Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Attitude Determines Altitude

Some years ago, when I was working in the mountains of Montana, I was awarded one of those 'Employee of the Month' titles. Along with it came a long sleeve t-shirt with a mountainous scene on the back and the words "Attitude Determines Altitude." Simple message, and one that I keep reflecting on often these days- probably too much, hence this monologue.

It seems that this phrase has been kicking around self-helpers and Motivational Posters for a while. Its catchy, easy to remember. It has assonance AND alliteration. Its the cloying distillation of years of personal improvement demagoguery.

And its a scientific fact.

"Really?" you might be asking yourself. "A SCIENTIFIC fact?"

It is, truly. Here's how:

In the study of Aeronautics -the science of flight- the terms 'altitude' and 'attitude' are intimately linked.

Altitude, of course, refers to height above the ground.

Attitude refers to the orientation of the aircraft in relation to the Earth. Most aircraft, in fact, have a handy little device called an "Attitude Indicator" which lets the pilot know exactly how he relates to the earth in both Pitch (nose up or down) and Roll (wingtips up or down). This is particularly useful when a pilot has to fly by instruments alone, such as in inclement weather- but I digress.

Whats important to take away from this is that Pitching the nose up from horizontal, level flight (zero), increases the attitude angle (positive attitude) of the aircraft, which generates more lift on the wings and an increase in altitude. Conversely, if you pitch the nose down, decreasing the attitude angle (negative attitude), you will begin to descend.

Since aircraft are moving through a dynamic fluid, in this case air, merely keeping it level requires continuous minor adjustments in attitude and any extreme attitudes can be disastrous. Much like life, hey?

If someone has too much positive attitude and not enough 'engine power' - that is, will and skill- they'll stop generating lift, stall and risk going into a disastrous spin. They might recover... but they might not.

As for those with a consistently negative attitude... they plow right into the ground sooner or later. Bad attitude + Engine Power? Major nosedive!

Reaching a desired height, or a personal goal, requires a lot of positive attitude to get you up and keep you flying, and touch of negative attitude from time to time to keep you level.

Wanna raise the altitude? Raise some positive attitude!

See? Its science!