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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson


Robert Stevenson Blog - The life expectancy for a U.S. Mail pilot was a mere four years.

Is it easier to make a decision when you are spending other people’s money? Absolutely! You have nothing at risk. Would you have made that decision if you were putting your own money at risk? Our decisions have a great deal to do with how they affect us personally.

Flimsy little airplanes helped to win World War I and demonstrated they could be used successfully in commercial applications. One commercial application that proved very effective was the U.S. Mail. Flying the mail from city to city was fast and an economically efficient way to transport the mail “IF” you made smart (and safe) decisions as to when you should tell a pilot to fly.

Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. Postal Service does not have a motto. What is mistaken for their motto is an inscription on the wall at the General Post Office in New York City (8th Avenue and 33rd Street) that reads, ”Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That commitment to service might be okay for the couriers on the ground, but for the pilots flying the mail from city to city, following those words, in most cases, was a death sentence.

Flying in bad weather was proving to be detrimental to a pilot. In fact, of the first forty U.S. Mail pilots, thirty-one died carrying the mail. Back in 1920’s the life expectancy for a U.S. Mail pilot was a mere four years. Something had to be done to change the attitude of the people who were making the decision of when a pilot should fly.

The pilots worked out a deal with their field managers. They said they would fly in bad weather if the field manager would be willing to get in the co-pilot’s seat and take-off and fly once around the airfield and then come back and land. If the weather was so bad that the field manager was too scared to comply with that rule, then the pilot would not take-off. The year this rule was made, 1922, U.S. Mail pilots had zero fatalities.

When a decision is being made that involves other people, great leaders try and weigh all their options. Is there a better, easier, safer, less expensive way to do it? What alternatives are available and what will the consequences be if it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. If you can live with the consequences then give it a try. It is imperative to remember that decisions have consequences …maybe not for you … but for others; if you are not willing to take the risk personally, then why should you think it right to ask somebody else to. NEVER ask anyone to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.

American economist and social theorist, Thomas Sowell, phrased it this way: “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”


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