Thursday, July 8, 2010


“I could sit and stare at helicopters for hours and never feel tired,” Vietnamese farmer Tran Quoc Hai says. I can just hear the possible reactions from his parents, from his friends:
  • “Tran! Stop playing around and study!”
  • “Your future is on the earth, not in the sky. Stop wasting your time.”
  • “Get your head out of the clouds, and get back to work.”
  • “Won’t you just stop staring into space and do something productive?”

The predictable future for Tran Quoc Hai was to be just a regular farmer. But he didn’t stop staring.

Helicopters still evoke fear, repulsion among many Vietnamese, for they took the lives of many during the Vietnam war. Children were taught to run or hide in fear when a helicopter approached. Only the lucky survived an attack. Yet, Tran Quoc Hai felt a magnetic pull to these crafts in the sky. And he didn’t stop staring.

Tran Quoc Hai didn’t squelch his passion for more realistic pursuits. He didn’t let his farmer’s education stop him from dreaming. And he realized there is more to a dream than wishful thinking. He acted. After the war, he traveled the country studying abandoned helicopters. How they were put together, how they worked. He supplemented his knowledge with theories from physics books to conceptualize how they managed to fly. With the development of the internet, he took great leaps and bounds in his learning. And he never stopped staring.

The result? Tran Quoc Hai builds helicopters. Not ones that take lives, but ones that save lives. Not ones that cost a lifetime of wages or even more, but ones that are affordable and can be used by farmers, by rescue teams, by everyday citizens for the good of society. A lofty and, some might say foolish, fascination translating into hope and prosperity for everyday people. How is this possible? He could just not stop staring.

To stare for hours and never feel tired. What is that for you? What is that for me? Stop stifling your urge to stare with thoughts of “be more productive” or “that’s just a waste of time”. It’s time to hush the self-talk instead. If you know what it is that captures every ounce of your fascination, run to it. Act on it. Learn, practice and master. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you. And, most of all, never, ever stop staring.

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