According to the Northwestern website, a spacecraft leaving earth needs a speed of 7 miles per second or about 25,000 miles an hour to leave earth's atmosphere without falling back.
I formed the habit of using metaphors and hyperbolic language to convey ideas in business. Early in my career, while leading and managing sales teams I intended to make things easy to understand and relatable. I started in sales so I suppose I did it because I sat through too many "sales meetings" where technical details, product details, and all the other dry, boring stuff was presented with all the panache of a cardboard box.
When the Eagle landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, I was 12. Maybe that had something to do with it. Business success, I learned, relied on having a successful launch (take off). But what does that mean? Well, it means you don't crash. And in order to avoid crashing, you have to keep flying. If you're flying high, like a spacecraft, then you have to get to orbit where you can safely fly without fear of crashing. That means you have to escape gravity. Technically, it's escape velocity - the speed required to get beyond the earth's atmosphere. Thanks to the brainiac physicists and other scientists we know the speed required - 7 miles per second.
Similar comparisons have been made to other forms of flight. Like regular planes. In business, we often talk about runways. Planes need runways. The bigger the plane, the longer the required runway. The visual is easy for anybody to understand. If a big plane is going to achieve lift-off, it needs a longer runway than some little lightweight single-engine plane. A business enterprise needs runway - cash and capital - to get lift-off.
It's all about getting a lift. Going higher. Getting up in the air. Getting off the ground.
But we're not talking about business. We're talking about leaning toward wisdom. We're thinking about our lives, which very well may include business and careers, but it's more than that. It's the total thing - every aspect of our lives. The complete person that is who we are. And perhaps more importantly, the complete person that is who we want to become. Our ideal self.
We're all trying to escape something.
"I won't feel sorry for myself," said Elizabeth the character in Poldark, an Amazon Prime TV series about who lost everything including house and status. It's a powerful declaration of a character determined to escape the misfortune that had befallen her. "We'll find economy and rebuild." Without knowing the end of the story, we believe her because she seems determined to build enough momentum to escape her present reality. She's headed toward escape velocity.
History teaches valuable lessons. Recently I revisited the 13 subjects crafted by Benjamin Franklin. He created a list of 13 things he wanted to work on to escape his status quo and go to new heights of achievement. Franklin formed the list while he was a printer in Philadelphia swimming in debt.
His idea was simple but brilliant. He'd devote one full week to each subject. After 13 weeks he'd start over again. By the end of a full year, he would have spent four full weeks on each item.
Little doubt Franklin thought by concentrating on these things he'd be able to escape the mediocrity and failure of his current life.
Here’s what Franklin wrote about these 13 subjects…and in this order:
Temperance – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation
Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
Resolution – resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing
Industry – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly,