Inward Inspection from 30,000 Feet

David Graham October 13, 2021

Monthly Newsletter

As the door sealed shut, the walls of the airplane seemed to collapse inward. My heart was racing and blood rushed to my head. I heard myself say, “I might need a minute to catch my breath,” but there was no turning back. My fear of being in a confined space had officially been triggered and I needed to pull it together.

I quickly diverted my attention to the advice of my friends. Focus on your breath, I reminded myself. Look at the vastness of the sky, your love for adventure. Connect to your inner strength. But none of my self-talk was working.

My friend, Lorne, had come to visit us, and we were flying back in his private plane to the Maritimes. As I glanced over my shoulder into the cockpit, I could see his wife, Lynn, in the co-pilot seat. She patiently guided him through a pre-flight check, one item at a time. I was captivated by the precision and how they worked together. Step by step, side by side, they checked everything. I felt my mind settle; my breathing became more regular.

That was when I recalled the words of a dear colleague, Martha Maznevski, from the Ivey Academy. “Always work with a co-pilot,” she said, “someone who’s got your back.” I’ve learned from her to value having a thinking partner, someone to bounce ideas off and catch mistakes I may have missed. That’s what Lynn was doing for Lorne, and I could feel the change it created.

As leaders, we often feel like we need to do it all on our own. This has been a tough lesson for me over the years. I often revert to that determined inner child who says, “I can do it myself!” And sometimes we can do it on our own, but at what cost? The fact of the matter is that we become stronger when we ask for help.

And with that thought, we were taxiing down the runway, and I felt my first surge of excitement since I got on the airplane. I looked at the seat across from me and got a reassuring nod from my partner, Justin, followed by a friendly nudge from my best friend, Stacey, who had been sure to pack a bottle of wine. “Wanna play a game of hangman?” she asked.

With one final deep breath, my inner control freak had officially been confined to my carry-on baggage; I decided that I would take a closer inspection after landing. As we soared above the clouds into the vastness of the sky, my perspective lifted and the plane didn’t feel so confining after all. Adventure awaits!

And now over to you to take a closer look at your personal voyage.

  • How comfortable are you with asking for support?
  • What part of your business could use a co-pilot right now?
  • What small shift can you take in a more energizing direction?

Wishing you blue skies and many wonderful adventures.


David Graham

Dave coaches good leaders who want to be great leaders and he works with leaders to build high performing, super-focused teams. For transformational experiences, he takes teams out of the boardroom and into nature.