5 min read
Headwinds & Tailwinds: The Ebbs and Flows of Life
Published on Jan 22, 2024
The world we live in is completely dynamic and ever-changing. It was Louis De Broglie, a French physicist, who first proposed that all particles have a wavelength. Basically, whenever there is motion there are waves. As we move though life, we experience all sorts of repeated movements with varying degrees of amplitude. Some days you may feel like you hit every red light and can’t catch a break, while other days you may find a $100 bill or win a raffle. Often, we get both good news and bad news on the same day. We don’t have complete control over the world around us, but there are a lot of ways we adapt ourselves to be in synergy with the environment.
A headwind, metaphorically speaking, is an external force that is working in the opposite direction of you and your goals. It requires more time and energy to overcome. If you have ever flown cross country and back, then you have experienced it firsthand. It takes roughly 5 hours to travel from the west coast to the east coast, while it takes 6 hours to travel the other direction. That’s because the wind is traveling from west to east, causing a headwind to those coming from Florida to California.
A tailwind is when an external force aids us in the pursuit of our goals. In the physics realm, the definition states the wind blowing in the same direction we’re heading helps us get there faster and with less effort. If you have ever been out for a run or a bike ride, and you are moving with greater ease than usual, odds are you have the wind blowing at your back. That said, tailwinds aren’t usually recognized as readily as headwinds, because we often don’t realize we are benefiting from the help until we turn around and head in the opposite direction.
Pitfalls of a Tailwinds
The danger of a tailwind is assuming all our success is tied to our efforts without recognizing where we may be getting some extra help. In doing so, we become more complacent in striving for improvement or less diligent in sticking to our processes. In 1973, Bobby Riggs challenged Billie Jean King to a tennis match known as “The Battle of the Sexes.” Since he had at one time been ranked #1 in the world, he was undisciplined while preparing for the match, which some believe ultimately led to his defeat. In his own words to Billie Jean King after the match, he stated he underestimated her.
In business, when facing an abundance of demands, customer service and retention practices start to suffer. Companies can fail to innovate and improve under the saying of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Blackberry was the leading smart phone and a household name until the iPhone came onto the scene in 2007. Without continuing to innovate, Blackberry failed to keep up with the new demands for technology and has long been forgotten.
In medicine, when we have a young healthy pet under anesthesia, we are less likely to watch the vital signs as closely as we would if we had a geriatric high-risk patient. This puts us and our patients in a more vulnerable state than we may anticipate. When the winds change in these situations, we can be caught off guard and slow to respond. This complacency can cause more damage to occur until we reorient.
The same can be true in our personal lives. When things are going well, we often take people and situations for granted. We may not realize how much support of those around us contributes to our overall happiness and success until they are no longer there.
Just because we are facing a headwind does not mean we are powerless. If we reconsider the bike riding example, we can adapt to reduce the impact of a headwind. You can tuck yourself into a smaller position, choose a bike that is lighter and more aerodynamic, as well as draft other riders. What you can’t do is control the wind. The key is to not fight the environment but adapt your approach to mitigate the elements or even use them to your advantage. An airplane, for instance, uses a headwind to generate lift and take off. Hy-Vee, a general store, founded during The Great Depression, rose to prominence by offering lower prices during a time when resources were limited. Hedge fund manager John Paulson predicted the housing crisis and bet against the market earning hundreds of millions of dollars for his portfolio.
Steps You Can Take:
Not everyone has the foresight of John Paulson, therefore we may find ourselves vulnerable when a new headwind blows our way. Here are some tactics you can employ when you find yourself in that situation:
- Breath and remain calm: More than likely if the passengers aboard the Japan Airlines Flt 516 had panicked, not everyone would have made it off the plane safely. This is a textbook example of what we are capable of when we don’t overreact.
- Change your mindset to “I/We can handle this!”: Thinking you’re going to fail often leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Know that each headwind is temporary and will eventually come to pass.
- Review the FACTS: When in a state of fear, we tend to make the situation out to be worse than it is and “make-up” narratives that may not exist. Therefore, review what you know to be true and use that information to inform your decisions.
- Consider what you have control over: Focus on what you have the power to change and not what you can’t. You may not be able to control a client’s reaction, but you can control how you speak and behave to stressed out pet parents.
- Compile your resources and ask for help: List out all the physical and human resources you have available. Tapping into your network can help provide you support and alternative perspectives.
- Research and compile your options: List out all your options, even the ones you want to dismiss right away. Take each option and list the pros and cons and likely outcomes to get the full picture.
- Move quickly but not hastily: The longer we take to respond to a headwind, the more damage it can do, but it’s important to take some time to plan your response and how you will iterate as you go.
As the world continues to change and evolve, so must we. The world does not bend to our will, so we must adapt to maintain or achieve success in whatever we are striving for. No success or failure is permanent, and each day comes with a new set of challenges and opportunities.
-Written by Genevieve Borso, CEO