Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Passion at Southwest Airlines

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Ever since the H.E.A.R. Principle was created (thanks to the help of Tony Brigmon, a member of my special "Wizard Team"), I've been on the lookout for stories other than my own to demonstrate its power.

If you're new to this blog, I am a professional speaker who teaches people how to turn adversity into a university of possibilities through the application of the HEAR Principal:

Having a Passion
Entertaining the Possibilities
Acting on Your Intuition
Remembering Those Who Helped You Along the Way

The idea behind this concept is while there are a multitude of ways to overcome adversity, I've found that by consistently applying the HEAR Principle, I've been able to not only face obstacles but also achieve what so-called "experts" said would be impossible.

For the next four or five posts, I will be using examples out of the national bestselling book NUTS! by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg. The book tells a remarkable story of how Southwest took Corporate America by storm in the creation of a unique workforce where thousands of employees are allowed to take risks, have fun and be true to their spirits. In an environment like that, it's easy to see how the components of the HEAR Principle was used over and over again at Southwest. In fact, it fits them to a "T" - you'll see......

Today's post is about the passion of three men who got the airline started. They were Rollin King, a San Antonio entrepreneur, John Parker (his banker) and Herb Kelleher (his attorney). One day, Parker was complaining how expensive and inconvenient it was to fly between Houston, Dallas and San Antonio and suggested that a new airline be started up. Rollin shared this concept with Herb who at first thought the idea was crazy but ended up talking about it over cocktails.

In the final analysis, Herb famous words were: "Rollin, you're crazy. Let's do it!"

From the moment Herb filed incorporation papers, the odds were heavily stacked against them. Here are some what they had to endure for their crazy idea:

a. Raise a half-a-million for in seed money for capital and legal expenses
b. Fight a restraining order by Braniff, Trans Con and Continential to stop Southwest from obtaining a certificate to fly
c. Fight behind-the-scenes political bickering in Texas (Washington, DC too)
d. Reverse a decision by the trial court which ruled that the three cities in Texas were "already being served" [just fine thank you very much] by existing airlines (italics are my input)

Because Herb had such passion for the birth of Southwest, when the trial court rendered the unfavorable decision, he basically went to the Southwest board and said, "Gentlemen, let's go one more round with them." Some of the board members felt they should cut their losses short (the seed money was being eaten alive by legal fees). But Herb's passion, dedication and belief won them over.

The case was eventually retried before the Texas Supreme Court which overturned the lower court's decision to deny Southwest a certificate to fly. They won!

But the fight was far from over. Over the years Southwest would continue to fight its legal (and political) battles, some of which would go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now, tell me that passion didn't have anything to do with Herb's determination to fight, fight, fight? If he and the others didn't have genuine passion, do you think Southwest would still be here?

If I didn't have a passion for aviation, do you think I would have been able to plow my way though, for example, FAA regulations that basically said you must be able to hear to be an instrument pilot? This was in black and white and a regulation, no less. Yet on February 26, 2006 the very same agency that wrote this rule gave me a license to fly as an instrument pilot! Impossible? Well, it happened. It really happened. Why you ask?

P-a-s-s-i-o-n.

Food for thought: Do you have a passion for something? Are you willing to fight your battles and believe you can achieve the "impossible"?
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