When I was young and ambitious, I felt I had to stay in front of the team and be the bird in the apex position leading the way, no matter how tired I became. More than once, I ignored warnings and flew too close to the sun, and like a female Icarus, I plummeted. How much better I would have fared if I’d tried to emulate a Canadian goose rather than a Greek filled with pride and grandiosity.
Wild geese fly across the sky in a solid V formation, you see, which reduces air resistance for the entire flock. With wings moving in harmony, the flock travels more miles together than any individual can. And when the bird at the front of a migratory flock gets tired, she moves toward the rear of the formation where the wind drag is lowest, and a more rested bird takes her place. If I’d learned from the example of the wild geese while I was in my prime, I’d be in better health as I move into the late afternoon of my life.
Today, I caution the ones who are coming up behind me to avoid my mistakes and work in communities of like-minded people. Share the struggle, the adventure, the challenge, and the glory. Allow yourself to feel the strength of others traveling with you, and let their presence lend power to your wings as you take flight. When you begin to tire (and inevitably, you will), let someone else fly at the front until you are rested.
Collaborate, don’t compete. Individuals, like flocks of wild birds, move faster and farther when they move together. American needs all its bright minds.
Learn to fly the V with the understanding that when you work together in community, everyone has opportunities to lead. Just as importantly, the synergy creates economical, intellectual, and spiritual plenty. Isn’t that what the world needs now?