SOAR by T.D. Jakes

Chapter 1 Excerpt: Cleared for Takeoff!

If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.

— Orville Wright

You never forget the first time you fly.

Racing down the runway in a huge metal cylinder with wings, you gasp as the plane surges and lifts and you realize that the two-ton machine you’re in no longer touches the ground. Through the porthole window, you watch as the terminal, parking lot, trees, lawns, houses, parks, businesses, cars, and highways recede until they become as small as children’s toys littering a quilt of gray, brown, and green.

Then you can no longer see what is beneath you as the plane climbs higher and higher into an expanse of blue embroidered with white. You smile to yourself as golden strands of sunlight filter through the clouds like giant hands fingering the endless silk of the sky. Your mind marvels at the fact you are thousands of feet in the air even as your stomach lurches to remind you it prefers the solid ground below.

The only sounds are the drowsy hum of the plane’s engines and your own heartbeat drumming a rhythm of equal parts terror and exhilaration. You wonder if this is how a bird feels as it soars high above the earth, never looking back at the branch from which it departed, only ahead toward the distant horizon. You know you will never forget this experience and all its sensations of delight and wonder, anxiety and fear.

Perhaps your first flight was not as magical as my own, but I bet it was just as memorable. I was young, probably around eleven or twelve years old, and flew by myself from Charleston, West Virginia, to Cleveland, Ohio, where my father was receiving medical treatment for the kidney disease that would eventually claim his life. My mother was already there and would be the one to pick me up on arrival. Even my concern for my father’s health could not dampen the thrill I experienced flying that first time as a child passenger.

That excitement had been ignited in me years earlier when my father would drive our family up the hill toward the airport for one of life’s simple and absolutely free pleasures — watching the planes come and go. Summer days especially we would drive up and park where we had an optimal view of the Cessna jets with their wealthy business travelers as well as the commercial 747s shuttling assorted passengers through the friendly skies. The red-orange sun would be descending in the afternoon sky, heavy from the weight of its own sweltering heat, and we’d have all the windows rolled down to catch a breeze as my siblings and I laughed and pointed out specific clouds to each other — a camel, a roller coaster, the face of one of our aunties — while waiting for the next plane to land or take off.

We couldn’t afford the trips to the Florida beaches or vacations to the Grand Canyon that my classmates would boast about the rest of the summer. But we had the next best thing, stimulating our imaginations more than any visit to Disneyland, driving up that hill by the airport before or sometimes after dinner from time to time. As we sat in the car or ventured out on the lot to get a closer look, we would imagine we were on those planes, going God knows where, to see God knows what!

Defying Gravity

Flying for the first time is a lot like creating your own business, launching a start‑up, or establishing a nonprofit organization. Undertaking such ventures requires overcoming the inherent fear of leaving the safety of solid ground behind, defying gravity, and embarking on a journey of unexpected variables within predictable patterns toward a deliberate destination. In other words, both require a little bit of crazy and a whole lot of courage!

Sitting there as a kid and watching planes fly in and out, I loved listening to my parents tell us how their parents grew up during a time when all they could see in the sky were birds and clouds, occupying space where people could not go. My mother was born in 1926, and while I’m not sure when her mother was born, I suspect it was around the time the Wright brothers first successfully launched their fixed-wing aircraft at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. Why do I suspect this? Because my great-aunts were afraid of flying until they died!

I wasn’t afraid so much as I was curious. Even as a kid, I couldn’t help but wonder what Orville and Wilbur Wright must have had on their minds and in their hearts that caused them to build a machine heavy enough to hold human beings and yet light enough to fly through the air. What compelled them to utilize scrap materials from a bicycle shop to build wings that would forever change the world? What drove them to try and fail and try some more and to keep trying time and time again even when the wind was against them? Whatever it was, their passionate pursuit of innovation transformed inspiration and perspiration into aviation!

The Wright brothers knew the laws of gravity worked against them. They knew that people thought they were crazy for even trying to create a flying machine that could soar through the skies above everyone else. However, they defied the odds — and gravity — by refusing to give up until they discovered new laws, principles of aerodynamics that enabled a craft of a certain weight traveling at a certain velocity to gain momentum and catch flight. These pioneers of the skies created a new normal, a paradigm shift so life- changing that it transformed the way we travel, transact business, and conduct warfare.

Now maybe you aren’t interested in building a flying machine. But in essence the Wright brothers’ endeavor is the goal of every entrepreneur. What do you need to build in order to get up there into the sky of economic viability? How can you take what you have and escape the gravitational pull of a salary that limits your ability to escape from living paycheck to paycheck?

At the end of the day, the same innovative, relentless tenacity that fueled the Wright brothers determines the direction of your own dreams. It is the power of one transformative belief held firmly in place, the daring idea that says just because I haven’t seen it modeled in my past doesn’t mean that I cannot create something that changes the trajectory of my future. Simply put, it is the power to make the seemingly impossible become your new reality.

When I stood in the parking lot watching the planes soar all those years ago, I wondered if I would ever travel beyond the confines into which I was born by embarking on a flight that would carry me off to new, exciting adventures and a life defined by limitless possibility.

Could I create my own flying machine that would enable me to soar into a future with more options and opportunities than the ground beneath my feet presently offered? Standing out there as a boy I knew that someday, some way, my personal vision of what I could do would become a reality. I would build something that would transport me beyond where I stood into the place where I, too, could mount up on eagle’s wings with the help of the Lord.

I knew I could build my vision from the ground up and find the power to make it soar, and that has made all the difference!

Find out more in SOAR, including tips on how to create and market your side business!

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