5 Business Lessons From A Hot Air Balloon Ride

Business lessons are not always learnt in a work environment. Sometimes you learn valuable lessons when you are in places that have nothing to do with your business or work.

Earlier this year I visited a place called Cappadocia in Turkey. This place has a series of limestone caves rising out of the ground and is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The locals there have enterprisingly built a series of the hotel in these caves, which makes staying there a unique experience.

Caves turned into houses in Cappadocia

One of the star attractions in this place is a spectacular hot air balloon ride from a designated spot outside the town. Every morning just before sunrise, hundreds of hot air balloons with tourists take off into the sky for an hour-long ride.

What makes it so special is that the landscape of this place, when seen from the sky, is the nearest thing to what the surface of the moon looks like. Interestingly, you also get to see the sunrise when you are high up in the sky, because you take off in the dark.

Lunar like Landscape

I went for a Hot Air Balloon ride there. Here are five business lessons that I learnt from the ride.


1. When you only see something up-close, you could miss out a lot

We all believe in the power of details and getting into the thick of things but sometimes, distancing yourself from a situation and taking another look at it could provide powerful insights that you could have missed out otherwise.

On the ground when you get into the basket that is attached to the Balloon, what you see is very limited. You can see a few hundred meters around you. And, there too your view is obscured by other balloons lined for take off.

View from the ground- balloons getting ready for launch

However, as soon as you ascend into the sky the entire terrain spreads out like a canvas in front of you and then you are in a better position to appreciate the beauty of the whole place.

This very principle works in business as well. If you get into too many details you could be missing out on the bigger picture that you as a leader cannot afford to miss!


2. You lose focus when you are moving very fast

When you fly in a plane, you see the land for a few minutes when you are taking off. However, as soon as the plane is over the cloud you don’t see it any longer until you come into land.

Unlike a plane, when you are in a Balloon you are moving up very slowly and you are completely exposed to the elements, so your senses are heightened as well. As you go up in the sky the air around you becomes shockingly cold and the entire landscape opens up below you.

What you experience then, is very different!

You have the time to absorb what you are seeing and feeling and this makes for an incredible experience.

Now apply this to a work situation. If you are constantly running from one meeting to another or trying to do too many things at one time, you will end up in a disturbed state.

Quality outcomes do not come about when you work in that state. Also, you cannot really relate to people if your eyes are frequently darting to your watch while they are talking or just waiting for them to finish for you to get on to your next task!

It’s only when you slow down and focus on one thing at a time, that you deliver your best!


3. There is more to your life than your work or business alone

As my balloon ascended into the sky in pitch darkness, we soon reached an altitude where the pilot stopped the balloon and asked us to look towards the east. And, suddenly out of the dark sky, the sun rose like an orange ball of fire. As we looked on in awe, in just a few minutes the entire sky turned into a kaleidoscope of colours.

Sunrise from the air

Suspended in the air at that altitude and seeing the celestial beauty unfold, I cannot describe the feeling of exhilaration that I had. When you experience something like that you see things in a different perspective.

Many of us are in a corporate rat race and at times like this, all your problems seem trivial. When you are forever caught up in your work and work related issues, even what’s very important to you, your family and your health, can take a back seat.

Remember, the best leaders are those who are multi-dimensional. They enjoy what they are doing but don’t let their work alone define them or define who they are.


4. Your Performance Is Powered By Your Passion

The burner inside a hot air balloon

A hot air balloon is powered by hot air, which is generated by using combustible gas.  As long as there is hot air being generated, the balloon will fly.

Your performance is powered by your passion.

If you are passionate about your work and your goals, you will make things happen to achieve your goals, regardless of the circumstances. You will also look at the positive side of your work.

If you are in a job because you have nowhere else to go, what you do could soon become drudgery even if you are well paid.

In contrast, you often come across corporate executives enjoying an exalted status in their company leaving their jobs and setting up a Startup. The fact is that the initial years of a Startup can be very trying.

But, the people who set these up tend to focus on the value they are creating and what they are enabling as compared to the problems that they face.

That’s the power of passion!

5. Everything that goes around comes around some day

When you experience success continuously for some time, you sometimes get carried awayWhen that happens you tend to become a little arrogant and could start treating your colleagues and particularly your subordinates with very little respect. You could forget that it is just another phase of life and that it may not always be this way.

The point is going up in the hot air balloon is like being in a very successful phase of your life. When you see the sunrise right in front of your eyes from high up in the sky, it feels like it does when you accomplish something great in your career.

But, all this glorious sight aside, you have to eventually descend to the ground. And that’s when you come back to reality again!

Realising that success and setbacks at work are a part of your life and not getting carried away by success or swept into despair by failure could make you a consistent performer.

It could also help you build lasting relationships that survive the test of time.




About the Author: Srinivasan is an independent consultant working in the area of strategy and technology interventions in the public sector domain. He has worked in companies like IBM and TCS and has over 30 years of experience spanning 24 countries.