Four Lessons on Soaring in Life, Taught by a Kite

kite-01This past April our oldest daughter Noweo turned four. She's at a wonderful age where she's beginning to do "kid" stuff like riding a bike, roller skating, putting together more complex puzzles and acting out her favorite movies. One of the gifts she received this year was a kite, and I was just as excited as she was to take it out for a spin. We did just that a couple days ago at one of our favorite parks and it was pure magic. I was surprised however to make several observations about flying the kite that I found to be highly applicable to striving for and achieving success (at anything). Here's what I discovered:

  1. You have to run into the wind. In order for a kite to pick up height, you have to run into the wind. Noweo didn't understand that, and went running willy nilly all over the field. Whenever she ran with the wind, the kite fell to the ground. When we face a daunting task, it's tempting to take the path of least resistance, but we won't reach great heights without pushing ourselves against an opposing force.
  2. You must know where the wind is coming from. I tried to get Noweo to notice where the wind was blowing from so she would know to run in that direction. When I asked where the wind was coming from, she said "the sky." Cute right? But there's an important lesson here. We can't achieve anything if we don't know where to focus. I'm certainly guilty of trying to do too much at once and not really doing anything as a result. Choosing a path that will offer us the greatest chance of growth, even if it scares us (or perhaps, especially if it scares us) and staying on it will take us higher than if we ran around trying to go everywhere at once.
  3. You need to be patient and lengthen the string a little at a time. We all want to see the kite soaring high above the ground, but if you give it too much slack, it won't have the tension necessary for the wind to catch it and carry it up. Sometimes we want to run before we can walk, or we look at others achievements and think we need to be where they are, forgetting that they had to start somewhere too. We are much better off flying on a "short string" and slowly lengthening it to the desired height.
  4. Conditions are everything. When we first arrived at the park, it wasn't too windy (our town in general isn't that windy) so we were never able to get the kite to stay in the air, though we did get it to fly for short bursts. After flying the kite for a while, we decided to spend some time walking around the park. Out of the blue, the wind started to pick up until it was blowing in strong gusts. Excitedly, we took out the kite and started to fly it, but the wind was so strong and wild that it was even harder to keep it in the air than when the wind hadn't been very strong. Turns out a storm was coming so we ended up calling it a day and running for the car. Sometimes when we attempt something, we fail because the timing was wrong. We'll have a better chance at success if we begin our endeavor at an ideal time. Of course, we don't always have the luxury (i.e. SURPRISE! WE'RE PREGNANT and we're still in grad school with tons of debt and a tiny apartment…true story) but it helps. So if something doesn't work out the first time, it might not be you, it could just be your circumstances. Don't beat yourself up if you weren't amazing the first time. Put it on the side, focus on something else and come back to it at a better time.

This little list is probably more for me than anyone else, but I do hope it's useful to someone out there who feels like they're banging their head against a wall. We all have what it takes to soar if we watch for ideal conditions, focus, push ourselves and grow a little at a time.