300 feet. 2 seconds.
These numbers may not mean much to you, but if you were a pilot sitting on the deck of an aircraft carrier, they would mean a great deal.
300 feet. That’s the entire length of a runway in front of you. That’s all the distance available to take your plane from a dead stop to airborne, to gain enough speed and achieve enough lift to a safe takeoff. And it all has to happen in 2 seconds.
That’s less time than it takes to do nearly everything else in our lives. It’s less time than we spend pouring our morning coffee, buckling our seatbelt, or kissing our kids goodbye. It’s quite nearly the blink of an eye, but on an aircraft carrier, it’s all the time you’ve got.
In most situations and under most circumstances, these parameters would be ridiculous and the task would be impossible. Take any pilot to a football field and tell him he’s got two seconds to clear the uprights, and he’ll laugh you off the field. But aircraft carriers are designed for this very function—to launch planes. They aren’t built for speed, or for hauling cargo, or even for fighting. Their massive decks and elaborate catapult systems are specifically built to do one thing very well—propel a plane from zero to 170 miles per hour in a short time over a short distance. They are giant floating launch pads, overwhelming in size, yet beautiful in their simplicity and singleness of purpose.
Launching Our Children
This image of planes hurtling down a carrier’s swaying deck and launching into the open sky is precisely what graduation is all about. When the plane drops off the end of the carrier, with only 60 feet between the sky and the ocean, it all comes down to training and thermodynamics.
Springtime always signals a launch of high schoolers and collegians gassing up their planes and heading to the end of the carrier. Classes wind down, resumes get polished, and parents grapple with a new reality.
After years of car-pooling, chasing them all over the region watching their games and shows, and making their favorite dessert, it is time to let them go. The direct parental tutorials are going to shift to a new model. It is time to let them fly the plane.
The first child to launch carries a particular set of challenges—and so does the last child to launch. And now that I think of it, any child in the middle actually carries certain unique headwinds too.
Five Great Moves
I have written a short guide to help parents with the process. Included are five things to do and how to do them. Here they are:
Let Go, But Don’t Disconnect.
Inject Mighty Vision into their Soul.
Trust Yourself. Trust Them. Trust God.
It’s Time To Celebrate.
Double Down on Your Future.
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Steve is an organizational strategist, social innovator, pragmatic theologian, executive coach, and mentor. Over the past 25 years Steve has helped hundreds of organizations launch and scale, while authoring over 15 books aimed at showing business people how to flourish in their life and work.