(Part 1 of a 3-part series August, September, October)

Growing up, I was always fascinated by the adventures of our Space Program. NASA’s Space Shuttle Program was particularly intriguing to me. The graceful return landings were incredible to watch. They were quite an advancement from the former splash-down of capsules in the ocean. The smooth landings were also quite the contrast to the thrust of energy required from the very beginning of the mission.

I have often referenced Shuttle “lift-offs” for comparison’s sake to any significant new beginning. I would often say that the greatest energy expenditure of the Shuttle launch was in the first half-inch of lift-off. I don’t know if I’m scientifically correct, but I think you get the point. Getting started often requires a significant energy expenditure … including an engagement of focus and commitment.

Ironically, it’s not likely the greatest point of resistance.

This has never been more clear to me than when it comes to digging deep to discover your core values. Yes, getting started takes energy, focus and commitment. Yet, lift-off is manageable compared to your experience the deeper you dig. I have now heard these words over and over, “Wow, this is really hard!” These telling words don’t surface at the beginning of the digging experience. They surface well into the process.

Once the Shuttle is in motion it gains momentum … increasing exponentially in speed as it climbs. Beginning the brainstorming of your core values from a blank sheet of paper is much like the energy required at lift-off. Yet, with lift-off, a multitude of ideas often begin to surface at an ever-increasing momentum. Then, in the midst of the beauty of flight, the Shuttle meets its greatest resistance.

Piercing through the gravitational pull of the earth’s atmosphere.

This particular segment of flight establishes a necessary break-through. It is precisely what stands between all the effort up to that point and a complete lack of resistance on the other side. And it is no minor barrier.  Ironically, the point of greatest resistance is also the threshold to a complete breakthrough.

At some point, in defining core values, you will meet the gravitational pull. While you’ll likely experience some turbulent storms in route, there is nothing like the experience awaiting you at the moment you face your gravitational pull. And, as a leader at the top, you will meet this gravitational pull individually in defining your own personal core values and then collectively in defining the core values of the organization you lead. Your personal breakthrough may very well be the only thing that equips you to face the magnitude of the gravitational pull you will encounter at the organizational level.

Astronauts, and the incredible team behind them, clearly anticipate the reality and navigational requirements necessary to pierce the resistance awaiting.  It comes as no surprise, nor is it ever easy.

It is simply necessary.

Fortunately, the anticipation of the other side pulls them through. I can’t imagine what it might have been like the very first time.

My intention in writing Return On Integrity was to venture deeper into the value of core values than had ever been explored before. When you do something for the first time, the pervasive resistance of the gravitational pull can be quite daunting.

I used to think the biggest barrier to realizing the real value of core values was imbedded in the very nature of whether you believed values were relevant and valuable to begin with. That is still very important. In fact, if you aren’t convinced values are valuable, you might as well save your energy and stay positioned on the launch-pad.

But if you fully embrace the value of values … know that great resistance awaits both within you and within the organization you lead.

If you’ve never done so, it might be a good time to pick-up a blank sheet of paper and lift-off by attempting to list the values at your core.

I look forward to joining you, mid-flight next month, as we anticipate and prepare for the predictable resistance that awaits. As difficult as it may be, the anticipation of the wonder on the other side will always make it worth it.