Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Trust Yourself; You Know the Way

Thought for the day:  Going in the wrong direction beats sitting still on the tarmac.

Did you hear about the student pilot who got hopelessly lost on his first solo flight? When the air traffic controller asked for his last known position, the poor guy said, "When I was taxiing for take-off, sir."

Ever feel like that? Like you aren't sure where you are, how you got there, where you're supposed to be going, or how you're supposed to get there?

High school and college graduation speeches are always filled with optimism and confidence about conquering the future, aren't they? The world is our oyster. Only problem is, nobody provides us with a darned oyster knife. We each have to figure it out for ourselves.

When we graduate into adulthood, we have to stop taxiing, file our flight plans, and for better or worse, take to the skies. Few of us followed the flight plan we expected for our life, or landed exactly where we expected to be when we proudly walked across the stage to accept our diplomas. That doesn't mean we took the wrong path. Sometimes our internal compasses lead us in a different direction, and what do you know? It turns out to be exactly the one we were meant to take all along.

It's time for a little story.

Douglas Corrigan was one of the airplane mechanics who built Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, and after Lindbergh's successful flight cross the Atlantic in 1927, it became Corrigan's dream to follow suit. Being of Irish descent, he desperately wanted to fly non-stop to Dublin.

So, he got his pilot's license and bought Sunshine, a second-hand single-engine 1929 Curtiss Robin, and applied for permission to make the flight.

The FAA denied his flight plan. Said his plane was too old, and unfit. So, he worked on his plane some more, and filed another and another and another NY-to-Ireland flight plan. All denied.

But his plane WAS approved for transcontinental flight, so in 1938, Corrigan flew from California to New York. There, he filed a flight plan to return to California.

Because of heavy fog covering New York that fateful day, Corrigan was directed to fly east  . . . just until he rose above the fog . . . and then turn back toward the west.

Only he never did. He kept going east. Claimed his compass wasn't working properly, and he didn't even know where he was when he landed . . .  in (ahem) Dublin.

For this, he earned the nickname Wrong Way Corrigan. As it turned out, the FAA had a point about his airplane being a crate. Sunshine developed a gas leak on the California to New York flight, and when he was over the Atlantic, so much gasoline was leaking into the cockpit, Corrigan had to punch a hole in the floor. It took him 28 hours and 13 minutes to complete the flight to Ireland, and by the time he landed, he was a celebrated hero on both sides of the ocean.

Needless to say, the bureaucrats at the FAA were furious, but how could they throw the book at America's hero? Corrigan was slapped with a perfunctory 14-day license suspension, which was already completed by the time he arrived (by ship) back in the U.S.

And know what? New York City gave him a bigger parade than they'd given Lindbergh in 1927.

Until the day he died in 1995, Corrigan maintained that his navigational error was unintentional. I'll let you be the judge of that. But in that one flight, he broke the law, charmed the Irish, became an American hero, and earned an unforgettable nickname: Wrong Way Corrigan.

So, what's the moral of the story?

Others may try to dictate your flight plan through life, but you're the one in the pilot's seat. Only you can decide where you're going and how you're gonna get there. Trust your internal compass.

Remember where you came from, and which end goes up, and you'll never get lost.

                                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


  1. What a great story Susan. I had never heard of him before, but boy that is funny. And I liked your words of wisdom. You're right.

  2. Great writing and a marvelous topic. Sometimes we get so bogged down with just living that our internal compass just kind of goes to autopilot, or just simply stagnates I think.

    Time to do a little steering, perhaps. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Love this story! I hadn't heard of Wrong Way Corrigon before, but it is a charming tale with a moral. I wonder how many of us have been told we are going the wrong way by others while deep down we know exactly where we are headed.

  4. The way I see it, no matter where I started out, I've ended up where I am. Wrong turns, lost compasses. And where I am right now is where I want to be. And when I don't want to be here anymore, I'll take a left.

    Great post.

  5. I love this poem, and especially this stanza by Robert Frost (favorite poet)

    The Road Not Taken

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    Very good post Susan

  6. This post really makes me smile, Susan. Love it. And Corrigon was a new one to me, too.

  7. I thought the moral was going to be 'never trust a bureaucrat'.

  8. Oh, I love this story! Way to go, Wrong-Way! :)

  9. Good for him. Just do it!

  10. Hi, y'all. Thank you so much for your comments. (And I'm so tickled this was a new story for you guys!)My parents had terrible senses of direction, an innate "talent" they so kindly passed on to me. Because of it, we took many "scenic routes" over the years, and frequently called each other "Wrong Way Corrigan."

    Skippy- Glad you liked it.

    Musical Gardener- I hope you had a wonderful birthday, dear sir. Sounds like your steering has been just right.

    Karen- You're right. And I wonder how many have let others talk them out of taking the right path.

    Anne- Great attitude!

    Starting Over- That's one of my favorite poems, too.(If I remember right, Frost recited it at JFK's inauguration, didn't he?) And that's a perfect poem to go with this post, too. Thank you, ma'am.

    Carrie- Always happy to make you smile.

    Cro- That's the OTHER moral!

    Linda- Yeah, me, too. No wonder the world considered him a hero.

    Delores- Yup. Wish I were more like that.

  11. So so true! That balancing act is the hardest thing I think about writing. You want to be humble and teachable but you also have to have confidence in the tale that's inside you.

  12. Hi, Donna. Yup, especially for an inept klutz like me!

  13. Hadn't heard that story before, but what an inspiration. I think I'll steal his excuse -- I'm not lost, I have navigational equipment failure. :)

  14. I think I've heard the name Wrong Way Corrigan, but I didn't know the story behind it. Love it -- and a wonderful lesson in finding your own way, no matter what.

  15. Great post! It is such a good reminder and so easy to let others steer...I am working hard at carving my own path. Thank you for this inspiration!

  16. Love this story! This post definitely left me smiling~thanks so much for sharing the inspiration :)

  17. Well said. And I love that Corrigan story! It sort of reminds me of "Better to ask for forgiveness than permission," another one of my fave mantras. :)

  18. Hi, All. Thanks so much for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the story.

    Dianne, you get extra points for recognizing his name.

    And Liz, that's a good one, too.