my fear (of flying) stand in the way of saying yes.” Needless to say, I took the job. It changed the trajectory of my life. And now, I have been an Executive Platinum or Platinum frequent flyer on American Airlines since 2007. I have reached that status so many times consecutively that the airlines invited me to their “George Clooney” conceirge key club. And like clock-work,  if I have not already met the agent that meets me when I get off the plane to shuttle me to my connecting flights on their golf  cart he or she will say “You are Mr. Parks? I was looking for someone much older.”

I guess that’s evidence that I am setting my own records. Though it’s not quite in Felix’s rarified air just yet, I can see my inner Felix shining through each and every time I take flight.

Watch Felix Baumgartner’s historic fall and get inspiration to chart your dreams today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHtvDA0W34I&feature=related

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