Kite Flyer

“Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying.” Neil Armstrong

During a visit to our condo in Orange Beach, my sister Janice assembles a kite she bought at the local Al’s 5 & 10 Store.  This kite is sophisticated and unlike the basic model flown by young kids every day  . . . without their parents help. With sophistication comes some difficulty.

Janice and I are joined by another of our sisters, Dianne, in an open grassy field.  ‘Pilot Janice’ is holding the string while co-pilot Dianne is 50 feet away, holding the kite and waiting for the “let go” signal. After a couple of false starts in a wind that is less than cooperative, Janice decides to do  what all kids do in this circumstance – she starts running with the kite in tow. Immediately it takes a nosedive right into the ground. The soft grass helps to cushion the impact of the heavy kite.

I enjoy watching this funny scene rewind several times before offering to help. Putting on my ‘management hat,’ representing 40-plus years of experience, I ask Janice if she read the directions.

“No,” she responds reluctantly. After a quick search through the package, I find a small piece of paper bearing a few short sentences which I read.  I read them again. In my third effort, I read the instructions aloud.  Have you ever had a ‘do it yourself project’ with directions that were not totally clear?

We make a few adjustments using the vague instructions. We try again, but to no avail. More adjustments are followed by more efforts. Things are getting worse. We need help. Help comes in the form of my wife’s cousin Stevens, (this really is his first name), who lends his engineering prowess to the project.  Again, more adjustments are made followed by several running efforts by my sisters. The kite is not flying. I am certain that the lack of a strong wind has nothing to do with our lack of results. Have you ever been involved in a project that is doomed to fail from the beginning? If so, you know what I am thinking at this point.

It is too late to go back to the beginning. There are knots on top of knots.  Some strings are shorter than they were at the beginning. Nothing is working. I know that this kite is not going to fly, even with Stevens’ engineering expertise, or the strong determination of pilot Janice and the cheerleading of co-pilot Dianne.  It is seemingly a foredoomed project.  It’s okay.  This is just a part of life, right? It’s important to know when ‘it’s over.’

At this point, the scene is somewhat humorous. Four adults, standing in the grassy field, virtually without good directions, patiently masterminding numerous adjustments, and, adding humor to an already comical scenario – a condo community that is starting to pay attention. Any neighborhood kid could fly 50 kites of any complexity in the field where we are standing before this kite will ever fly!

By this time, I have made a couple of runs myself trying to negotiate an airborne toy.  But, alas, I give up. I know what defeat looks like. I have been there before.

Some brothers might sympathize with their sister in this kind of circumstance . . . I am not one of them. I am cracking jokes and really looking forward to the dinner conversation about the kite that did not fly and the ‘pilot’ who was in charge of this crash and burn.  After all, what are brothers for, if not to tease their sisters?!? All in fun, of course.

Janice suddenly moves her project a couple hundred feet away between two condominium buildings where there is less open space. (The thought occurred to me that she just might be trying to distance herself from her doubting brother and his taunting comments).  She is now using a narrow street as her runway, with nothing but concrete in the parameter – to the left, to the right, and below.  Janice is desperate and taking more risks now. Any car attempting to park will create a problem if she succeeds with launching the kite.  The hard concrete on all sides will not be as forgiving as the soft grass was.  I quickly dismiss these thoughts. What am I thinking?!  This kite is never going to fly. Not in my lifetime!

Engineer Stevens follows Janice and Dianne to the new staging area where he makes more adjustments.  With a stronger wind funneling between the two buildings, my cousin lets go of the kite as commanded by the determined ‘pilot.’  It is a magical moment as the kite climbs into the air . . .  magical for a thrilling three seconds.  Before any shouts of joy can be exclaimed, the kite takes a sharp dive into the concrete below.  Bang!

After surveying the damage, more adjustments are made. I have now rejoined the hopeful team and help with the modifications. Once again, Stevens lets it go and once again, it starts to rise. On cue and with no surprise, the weakened and weathered kite quickly starts its downward and fateful turn.

By this time, a few people have joined us by way of their balconies. Others are watching from the field. An audience has started to gather to observe these adults in hilarious fashion attempting to do what kids do every day around the nation – simply fly a kite.  Not every day do you get to watch four adults not fly a kite! This is going to be a funny story to share with the kids later around the dinner table. I can hear it now: “Hey Dad, did you see those guys try to fly that kite? That was so funny!  Perhaps we could give them some advice. They sure need it!”  

Then miraculously it happens. Facing final and fatal damage in its speedy dive, the kite turns back and moves upward. For the first 30 seconds of the flight upward, there is great jubilation. Lots of audible laughter and excited voices. Witnesses at ground level are probably thinking, “What’s going on with those crazy adults!?”  For the team on the ground, it is like winning an Olympic medal in the last second of competition.

The kite that would never fly is now flying. Using my smart phone, I capture my sister’s smile and laughter during those precious early moments. It is among my favorite video clips.  It is a clear testament to Janice’s attitude and determination to never give up.

The team comprised of a converted doubter (that would be me), an engineer, a cheerleader and one believing person successfully fly a kite predestined to never reach the skies. For the four of us, the moment is magical. Inspirational! We snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat.

We all take turns holding onto the kite string. We sense its power as it soars. Ah! The sweet feeling of victory after many defeats. A kite marked as a failure proves victorious.

What about people marked for failure that defy the odds and rise to success? All of us have witnessed such examples. In the daily projects of our lives, how many of us give up after a few attempts?  How many of us stay committed after dozens of failed efforts, like Janice experienced. Do we seek help from others when it is most needed? What about an audience watching our every move and waiting for our failure? Perhaps you are in the middle of a challenging project right now. How have you prepared for a successful outcome?

Janice needs the expertise of an engineer, and she puts him to work. She converts the doubter. She stays focused. The goal, in simple language, is to fly the kite. She does not get distracted on other goals or projects.  She is willing to start over within a new environment.  She makes adjustments. She gets up each time after she is knocked down.

There are myriad reasons why the kite did not fly initially. And there are multiple reasons why it eventually does fly.  But none of the factors are more important than the essential one. The main one. The one you know and sense in your heart. The one I have embraced my entire life, taught again in the classroom of teacher, Janice. In a moment of doubt, it’s a great reminder of a principle I truly believe and try to live every single day:  Relentless, unwavering, never-give-up belief. That is why the kite flies this day.

In the significant things in your life, how important is your belief? Every successful business starts with an idea and a belief. Even the largest companies start with one person’s positive faith in an unseen future. The student who successfully earns a college degree believes from the beginning in the reality of reaching that goal, envisioning the graduation ceremony in the foreseeable future. The athlete competing in a race believes at the starting point that he will cross the finish line at the end of the marathon. That belief becomes even more important halfway through the race.  Belief is the cornerstone of any worthwhile projects and endeavors; it is the foundation for much of what we do in life; it is there at the start, even though we cannot see the future.  Belief keeps us going during the toughest times when we want to give up . . . when it most matters. And it is at the end when we celebrate our victory. Belief is the eternal thread running from start to finish in the important ventures of our lives.

What are you doing right now that could use unwavering belief? Who are the doubters in your life? Are they affecting the outcome of your project? Are you listening to them? Are you asking for and getting help? What about specialized assistance in areas where you do not have the expertise? Is anyone watching you and how is that affecting your effort and results? Do you get up each time when you are knocked down?

Can you fly a kite? If you are Janice, my inspirational sister, your answer is an unwavering “Yes, I can!”  Today, when writing emails and texts to my youngest sister, I will sometimes address her as the ‘kite flyer.’  She knows what it means. The principle is way more than kite flying. It is all about believing in your project and in yourself.

Today, when flying my kite  . . . when working on my dreams,       goals and projects

I will keep trying new things. I will make adjustments.

I will stay focused on the goal, not on inevitable distractions.

I will ignore the doubters, but convert them when possible.

I will get expert help when needed.

I will get up after each failure. Every single time.

I will always believe.

Today I will . . . fly a kite!