Up, Up, and Away

Larry Walters, Balloon ManLarry Walters had always wanted to fly.

As a boy, he became fascinated with airplanes and dreamed of soaring among the clouds. Once he reached adulthood, he joined the Air Force – intent on becoming a pilot. However, his poor eyesight disqualified him from his dream job. He served his time and, after his discharge, took a job as a truck driver.

Larry spent evenings in his backyard watching as jets from nearby Los Angelos International Airport flew overhead. He’d spent 20 years wrestling with his dream of flight, and as the days passed, his frustration only grew. If he didn’t do something about it soon, he feared he’d go crazy. As Larry sat and watched the planes and birds pass by, a plan slowly began to form in his head. Then on July 2, 1982, he put his plan into action.

He’d purchased 42 weather balloons a few weeks before. Now, with help from his girlfriend and a couple of others, he filled each one with helium and tied it to an aluminum lawn chair. A tether tied to the bumper of his friend’s car kept the contraption (dubbed Inspiration I) from blowing away while he filled the balloons and gathered the rest of his supplies. Armed with a CB radio, a camera, some sandwiches, and a pellet gun; Larry strapped himself into the chair, said a quick prayer, and cut the tether.

His goal was to float lazily over town for a while, seeing the world as a bird does from 30-40 feet, then shoot a few balloons and descend. If he couldn’t be a pilot, he figured he would at least experience the thrill of flight for a brief time. Maybe then the dreams would stop.

But things didn’t quite go as Larry had planned.

With the tether cut, Inspiration I rocketed into the air – the jolt caused Larry to lose his glasses. He ascended at the rate of around 1,000 per minute, finally leveling off around 16,000 feet. At this altitude, Larry feared shooting a balloon would unbalance the chair and send him tumbling to the ground, so he drifter for several minutes before a TWA pilot passed him and called in a report of a man floating in a Lawn chair.

Larry drifted into controlled airspace over the airport and managed to contact a civilian radio group over his CB. After 45 minutes shivering in the cold, he finally worked up the nerve to shoot a balloon or two and began to descend. His dangling ropes tangled in some electrical lines causing a power outage. Larry climbed down the pole to safety and a $1,500 fine for piloting an unlicensed aircraft.

Have you ever had a dream you just couldn’t shake?

What if you acted on your dream and the reality was much more than you could ever hope for? What if you set a goal, acted on it, and the result made you wonder why you were so limiting in your expectations? What if you are capable of more than you can imagine?

Think of the goals you have for yourself, your family, and your business. How many of those goals remain unrealized because you’ve yet to act on them? The timing and circumstances may never be ideal, but why let that stop you? Why not start right now?

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” T.E. Lawrence


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