Losing Your Feathers…?
Every Eagle Has to Molt!
Our 2020 Vision
Words: “Coach” Gary Micheloni
The national symbol of the USA is the bald eagle, and I can’t imagine it being anything else. What a great choice made back in 1782 or so and officially adopted by Congress in 1787. As a symbol, its use dates back to Roman times, if not before, because people instantly and instinctively recognize it as portraying strength, ability, and speed.
For those same reasons, many businesses incorporate eagles into their logos and signage—you name it. Admittedly, I enjoy seeing businesses display a little patriotism! But I hate it when their work product is less than the best, shoddy, amateurish—you know what I’m talking about. To most Americans, eagles, flags, a great economy, a force for good around the world, are all important, and we expect that. Heck…we demand that. It is the stuff of eagles!
Yet, in the days of summer, 2020, if you judge based upon what is being portrayed in mainstream media, you might question whether our country, community, or industry still believes in the stuff of eagles. It’s critically important to remind everyone of the essential part the American eagle plays—despite desperate attempts to deny and ridicule it.
The images we all have seen, whether they be simply photos on a website or poster, or of living birds, flying high and free, always look gorgeous, don’t they? All that plumage, golden beak, the crown of white about the head. Wow, right? But they do not look that way all the time. Every eagle goes through a time of molting—of losing feathers and replacing them. Now, I am told that the eagle has some 7,000 feathers, so God has designed the eagle to only lose and replace feathers a few at a time, otherwise, the eagle would be defenseless and unable to care for itself.
What I’m saying is that, when you take a very close look at the eagle, you can simultaneously see both its imperfections and its ability to overcome those same imperfections, like when it swoops out of the sky, dives toward a body of water, and seizes its prey in its mighty talons.
Let’s set the record straight and review our history and heritage by looking at a few examples we all know—let alone the importance of ‘local’ eagles in our own lives. How many eagles do you know? To how many people are you (or your business) seen as an eagle?
Because eagles are creatures of flight, it has been natural, I suppose, to equate great moments in flying to eagle-like status, as well as to those exploits of mere ground-pounders such as you and I might be.
Eagles make things happen. How else can you explain going from the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903 of 120 feet, lasting a mere twelve seconds, to Charles Lindbergh, in 1927, with the first solo, non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 33-1/2 hours, only a short 24 years later? Lindbergh was nicknamed the “Lone Eagle”. ‘Lone’ because it was a solo flight; ‘eagle’ because of how daring it was. To say that Lindbergh had a goal and a passion to accomplish it is a huge understatement. But he wanted it badly enough to risk everything in its accomplishment.
JFK wasn’t a pilot, but he was still an eagle—a visionary—who challenged the US to land a man on the moon and safely return him—before the end of the decade. He issued the challenge on May 21, 1961, just a few months after taking office, and set the target a ridiculously close eight years out. Lest we forget, the USA was behind the old Soviet Union at the time in the space race, in the middle of a cold war. The President recognized that America needed a huge goal to lift its people. A Gallup Poll at the time showed 58% of Americans were opposed! He remained undeterred. You know, I’m not even a Democrat, but I appreciate this eagle!
The Apollo moon program almost ended before it got started. America lost its first eagle—three of them—January 27, 1967. A fire broke out in the capsule and we lost Gus Grisson, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. The eagle molted, and America lost three of its tail feathers that day.
The program was suspended for 20 months, the problems were solved and then resumed. As I write this in July of 2020, we are reminded of the 51st anniversary of man’s first landing and walking on the moon. Astronauts and pilots are the quintessential eagles, aren’t they?
April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 launched and that mission almost cost the American eagle three more feathers. Miraculously, the bird preened itself, saved the feathers, and the crew landed safely, with eagles Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. (No, Tom Hanks was not aboard!)
The Shuttle program came along in April of 1981 and we had incredible goals and dozens of successful flights. But sometimes things go wrong. January 28, 1986, with all America—and millions of schoolchildren—watching, Challenger exploded one minute and thirteen seconds into the flight. America grieved the loss of these seven eagles, one of whom was a teacher. Feathers fluttered to the ground.
The next Shuttle flight was delayed two-and-one-half years while we figured out what went wrong. The goal of space flight was still alive and leadership righted the program. It was figured out, and resumed in September of 1988, with a string of 87 successful launches, which we got used to having.
Shuttle Columbia launched January 16, 2003, but crashed on re-entering the atmosphere 16 days later. Seven eagles perished high above the earth.
What do we know about eagles, and how does that help us in our businesses? Consider the profile of an eagle: it is solitary, yet monogamous; always in the process of renewal; it makes an impact on others—usually, many others. What do you think? Does it look a lot like you?
A creature bent on renewal will never give up. Consider Elon Musk. An eagle! In this same period of summer where we celebrated the 51st anniversary of man’s first arrival on the moon, we marked the 9th anniversary of the final Shuttle landing (July 21), Elon and his team were hard at work.
I have to tell you, April 11 of 2019, while watching with fellow employees on a large monitor at work, I jumped up and down and high-fived everyone while watching two rockets touch down, simultaneously, tail first and side by side, like some science fiction movie from a zillion years ago!
SpaceX had a huge goal, and they have pulled it off. May 30th, SpaceX became the first private company to launch a US astronaut into space, from a US launch site. August 2nd, right on schedule, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley returned safely. The name of their ‘spaceship’? Fittingly, it is “Endeavour”! World…America here: another eagle has landed.
Did you know that Elon Musk began his business life with a start-up company, Zip2, which he sold to Compaq Computers, then founded a company named X.com in 1999 (later became PayPal), then used those funds to start SpaceX in 2002, and Tesla Motors in 2003? Yikes!
Team, to sum this all up, the perception of America, what happens to America, where America is going, all depends upon you. Same for your business. Here’s the question: Down or Up?
Are you going to let things get you down, or are you allowing them to fire you up?
There’s an old story about a person who wanted to see a public work of art and drove up next to the building where it was displayed on a wall. He sat in his car close to the wall, wanting to see what he had heard was a mural with exquisite detail. Instead, he was so disappointed, even though he was parked close to this ghastly mural. Ugly, ugly, ugly! Kind of like today’s headlines.
Just as he was about to lose heart and leave the area, he decided instead to back his car up a little, step outside and take a fresh look. He had driven long to get there and his windshield was covered with smashed bugs and debris. Plus, he was way too close. Once outside of his car, away from the color-distorting prism of the windshield, free of the debris clouding his vision, he could see the whole work. What he saw was spectacularly beautiful.
All aspects of America molt occasionally. Judge the eagle by the way it works, the places it goes, the people it inspires, the communities and countries it protects from predators and other bullies. You can hear that bird as it calls out, in its mission to care for its own. Not afraid to speak, not afraid to act. It is not ashamed of its molting feathers.
It is, after all, an eagle!
Copyright 2020 Gary Micheloni
Coach Gary’s Corner: Gary Micheloni is a construction company marketer, speaker, author, consultant…and a coach. Get Coach Gary to speak for your group. FullContactTeam@gmail.com and be sure and tell him about how you are leading!