I’m taking you back to October, 14th, 1947.
As Captain “Chuck” Yeager, an Air Force test pilot, is about to climb into the cockpit and take his shot at breaking the sound barrier.
A number of pilots have already tried to fly faster than the speed of sound.
Several didn’t make it back alive.
Most just turned back when their planes shook uncontrollably – feeling as though they were about to be torn asunder.
Pilots shared a myth about a demon that would disintegrate anything that approached the speed of sound.
At the time, it was believed that an airplane could never go faster than the speed of sound, because the shock waves were just too much to travel through.
Flying faster than the speed of sound seemed like an impossible challenge.
“None of that made any difference to me,” Chuck Yeager later said, chewing on some gum, as he was prone to do. “I was a test pilot. And we were testing.”
For him, it was all about focus. Keeping focused, alert, checking his instruments, and being ready for the unknown.
What did it feel like, as he approached the speed of sound, and the plane started shaking uncontrollably?
“You don’t feel anything,” he said. “You’re too busy. You’re going through your checklist, checking all your gauges, testing the stabilizer effectiveness.”
Then, the Mach-meter momentarily stopped.
And his plane started to go down.
The plane’s meters were confused. They didn’t tell him what to do next.
He had to rely on his own internal navigation system.
Otherwise, it would have been all over.
So, he ignored what his gauges were indicating, and took the plane straight up.
Then the Mach-meter jumped to 1.06.
He had done it. He had broken the sound barrier.
“Once we got it above the speed of sound,” he said, “there were no more shock waves.”
And the ride smoothed out.
As he later recalled, “It was as smooth as a baby’s bottom.”
Ironically, he couldn’t hear the sonic boom in the cockpit – because by the time it happened, he was just slightly ahead of the speed of sound.
Only those on the ground heard it.
But he, and everyone there, knew what just happened.
They knew he did it. He had accelerated to Mach 1.06, over 750 miles per hour.
That night Yeager fixed a pitcher of martinis to celebrate with his wife. And he howled at the moon.
“I had flown at supersonic speeds for 18 seconds. There was no brick wall to smash into. And I was alive.”
With that underlying sense of ultimate coolness, we kissed the Wright Brothers good bye and entered the age where astronauts could fly to the moon.
Limitations were exceeded.
New possibilities abounded.
What can we learn from Chuck Yeager’s experience?
What is your personal sound barrier?
Your ultimate challenge?
What is that one thing, that something, that is just beyond your reach?
What happens to you when you get close to your personal sound barrier?
When your plane starts shaking?
Can you stay focused on what you have to do?
When we are on the edge of our comfort zone, amazing things can happen.
If we’re open to the possibility.
What was it like for Chuck Yeager to break the sound barrier?
He can’t tell us.
Because the moment was there and gone.
And he didn’t even hear the sonic boom as he broke the sound barrier.
Because he was going faster than the sound.
You’re ahead of the sound barrier when you break through it.
Still, as you approach your personal sound barrier, everything is shaking.
And it can seem like everything is about to fall apart.
That’s when you have to rely on your internal navigation system.
To trust your intuition.
The Sound Barrier is nothing but the limitations we place on ourselves.
Rather than focusing on the barriers that separate and come between us, why not focus on the possibilities that can connect us – to ourselves and to each other?
Forget the barriers.
Focus on possibilities.
On what can be.
That shift can open up new doors – to a reality that exists because of you.