Charles Lindbergh, Lucky Lindy, the Spirit of St. Louis. It seems more the stuff of myth than history. Especially so in our world of instant communication, just in time inventory and air travel for the masses. However, in 1927 the very idea of flying over the Atlantic was fraught with danger. It had never been done; was considered impossible by many. One man, alone, in a single engine plane did the impossible. He did it with less than 6 months of planning. He found financial backers in a midwest town. Engaged an unknown firm to design and build the plane. Had little to no press coverage, a relatively minimal budget, and no marquee names involved. It was an absolutely astonishing achievement and an outstanding lesson in business and life.
So what can we learn from a flight that was done over 80 years ago, from a book that was published almost 60 years ago? Foremost, keep it simple. Lindbergh’s project checklist was in effect 5 items – a reliable engine, enough gas to get there, a plane that could lift the engine and fuel, a course to steer, and financial backers. Done. Incredible, and so telling. Think about bringing that thought process back. Everything is so over analyzed. Lindbergh kept it simple, focused on what really mattered, and quite literally scrapped the rest. No extraneous noise, no distractions.
And the team – what a perfect group. Lindbergh was the pilot – he dealt with all the plane stuff – make the decisions based on what was required to do the flight. The business leaders and backers in St. Louis, they raised the money and trusted in Lindbergh. So amazingly simple and so effective. Trust those on the team to do their job. And contrast that with the other teams who were competing to be the first to fly the Atlantic. They built behemoth albatrosses for planes and organizations that were highly political and driven by committees and egos who all fought for credit. They all failed.
“The Spirit of St. Louis” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and is considered a classic tale of aviation and adventure; that alone make it a must read. However, it is above all a tale of what a person can achieve when they have a dream, a plan, a team, and focus. It is a lesson for everyone in business, for anyone that has a project to manage, a team to lead, a goal to achieve. In the end it is a reminder to keep it simple. Focus on what matters. Ignore the nay sayers and doubters, the so-called experts and their egos. Surround yourself with good people – people you trust and who trust you. Basic, simple, tried and true lessons – lessons for business and lessons for life.