Consider this brain-teaser if you will. What do Malcolm Gladwell, Heather Locklear, and you all have in common? Malcolm is, of course, the author of a bestseller “The Tipping Point.” Heather Locklear leapt into the national consciousness as a perky, blonde, ever-smiling actress in the 80s, and you’re already pretty familiar with yourself. So what’s the connection?
Well, in a word, connections. That’s what you all have in common. And, believe it or not, that matters to the future of aviation. Allow me to illustrate.
Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point” is subtitled, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. In it he explains, at least from his perspective, how some very popular items in American culture and fashion made the transition from being virtually unknown to being downright desirable. Essentially he’s talking about marketing, but in a way that doesn’t involve Madison Avenue advertising firms, massive budgets, or teams of volunteers going door to door across America selling their wares.
Memories of Heather Locklear no doubt bring many of us back to visions of T.J. Hooker, a cop show of the 80s starring Heather, Adrian Zmed, and some dude named William Shatner. But more important than that, at least for our purposes, is that she once starred in a very successful commercial campaign for Faberge Organics Shampoo. It was in that 30-second spot where she famously explained that she was so thrilled with the product that she told two friends, who told two friends, and so on, and so on.
Anyone with the ability to multiply can see where that’s going.
And that brings us to you. Like Heather, you have two friends. Heck, you’re an aviation enthusiast, so you’ve probably got more than two friends. Loads more. The odds are good that at least a few of them aren’t die-hard aviation nuts, either.
Which brings us back to the Malcolm Gladwell aspect of our connection story. Malcolm makes the point that it isn’t just that some people become fans of products and speak well of them, it’s that the right people become fans and speak well of their new favorite things. They’re people who are respected in their community, regardless whether that’s a community in the traditional sense, such as a town, or a community in the sense of the theater community, or the scientific community, or the general aviation community.
Just like the example of the shampoo commercial, you’re starting to see where this is going, aren’t you? That’s right! You’re one of the influential people. It’s the fact that people think well of you, consider you to be bright and capable, and possibly even view you as an adventurous sort – it’s that esteem in the community at large that makes you the perfect spokesman for aviation. You can sell aviation better than any commercial or print ad ever could. Really, you’re perfect!
Let me give you an example of what I mean.
A couple days ago I met an old friend for breakfast at the restaurant located in my local FBO building. At some point the discussion turned to aviation. Specifically, he wanted to know what would it take for him to learn to fly. That led to a long detailed conversation about the differences between sport pilot and private pilot. We talked about time, and cost, and what he might want to do with the airplane if he could fly. In the end, he went away feeling much better informed and seriously thinking about taking lessons. It didn’t hurt to know that the FBO counter was about 20 feet from where he could get a stack of pancakes and a cup of coffee, either.
Yesterday I had coffee with a couple political candidates, a group of businessmen, and a few civic-minded folks. As you might imagine, the topic of aviation came up. At least one of those people came away with a sense that he might be able to afford to learn to fly, after all. More importantly perhaps, he realized that he could fit the flight lessons into his otherwise busy schedule. We’ve got plans to continue that discussion shortly. I count that as another win.
Only this morning I met a couple businessmen in another coffee shop, where the owner happens to be a pilot. He owns a single engine airplane, too, and before we broke away to get into our respective work days, the topic of aviation came up again. Specifically, how aviation benefits the economy of our town.
Do you see a trend? I told two friends. Okay, I told a whole bunch of people, really. But the point is I got outside the airport fence and started talking about the benefits of aviation with people who aren’t typical aviation fans. And because of that they’re becoming aviation fans. Not necessarily participants — although several of them are showing signs of real interest – but they’re starting to see the importance of aviation in our community. And that’s important for a town that owns an airport.
So take a page from Malcolm’s book and consider how you might be influential in your community. Embrace Heather’s example and go tell two (or more) friends about what you find so compelling about aviation. Then as the shampoo bottle instructs, repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
As your mother no doubt told you, practice makes perfect. If you keep hammering away, one of these days you will end up helping to get somebody new into aviation, which makes you one of the good guys.
You can do this. Heck, we can all do it – together. Let’s get started.
Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.
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