• Randy Swaim

Leadership: A 3rd Defining Moment & “Breaking Free”.

Readers may remember that I have at time written about defining moment in one’s journey. I have pointed out some of my defining moments in my journey including my graduation from college and commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant and being selected as the Outstanding Graduate for F-4 Qualification Training and consequently, being hand selected for one of the top squadrons in the Air Force. The picture attached highlights perhaps the 3rd Defining Moment in my journey and it is an insight all leaders must consider for themselves and for their teams.

While assigned to the 335 TFS “Chiefs”, I gained a Functional Check Flight “FCF” Qualification. Whenever an F-4 had a major maintenance effort such as a Flight Control change or Double Engine change or something similar, an FCF crew would have to take it up and put it through a complete routine and checklist checking out every aspect of the aircraft and systems. If we approved, we would have to sign off the aircraft before it could be approved to be returned to the squadron.

One thing on the FCF flight was we would be at 24,000 feet and 250 Knots......and we would light the afterburners and time how long it would take for the aircraft to reach Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound). On the checklist, there was a window of time dependent on temperature and altitude and the time it took to accelerate to Mach 2 had to fit that window. This would also allow us to assess the function of the Variable Engine Intakes which would begin to move about Mach 1.7. However, after we checked this, we would be at Mach 2 and had to slow down before we came back down because people on the ground could get nervous if they heard the Sonic Booms in the air. Therefore, we would pitch the aircraft up and “Zoom Climb” to climb and slow down. We would typically top out at about 52,000 feet. In aviation, 51,000 feet is known as the first place where if you look out at the horizon, you see a slight curve in it and it is not straight anymore. The first place where you could see that this is a big beautiful ball on which we live. It is also the first place where the sky is very deep Navy blue, not “baby blue”. There are no stars yet but it is dark blue.


The first time I looked out through my canopy and saw this for real was the 3rd Defining Moment in my life. Because when I saw this, 2 powerful insights filled me from inside. These insights were simply as follows:


Insight #1:

If, in our career and life journey, the sky is the limit......to reach our full potential, we must completely overcome the gravitational forces holding us back and preventing that.


Insight #2:

Very simply, I realized that my journey, my success and all the talents I bring are not about me....but about others and their success.


The questions I want to leave you with are simply these...…


1. What are the Gravitational Forces seeking to hold you back?

2. What do they look like & what is the strategy of these forces?

3. What do you need to do differently to overcome them?

4. Who in your sphere of influence is being hurt because you are not breaking free and gravity is holding you and they back?


I simply leave this for your consideration


Randy Swaim, Coaching for Relevance, LLC

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