SUCCESS IS A MINDSET - 11 April 2013
Trees in Bloom - Ruidoso, New Mexico
"I was watching a TED talk with a subject about the mental qualities of very successful athletes. In this case, the speaker brought up example after example of sport legends at work in which a simple personal perspective seemed to lead them to accomplish extraordinary things. This speaker introduced a theory: it was about “belief."
After viewing this video, I considered my own career. When might belief have affected what I had accomplished? As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Looking backwards is always correct. What I found was that I rarely felt like I wasn’t going to succeed. Sure, anxiety was present before taking that test or being evaluated. But, I never thought, “I can’t do this.” I always felt success was a matter of just getting it done.
Not everyone is like that. Some people, during checkrides, freeze up and snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. I had one student at Test Pilot School who I personally hooked--i.e., failed -- on three of the curriculum’s four checkrides. He was a great kid but he could not take a checkride to save his life.
After the debrief for the third fail, he was sitting across the table from me with eyes lowered, totally dejected, and said, “Sulu, maybe I’m not cut out for this stuff.” That made me almost laugh because I saw in him tremendous potential to succeed as a test pilot. He simply did not do well in checkrides. I told him “You’ll do fine. You need to get out of Test Pilot School. Then, you’ll be great.” After graduation and years of active testing, my student turned out to be a great and capable test pilot, easily overcoming the bumps he encountered at TPS.
In so many ways we are our own worst enemies when doing challenging things. A lack of confidence or natural expectation to succeed may be the difference between success and failure. Being distracted by a potential for failure changes a mindset that could lead to success. My point here is it sometimes takes intense mental discipline to keep those doubts aside, to keep them from overwhelming everything.
Admittedly, it takes a certain amount of personal arrogance to believe one can achieve amazing accomplishments. Arrogance with nothing else is a problem. But, being mindful that you are able to succeed, combined with a humble awareness that things could go otherwise, is something entirely different.
Certainly, tasting the sweetness of success early in life makes future efforts more positive. As I’ve said before, success tends to lead to more success. That’s clear enough. What many people miss is that those folks we admire most likely never had a doubt in their minds about their futures or their abilities to succeed. They never considered or had that creeping feeling it wasn’t going to work out. The key factor in all this was simply never letting that negative feeling into our mindset."