Who’s Got Your Back?

Literally means literally. Okay? And Cliff had my back literally.

Since he was 7 years old my son Jack has told me — not asked — that on his 16 birthday we would jump out of a plane together.  My rather significant acrophobia told him in response: that would not be happening. He smiled, sure that it would.  I gleefully told him when he was 14 and just two years away from this destiny, that he had to be 18. Somehow, though, I knew he wasn’t forgetting and I had lost this battle.

So two weeks ago I made the reservation.  Wednesday we went up.  On a 45 degree angle.  In a rickety plane. I sat at the very front, on the floor, facing the back, with the DOOR to my left.  My head was against the control dials. I was at the elbow of the 70-ish (or maybe a hard-lived 55-ish) pilot who seemed like he was out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. For 15 nerve-wracking minutes we climbed. The smell of the smoke of California wild fires filled the plane. We rose ABOVE the clouds.  Years of daily meditation allowed me to breathe and stay surprisingly calm.

Cliff was toe-to-toe with me. His 3-minute ground tutorial told me as did his hand gesture now that I should somehow turn around and face the front of the plane. And somehow I did.  Cliff got close behind me. Really close. He attached his harness to mine in 4 (or was it 8) places on my sides, hips, shoulders. He tightened each in turn and we were snug.  Snug. He was IN my ear and said, “Just like I told you on the ground: I’ll open the door. You’ll put your feet on the step. And when I say ‘go,’ you’ll fall forward.”

And I did.

And the minute of free-fall went too fast.  And too slow.

Cliff had my back. He let me know when the chute was to open. And from free fall we felt the jolt and the strangest sensation that we were now going UP.  A couple minutes later he told me, “Before we land, I’ll tell you to lift your knees. Don’t start running.”  He told me to lift my knees, the ground came up to us amazingly fast, and we landed like a gymnast sticks a dismount. Terra firma.

Jack is flying!

So, who has your back? CAN you totally trust someone? To lead you to a place you would NEVER go alone, to teach you with competence and confidence, so you feel you never need to look back. It’s a relationship, right? It’s about trust and trusting.

Do you have someone’s back?  Really have their back. So, they can fall forward. So, they can take risks they would never imagine taking. Do your employees feel you’re there?  Your kids?  Your spouse?  Your boss?

There is amazing power in partnership!   Use it to

Lead with your best self.

  • Your writing today was very much in sync for me with a book I am reading, ” The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. Her Ted Talk is also in the same spirit for me.

  • It was amazing, wasn’t it? Will you do it again?

    I did it last October in recognition of my 60th birthday and would do it again in a heartbeat. Maybe it will become the birthday gift to myself each year………………. I trusted my “jumpmaster” implicitly although I had just met him 30 minutes before.

    But thanks for the trust & leadership analogy. We all need to keep it in mind.

  • Very inspiring, Dan! Don’t you feel you can now go out and do almost anything?! I’m trying to keep up with my almost 4 year old granddaughter but it’s a losing proposition. My latest challenge was to dive head in first. Ever since I almost drowned myself in an olympic size pool more than 4 decades ago, I’ve always had a good dose of respect for water — call it fear if you’d like. I literally didn’t know or didn’t want to know the mechanics of falling forward head in. This summer, in my mid 60’s, I finally overcame that fear with the help of my husband. Of course, he’s offered to help me many, many times, but the timing wasn’t right until I watched my little Graely do it freely with no fear.

  • This really hits home for me! We have to make so many decisions in life and often we seek advice from those whom we trust. This is extremely comforting!! To know that whatever decision you make, someone is there to have your back, support you, be there for you.. And on the other end, being there for someone else, being trusted by someone else is extremely gratifying!

  • Awesome! Congratulations Dan. Thanks for sharing this story. Your experience is also an important lesson in how much thrill and energy we gain when we can fully trust someone. The truth is that trust rules—it rules our relationships, innovation, teamwork, corporate reputation, personal credibility, and just about everything else.

  • Thanks for sharing your personal experience… There is a lesson in it. Nice also to know that you meditate regularly. Meditation and yog has a great positive effect on human lives.

  • Nice flight, helmet-cam video gives us very shoulder to shoulder feeling of being there too, wow! All honestly relieved you took Cliff’s advice to lift at knees, landed safely no kidding. Glad you check off another of life’s successfully must-do moments. Not sure, event merit as elective course ‘16 semester’s JD or MBA but if Admin gives ok, handy liability wavier forms on flight deck good idea. Cool stuff Dan said, keep in mind that the future is coming soon, not alone in sayings, we will all need you, healthy & able bodied, both feet on the ground to have the back of so many. I am certain Jennifer would be the first to agree.

  • >