When it comes to success, Barrington Irving knows how to elevate to new heights – literally.

At just 23-years-old, the young airman broke a Guinness World Record, becoming the youngest (and first/only African American) to pilot a solo flight around the world. Let’s face the facts, there aren’t many 23-year-old young folks setting out on such missions.

Photo: Ryan Schude/Guinness World Records

But, much like you and I, young Barrington could sense the earth-shaking value in pursuing what others deem a “non-traditional” vision. I spoke with Barrington to hear all about his tips to overcoming boundaries while reaching towards the sky. Here’s what he had to say:

1. Know Your Industry Shortly after his exposure to the aviation industry, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 occurred in New York City. Barrington saw firsthand just how quickly an industry can suffer, thus negatively affecting the salaries and livelihood of the many people who serve it. It was at this moment that a mentor gave Barrington advice that would change his life forever.

“Don’t just focus on a career. Know your industry instead.”

Barrington can attest to the fact that when you know your industry, you are able to create options for yourself, as well as strategies for movement and adjustment. Basically, figure out how to work your niche so that you can navigate successfully through the ups and downs of your industry. Then, instead of looking for the job – you’ll be creating it!

2. Find a Mentor “If you think that you don’t need a mentor or professional guidance, it will take twice as long to accomplish what you need to do,” Barrington shared. “Everybody’s life is different. We all have our own ecosystems. Just like in the Amazon, there are different worlds occurring at once, from the ground to the canopy of a tree. Everything that happens in each layer of an ecosystem has a domino effect on the next.

“The lessons you can learn from the mistakes of others is invaluable.”

Barrington makes sure to stress the fact that we owe it to ourselves to learn from others’ mistakes. He reflects on his time in flight training when instructors always encouraged students to pay more attention to the people who died than those who were successful. “You plan for the worst case scenarios, not for the blue skies,” he said.

3. Don’t Be Afraid of Rejection Everyone knows that in order to succeed, you can’t be afraid to fail. Barrington however, takes it a step further. “What is more valuable than that, is not being afraid of rejection,” he said.

“Rejection always comes before failure.”

When you push past the constant “no’s,” you learn to get resourceful, and use connections, resources, and past experiences work in your favor.

Photo: Barrington Irving

4. Be Resourceful Barrington received little support in the early days of his career. He didn’t even have a plane to fly, so he used his street hustle to piece one together himself. “I was able to manufacture my own plane based on my knowledge of how cars are stripped in the hood,” he said. This goes to show that rejection should not be a sign to stop, but simply permission to pivot.

5. Take Calculated Risks You have to become good at building strategies for yourself. Barrington believes that there is a difference in being prepared, and stalling until all of the pieces fall into place. He recalls the circumstances surrounding his record breaking expedition, “I only had $30 in my pocket for a 1.2 million trip, but I knew that if the infrastructural pieces were in place, people would start to believe and support.” And that they did!

When he started his nonprofit organization, The Flying Classroom, Barrington was often told that he should not pursue the endeavor because he was not an educator or a writer. Barrington says that while those were valid points, he had a strategy. “No, I wasn’t a certified educator, but I spoke to educators, teachers, principals, etc. I was able to understand their everyday challenges, and understand very clearly what is was that they needed,” he shared.

Photo: Barrington Irving

Taking risks becomes a lot less risky when you put the proper protocol and structure in place, especially in areas that aren’t your strengths.

Never let a missing piece of the puzzle keep you from moving forward.  

6. Find Your Why Everybody needs a greater cause to fight for. When you have a “why,” you have a source to pull from when the road seems too hard to follow.

Barrington learned early on that giving back provided him with a great deal of satisfaction. He says that each time he wants to give up, he thinks back to all of the people, especially children who look up to him.  “When you give more of yourself, people always think about who you’re helping… but the person you’re helping the most is really yourself,” he said.

“When it’s hard, that’s how you know you’re on the right track.”

Well, if that doesn’t get your engine revving, I don’t know what will. Now let’s get fly on ’em!

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