Early one morning, you drag yourself out of bed. The kids have kept you up all night. The neighbor’s dog won’t shut up and you are behind on paying some of your bills. Now, you are supposed to jump up out of bed and say, “Today is going to be great!” Right? Wrong!

Simply put, sometimes life is not great. We still have to perform at our best to get our job done, even when we have all this excess mental baggage. What can we do to get on track mentally when things don’t go right?

John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s tragic plane crash was caused by an experience known as “mental vertigo.” Once you know how this affects pilots, you’ll see how it can also affect your ability to succeed.

“Mental vertigo” is perceptual dizziness—disorientation. When a pilot goes into mental vertigo, he will actually begin to fly by his feelings and not by the instruments in the airplane. This is not usually a problem, as long as the pilot can see the horizon outside the plane. But if he should happen to fly through clouds, he no longer has a horizon to help him determine whether or not he’s flying straight and level.

Before someone can qualify to get his “instrument rating,” he first must get his private pilot rating (that’s what young Kennedy had), then receive additional training for the instrument rating—which takes nearly as much training as the private pilot license, costs more, and is much more difficult, which is why many pilots never get that rating.

What’s the difference between the pilot who gets into bad weather and ends up crashing an airplane due to mental vertigo and one who doesn’t? One word: Experience!

An experienced instrument pilot knows not to obey or listen to his feelings. In fact, he will have learned to ignore them completely. When you are in instrument conditions (clouds, bad weather, etc.), you may literally feel that your plane is climbing—when it’s actually descending.


Three Minutes to Live

Studies show that when a pilot who’s not qualified to fly by instruments happens to get into the clouds, he’s got about three minutes to live. Just three minutes. How can that be?

Picture this: you’re flying a plane that is diving toward earth. But because of mental vertigo, you feel it climbing! To stop it from climbing, you push forward on the control column to try to level the plane. But remember, you’re actually diving, not climbing—so when you push the nose of the airplane forward, you’re making the situation worse! You now have less than three minutes to live—say your prayers.

The experienced pilot says, “Hold on here. I feel that I’m climbing—but I’m going to ignore that feeling, because my instruments say I’m really diving. My training tells me to pull up.”

Can’t the inexperienced pilot figure that out? Can’t he just look at his instruments and see that the plane is not doing the right thing?

The answer is yes, he can—but the desire to listen to your feelings, to fly by what your senses tell you, far overwhelms your desire to believe the instruments—because you don’t have enough flying experience.


Keep Your Beliefs Calibrated

Have you ever had a point in your life where you felt so sure about your success? It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? But let’s say, while you’re on your journey of success, something happens. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but that feeling of confidence you had just yesterday, or just five minutes ago, is no longer there. Something’s off, but you don’t know what.

Mental vertigo.

Quick—what are your instruments telling you? More importantly, are they properly calibrated? If they’re off just a few degrees, they could take you hundreds of miles off course.

What are your “instruments”? Your beliefs, your goals, your picture of success. If your beliefs are off just a few degrees, you’ll be off course.

Many people don’t have a clear definition of success as it relates to their business or financial goals. This is critical. When you get into mental vertigo, having a solid, clear definition of success helps you to look beyond the vertigo. Without it, you crash.

Here is the difference between the person who gets a lot of results and the one who gets few results: the person who can master mental vertigo, who can recognize it and immediately eliminate it from his thinking, will get results.

You know that the higher the risk, the greater the reward. But the more risk you take, the more susceptible you’ll be to mental vertigo. It behooves you to learn to master mental vertigo. Unless you do, you won’t be easily able to take lots of risk—and no risk, no reward.


How to Fly a Dead Helicopter

Have you had times when you felt like throwing in the towel and giving up? Like you just couldn’t go on any more? I know I have; I have my rough days just like everyone else. Here’s how I handle them.

Years ago, when I was learning to fly a helicopter, my instructors taught me how to control and fly a helicopter if the engine fails. Most people think that if an engine fails
in a helicopter, you’re dead.
Not true—because of the law of inertia, which states, “Things that move want to keep moving.”

I tell myself this when I’m at my wits’ end—but that’s just positive thinking. Positive thinking is like spray paint on rust: it doesn’t last long. Telling yourself is not enough: you have to act. Keep flying the helicopter.

The next time you’ve had enough and you’re ready to quit making cold calls, tell yourself, “Things that move want to keep moving.” Keep flying. Make one more cold call, stay at your phone five more minutes. This isn’t setting the world on fire, it’s just moving forward, very slowly, one foot in front of the other. You may wonder, is it really effective?

It certainly is. When you keep moving forward, though it may be slow, a course correction is a course correction. You are leveling off, and sooner or later you’ll be soaring again. The numbers will take over and you will get another sale, sponsor a strong player, get your business flying high. With that reinforcement, your level of motivation will climb—
and you know the rest of the story.

GARY COXE (www.garycoxe.com) is an
international success coach
specializing in sales, motivational, and self-development strategies.