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BREAK RIGHT! How to Survive the Missiles of Business and Life

Picture this – You’re on a combat mission in the no-fly zone in southern Iraq at 19,000 feet. Your wingman is 2 miles away directly to your left. Suddenly, you hear him scream over the radio. “Break Right, Break Right! Missile launch your 6 O’clock!!

Instinctively, you crank the stick to the right, bank the aircraft 90 degrees, and pull back as hard as you can as the g forces compress you back into the seat. You lower the nose, go to afterburner, and dispense chaff to break the radar lock. Luckily for you, it runs out of energy and detonates 1,000 feet from your. You survived!


Just another day in the life of the fighter pilot…

What do you think made surviving that attack possible?

  1. Without hesitation, you took your wingman’s advice when he said ‘break right!”
  2. You successfully applied the evasive maneuver procedures.
  3. Your wingman never lost sight of you.

Each day, you’re flying missions at work and at home. They may not be as intense as combat, but the pressures and threats are just as real. The key to winning these missions lies with your wingmen – your trusted partners. They can be your coworkers, your supervisors, your spouse or your best friend.

Are you aware of the wingmen in your life? Are you backing each other up, ‘checking-6’ for threats, and calling out ‘break right” when necessary? Most importantly, when your wingman says ‘break right’, will you:

  1. Heed their call? Or,
  2. Question them, doubt their credibility, or resent them for judging you?

The choice you make in that moment is critical. Heed the call and avoid getting shot down. Or, ignore the warning and you or someone you know may get hurt.

Being a wingman implies shared responsibility. You not only need to listen (and act) when you hear “Break Right,” you need to be willing to call it out as well. A good wingman checks your blind spots for threats and will also recognize when you’re not functioning at “maximum performance.” They don’t hesitate to call out a “Break Right” in order to help you refocus on the mission and perhaps avoid a fatal business (or life) mistake.

The key is self leadershipaccountability, and trusting those working beside you. It means being open to feedback and heeding the warning calls that your wingmen may send you. Then, by taking action (re-focusing your attention and adjusting your flight path), you’ll avoid the missiles, get back on target and continue the mission safely and effectively.

So I invite you – my fellow wingmen – to look around the skies and identify those wingmen that may need to hear you say “break right!” Just as important, keep an ear out for their calls too. Your co-workers, customers, and even your family may depend on it.


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