Chasing Balloons

"Goals transform a random walk into a chase." — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

We were heading down the hill into town for some errands. A hot air balloon appeared before us. All thoughts of errands were abandoned. The chase was on. We wanted to be where it landed.

Now this is a challenge. We didn't know where it was going to land and as you may know, the balloonist also did not know exactly what field he was going to land in either. He was traversing the valley of Ithaca from one hill, and it turns out, across the entire valley to the far hill about five miles away.

This is what we learned.

  • Situational awareness is always a critical factor. We kept reading the wind. Hot air balloons don't have steering wheels. The wind is one of the pilots. You can't control the wind (or your marketplace), so you better keep track of what it is doing. So knowing the direction of the wind really helped.
  • It pays to know the terrain. Even though we knew the direction of the wind, and thus the balloon, the roads did NOT go that way. We had rivers and lakes in the way. However we do know the terrain. We had to pick roads that took us around the obstacles. We hoped we would find the balloon again. We did! And it kept going over other obstacles. We had to keep reading the wind and using the roads we know. In the same manner, you should be masters of your own technologies and processes.
  • Always be prepared to go around one last obstacle. After many places we thought the balloon was going to land, we finally saw that it really was landing. And it was landing behind yet another large set of obstacles. We backtracked again, found the right road and saw the balloon touchdown!

We jumped out of our car and raced out to help the passengers and crew bring the balloon down and pack it up. Sounds likes work? It was a joy helping the happy pilot and passengers on one of the last days of August.

Whether your driving the project or offering ground support, know that success is enjoying the adventure of the journey and bringing the project home.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,
ALAN WILLETT