21st Century Alchemy: Altitude and attitude

In flying, there are two measures of position: altitude and attitude. An aircraft’s altitude is its flight level (physical location) relative to sea or ground level, while its attitude (short answer) is its position or perspective relative to the artificial horizon (level flight path). Both measures are important.

In our careers and companies, many believe that deadlines, targets, and goals are the focus, but without a careful assessment of other factors, like direction (attitude), relative momentum (ground speed not airspeed), environmental factors (drag, lift), or our personal or company limitations (aircraft’s structural or mechanical limits), we’ll never be able to sustain or increase our success. Safe flying isn’t just the right altitude. There are many others factors that need to be considered, including how they interact with one another.

For example, if you were asked if a plane’s present altitude of 3,000 metres was fine, you’d probably say yes. But if you were told that its altitude was 12,000 metres a minute ago or that its climb rate was 9,000 metres/minute, you might think differently, right?

The right perspective
The key to sustaining or increasing professional, even personal development is maintaining the correct perspective (attitude). It could even be argued that beyond a minimum speed or altitude, long-term growth is only dependent on the right attitude. So don’t focus too much on what you used to do, where you used to be, or how fast you used to get things done. You can use them as guideposts, but focus more on where you’re going in relation to where you were (the occasional glance over your shoulder is a good thing).

You may have flown higher or climbed faster in the past, or you might have made mistakes or gone in the wrong direction, but it doesn’t mean you’ve crashed – even if you’ve lost altitude. If you’ve stalled, change your perspective and gain speed. Remember that nothing is permanent. Nothing is final. It’s not game over. The right attitude is always directional, not positional and even one step in the right direction is still progress – it’s still positive change.


Success at a cost
Q: Things are flying at work and I’m beginning to build a great future for my family. But my wife says I’m not spending enough time with the family. And when I bring work home so that I can be around more, she complains that I’m not really ‘there’. What’s the solution? ~ Alex
A: Ironic, isn’t it? The very thing you’re doing for your family is actually destroying it. What’s needed is time, but focus on quality over quantity. Schedule specific times reserved for family (date nights, family nights, etc) that you treat like your most business appointments.

Suffering from burnout
Q: I’m a reasonably successful freelancer, but recently I’ve struggled to complete assignments, constantly asked for deadline extensions, and lost all interest in the work. Is this burnout? What do I do? ~ Nicolau
A: Think of a rocket that’s burned out its fuel. Is this you? But what it’s called is less important than how you handle it. I once heard: “If you forget why you do what you do, what you do will kill you.” If you can afford it, slow down, unplug, get away, and take a break. Take time to remember why you do […] and what’s

Teamwork trouble
Q: A consistently high-performing member of my workstream has become increasingly difficult to work with. Even if the whole team agrees, she still does her own thing. We’ve tried everything, but nothing changes. ~ Martine
A: High-performing employees can be difficult to manage and impossible to fire. Maybe it’s time for a promotion. She doesn’t respect/value the team or the leader if she does her own thing, and if she manages her own workstream, her shortcomings will become blindingly obvious. Recommend a conditional promotion (based on results) with a transition period for leadership and team-building training.

Beginning not ending
Q: The company I work for has significantly downsized, and after five years, I’ve been let go. I’m devastated. Any suggestions? ~ Roselyn
A: It’s difficult, and even though you may feel rejected or that you weren’t ‘good enough’, try not to take it personally. All businesses must make difficult decisions that are often unrelated to the employee in question. Change can be uncomfortable, but it can also be exciting if you’re open-minded. Instead of thinking: “I’m doomed,” think: “Anything’s possible,” and start doing things that will rebuild your courage and

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