It’s Not a Fear of Flying – It’s a Fear of Crashing

Fear of FlyingDid you ever make paper airplanes as a kid?

I remember one year where a group of friends and I spent weeks making planes and having competitions. We found a book on making paper airplanes in the class library, and for the next few weeks tried every version in the book. We’d make them during craft time, then test them and compete during recess.

Then there were the adventurous ones who tried to improve on the existing designs and craft our own. Tweaks here, folds there, a new wing style, adding paperclips or staples. Our goal was not just to win the competition, but to do it with our own designs. To surpass what had been done before.

Most of the kids didn’t want to compete with their tweaked version. They stuck with what worked. Others were willing to lose a few times to test out their plans, and almost always came back to be a consistent winner. That is, until someone copied their design and made it better.

In actuality, very few people have a fear of flying. It’s the fear of crashing and burning that’s the problem.

Entrepreneurs are more like test pilots than people flying on commercial airlines. There is always a risk – that’s part of the adventure. But there comes a time when you’ve done all the tests, and the only way to know if it will really fly is to take off.

Calculated risk becomes calculated reality.

Are you ready to fly…?


  1. I was always that kid to make a better paper plane. Tony, this is a great analogy for entrepreneurs. It’s not always re-inventing the wheel, maybe just finding a way to make it roll a little better. Still, taking RISK and facing uncertainty is the hard part.

  2. For me it was paper footballs, and stick boats to race in the rain that flowed down the curbs. As an adult, I created a one-man corporation creating customized keytags. I created around 10,000 tag tags before I dissolved the business, but, man, did I have fun and learn many things. It crashed and burned, but remember the seed analogy; some seeds won’t germinate unless their coats are scorched with fire first.

    Rock on

  3. Hey Tony, this article strikes me so well when I relate it to real life. I think we all have dreams to fly – to do something great, but eventually it is the fear of crashing that pulls us back at times.

  4. Anthony – That’s true. The key is taking calculated risks – trying things out and adjusting. One of the great things about being a home-based solo entrepreneur is the ability to adjust quickly or move on to something else.

    Shane – Yeah, paper footballs were great too. We had playoffs, a Superbowl, and everything. That seed analogy rocks. Trial by fire – the only way to go 😉

    Kian Ann – That fear is always there, and it can actually help if you read it right. Just don’t let it pull you back too far. Caution is important, but so is trust in your self and your abilities.

  5. See. And I was able to actually fly myself. In jets. From aircraft carriers.

    We always planned for the possibility of crashing. I knew where the ejection handles were and exactly where the threshold was to pull one and punch out. I came close only once.


    That possibility of crashing was nothing compared to the reality of the thrill of launching off the catapult. Or pulling G’s around the clouds. Or even the breathtaking view of an uncountable number of stars on a high altitude routine night patrol over the ocean when they seemed so close you could almost catch a couple in your hand if you could just hang your arm out the window.

    There were times I shook my head in disbelief that they actually paid me to do something that I would have gladly paid them top dollar for!

    Thanks for the reminder, Tony.

  6. Hey Chris – I’d love the exhilaration of flying with you in that jet – but without the danger involved. I haven’t done much flying in my life but what I have done shows me that it would be very rewarding.

    Probably the most exciting flight I’ve been on was to Lukla in the Himalayas on a trek towards Everest just over 12 months ago. Very adventurous.

    But I hate landing.

  7. Trevor, I’m with you. From what I saw most anyone can fly a plane. But landing it such that everyone can walk away – that’s where the skill comes in! (And I was a navigator not a pilot – very nearsighted.) 😉

  8. Tony, I’d would like to offer that it is not fear of flying or fear of crashing, but fear of losing control (or being out of control at least).

    I’m a pilot with a few hours. I hate flying commercially however; not because I fear flying (I know and trust the physics), nor do I fear crashing (the odds are very low and commercial jets are exceedingly strong).

    The reason I hate it, or fear it, is that I am not flying the plane, I don’t know what’s going on, etc.

    This comes right down to trust. In terms of entrepreneurship, if you trust yourself, trust the research you’ve done and the conclusions you’ve come up with, it’s a no brainer. All that’s left is just doing it.

  9. Chris & Trevor – Awesome flying stories. Thanks for sharing them.

    Joe – That’s a terrific point. I don’t hate flying, but do hate all the hassle and lack of control. Trusting yourself and your own ideas puts you in control.

  10. Tony, in my village we made race cars and had a soap box derby down our town hill. Old wagon wheels were a great commodity. And, you’re so right – design made all the difference. No matter what it was a great learning experience and shaped who I am today!

    Thanks for a great post.

  11. Robyn – That sounds cool. I remember pilfering two wheels from a friend’s dad’s lawn mower, and two from his sister’s doll carriage. As I recall, they worked pretty well, until we had to return them 😉

  12. Joe, I knew many a pilot that told me they couldn’t do what we navigators did for that very reason. But I figured since I wasn’t distracted by actually flying the plane I could keep a close eye on what they were doing (especially on takeoffs and landings) while not losing sight of the big picture. Besides, I always knew how close that yellow ejection handle was and exactly what threshold would cause me to pull it.

    Perhaps as entrepreneurs we would benefit from looking to mentors who can keep an objective eye on the big picture for us without being “distracted” by actually running our businesses.

  13. As a serial entrepreneur, I don’t think I have a fear of crashing and burning. I have had some successes and some failures. The failures don’t really bother me because I can take what I learned and apply it the next time. Kinda like flying those paper airplanes, if one crashes you simply make a new one and apply what you learned from the others.

  14. Tony, I am intrigued by your notion that “Calculated risk becomes calculated reality.” Would love to hear more. Thanks for the inspiring post.

  15. Chris – Love the mentor as navigator analogy.

    Kirsten – That’s a great philosophy. Failure is part of the game. Just like anything, it comes down to how you react to it rather than the failure itself.

    Ellen – It’s one of the principles I live by. Essentially it means that there is always risk. Calculated risk allows you to better create a calculated reality – one of your own design where challenges are anticipated and planned for. You inspired me to elaborate even more. I think I’ll do a post on it next week 🙂

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