Last week, my son and I got about as close as you can to the experience of being in outer space, without competing against the 20,000 people who apply to NASA’s astronaut training program each year, or investing $250,000 on a Virgin Galactic flight, with Richard Branson.
We went on a Zero G flight, where we experienced weightlessness and floated, flipped, and soared like astronauts.
The zero gravity experience was so realistic that we were joined on our flight by Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian entrepreneur, who in 2006 became the first Iranian female in space. She was the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station, where she spent 11 days.
We took off on a specially modified Boeing 727 and flew to an altitude of 24,000 feet. The pilot then flew us even higher, to an altitude of 32,000 feet, at a 45° angle. At that speed and angle, we felt the pull of 1.8 Gs.
Next, the plane pushed over the top of a parabolic arc and we entered the zero gravity phase, where we became completely weightless.
We flew this maneuver 15 times over the course of the flight, each parabola took about ten miles of airspace to perform.
The experience was fun and exciting but it was hard for my brain to adjust to being weightless.
I’m a certified scuba diver and I had assumed that would be an advantage, when floating in mid-air. It turns out that it was the complete opposite.
Kicking your legs under water helps you move and change direction. Kicking your legs in air, with zero gravity, made me look like a little baby wiggling its legs and did nothing to move me!
I’ll be honest. It took a little courage to go on this flight.
I double checked my life insurance, in the weeks before we flew. The thought of flying in a plane at this angle was intense.
But what I’d rather not tell you is that yesterday I took part in another activity that required far more courage…
When I was growing up, I never rode a bicycle. We simply never had one in my family.
And for most of my life that’s not been a problem.
You see, over the years, I have been able to quietly skip out of any experience that involved the need to ride a bicycle
But then I had kids…
And one day they began learning to ride a bike.
And I realized that I was out of excuses…
If I want my kids to do things that scare them, I need to walk my talk and do things that scare me—in front of them.
So, I signed up for an adult bicycle training.
I had to get past my fear of riding a bike.
More importantly, I also had to get past the shame and embarrassment of my need to take an adult class.
If you’ve been riding a bike since you were 4, or 7 this probably seems silly.
But like most of our work coaching high performers, it’s what’s going on in your clients’ mind that matters most.
It wasn’t easy for me to get on that bike.
But I did it.
At the start of the class, I was wobbly and unsteady.
Several times, as I turned the bike, I almost fell.
The instructor told me that, the moment I turn the bike, I should snap my gaze back to the horizon. If you focus on the ground, so that you don’t fall, you’ll head in the direction of your gaze—and you will fall, he explained.
By the end of the class, I was proud to have cycled a couple of miles along the beach cycle path in Santa Monica. I’m not turning pro yet but I did it.
Both of these experiences were a great reminder for me of the importance of doing things that scare me.
They were a reminder of the importance of staying humble, no matter how successful I become.
They were a reminder that most of the things I feel shame and embarrassment about are often things that other people either don’t care about, or have no judgement about.
People reach out to me on a regular basis to tell me that they are impressed with my accomplishments. They often put me on a pedestal. If only they knew that I couldn’t ride a bike, they may have realized the truth of what I say so often:
Highly successful people need your support more than you think and more than they know.
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