While exiting a grocery store I noticed an unusual poster announcing, “You already know how to meditate. Let me help you remember.” Ah, what an empowering offer, I thought – a sharp contrast to the many advertisements for products and services that tell us that we are stupid or broken and need intelligence or fixing. How wonderful it feels – and how powerfully it works – to regard ourselves and each other as innately wise, capable of accomplishing anything we choose, greater than any task or challenge before us. Wouldn’t you like to be regarded as magnificent?

A few years ago I signed up for a “You Fly” airplane flight, which promised that I would be able to take the stick of a small airplane and control the plane, myself. Flying an airplane had been one of my long-time dreams, so I eagerly registered for the flight, a three-hour jaunt over three Hawaiian Islands. What a treat, I imagined, to be in charge of the aircraft for a few minutes in mid-air.

On the appointed day I drove to the commuter terminal at the Maui airport, where I met the pilot, Scott. I informed Scott that I had never piloted a plane before, and he told me that would be no problem. Scott guided me out on the tarmac to a small twin-engine Cessna, and he gave me a brief rundown about the various instruments on the control panel. Scott strapped himself into the seat next to mine and told me, “Now here’s how you take off…”

Excuse me, I thought, I don’t remember the advertisement saying anything about taking off. I started to open my mouth to say, “Perhaps you didn’t hear me say that I’ve never flown before.” But when I looked over at Scott he was on the radio setting up our takeoff with the control tower. Suddenly I understood what was happening: he thought I could do it. To Scott, taking off was not too much to ask of me. So, in spite of my hesitation, I decided to keep my mouth shut. I decided that if I had a choice between me being right about my inability or Scott being right about my ability, I would rather choose his opinion. I would rather fulfill his expectations of my greatness than my expectations of my ineptitude. I decided to believe in his belief. I followed Scott’s careful instructions, and within a few minutes we were airborne.

I flew the airplane nearly three hours that day. I flew over the dramatic north shore of Maui, past the thousand-foot sweeping verdant cliffs of Molokai, across the golden sand beaches of Lanai, then over whales and dolphins cavorting in the rich blue ocean channel back to Maui. There we buzzed my house and made our way back to the airport. For nearly all that time I controlled the airplane, with Scott stepping in occasionally to make minor corrections. Eventually my nervousness had given way to exhilaration, and my doubts yielded to confidence. As we approached the airport, Scott surprised me again. “Now here’s how you land,” he told me in a nonchalant way. Now wait just a minute, I felt like saying, à la Barney Fife. Taking off and flying is one thing, but landing – now that’s outright dangerous. Then I remembered a lesson from one of my favorite flyers, Richard Bach, who suggested, “Argue for your limits, and sure enough they’re yours.” I kept my mouth shut.

As I guided us in according to Scott’s instructions, the Cessna was rocked by a gust of wind. “Sure is windy here,” Scott laughed. “I’ve seen pilots who got their license on the mainland come here and try to deal with these trade winds, and realize they didn’t really know how to land.” Yow! Okay, just breathe, I thought. I kept following Scott’s direction until he took over the stick just before touchdown. As I left the airport that day, I felt higher than our flight. Scott’s belief in me brought out the best in me. The airplane flight was three hours; the lesson was for a lifetime.

Then I remembered the powerful film Stand and Deliver, in which James Edward Olmos dramatized the true story or Jaime Escalente, a math teacher who went into the Los Angeles barrios and decided to teach calculus to some of the school’s lowest-functioning students. When the math department chairwoman criticized Jaime, he boldly told her, “The students will live up to the teacher’s expectations!” Everyone in Jaime’s class went on to pass the state calculus test. At any given moment we have two voices in our head: one, which tells us, we can’t, and another, which tells us, we can. Which will prove true? The one we give the most attention to. The one we act on. The one we make a stand for.

You already know how to be magnificent. Let me help you remember.

By Alan Cohen


  • Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including the best-selling Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It, the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life and his newest is the prosperity guide Relax into Wealth.

    Alan is an Empowering Caregivers featured expert, learn more about Alan

    Or visit his website at: alancohen.com.