The difference between a mob and a group is subtle, but it’s there
Often the distinction rests on the organization of the gathering and the leadership that officiates over it.
Even with the best of intentions, a peaceful, seemingly docile group of people can be stirred into near hysterics with little more than a rumor that allows idle thoughts to wander enough that fear takes root.
For humans, fear is our greatest weakness. It corrodes confidence. It suspends intellect.
The specter of fear is enough to drive a room full of smart, capable, highly skilled people into a near panic over imagined events that may or may not ever happen. It makes no difference.
Just as we quicken our pace rather than stroll casually through a dark, gloomy basement, our fear of the unknown, the unseen, or the unimaginable is enough to propel us toward the light, or the stairs, or the safety of an elevator as quickly as possible.
We see this in business, we certainly see it in politics, and we definitely see indications of it in general aviation.
The fear doesn’t have to be of physical harm. A simple difference of opinion can light the fire on our propensity for torpedoing our own dreams.
How often have you heard someone suggest a new product, or a business plan, or a desire to write a humorous musical production and launch it on Broadway?
And how many times have you heard family, friends, and co-workers pipe up with an almost unlimited number of reasons why it won’t work. It can’t work. You’ll be ruined. Everything you’ve ever worked for will be lost.
Fear. It’s out there and it’s stalking us every single minute.
Of course it doesn’t have to be that way. We can rise above it. We can choose to look to the light and support each other in our dreams.
We don’t have to be 350 million islands. We could instead choose to be unique entities that live in symbiotic harmony with our neighbors.
Yes, we could. Utopian as it sounds, we could. All it takes is a willingness to look beyond our initial reactions, to put embarrassment and emotional discomfort on hold for long enough to listen to other voices beyond that internal conversation playing out in our heads.
Remember, that internal conversation is all one-sided. It’s all you. It only knows what you know. It only believes what you believe.
There is no great epiphany to be found there. Only caution, and distrust, and fear reside back there in your lizard brain.
The other day I was conducting a seminar on how to form and operate a flying club. It’s a popular seminar. My peers at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and I conduct them frequently.
Thankfully there seems to be no shortage of people interested in finding ways to cut the cost of flying down to size, while improving the social rewards of being involved in aviation.
Still, regardless of the topic or the place, when humans are gathered together there is always the opportunity to go off the rails if given enough of a shove in the wrong direction at just the right time. Thankfully, that misdirection can be avoided if the situation is handled respectfully and creatively.
I’d finished with my portion of the seminar and the host had taken center stage. He explained that he’d been working on the idea of founding a flying club near his home for a few months. He thanked me for sharing information and resources with him that helped him get to this point.
And this point was specifically standing in front of an enthusiastic group of like-minded folks who are seriously considering the benefits of founding or joining a flying club.
The host asked for each attendee to introduce themselves and share a bit about what they hoped to find in a flying club. And that’s where an otherwise productive gathering could have easily gone south.
The meeting was no longer centered around a specific perspective or a known series of steps that need to be taken in order to achieve success. Now the floor was open to whomever wanted to speak, and they were free to express any preference or ideas they might have.
Diversity is a curious thing. It can strengthen us. Or it can weaken us. It all comes down to how the diversity is perceived, and how it’s incorporated into the larger scheme of things.
It quickly became clear that some attendees were interested in a low-wing airplane, preferably high-performance, with a full IFR panel. A minority were interested in a more entry-level aircraft that would be appropriate to flight training and recreational flying.
Thankfully, the host and I were in sync. We recognized that our flying club seminar had presented each of us with a great gift. There was no reason to battle over which perspective would win the day. We accepted that we were not going to come out of that meeting with a fledgling flying club.
Instead, we were blessed with contact information and willing participants for two fledgling flying clubs. One fit the host’s wishes almost exactly. The other was a totally new entity looking for direction and support.
When the audience realized they didn’t have to compete for a commitment to a single plan, everyone in the room benefitted.
Quickly they came to realize that by supporting each other, both groups could move forward with greater confidence, better insight, and the knowledge that they were already in touch with a parallel group that would cheer for them and help out where ever they could.
We’re better together than we are apart. Collaboration is good. Always.