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Aiming Sky High Earned Barrett Wings

“Punched in the face with reality.” That’s how Reed Barrett felt in 2014 when doctors discovered a serious heart condition.

Fortunately, it was treatable. Devastatingly, it meant Barrett was medically disqualified from being in the United States Air Force in the midst of Pilot Training.

“I experienced the death of my dream,” he said.

The dream had been jets since he was a kid watching the Thunderbirds perform at airshows in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Barrett felt like giving up, but he didn’t – even in his lowest moments.

“All too often we just stop,” he said. “I’m not a fan of stopping.”

Today, Barrett is flying high – literally – with more than 300 hours in an F-16 and 600 flight hours with the Air National Guard stationed out of Washington D.C.

He also crisscrosses the country as a keynote speaker on human potential, drawing on his own winding journey back to his dream.

His first lesson? The pivot.

Unable to continue in the Air Force, Barrett turned to magic, a hobby he’d learned from his father. Honing his sleight-of-hand magic act and networking tirelessly landed Barrett a gig performing for high-end clientele at the Bellagio Las Vegas.

It was an education, in opportunity.

“There’s a reason Houdini’s big thing was escape tricks. He wanted to show immigrants they can escape their realities,” Barret said. “With magic you explore the pandora’s box of opportunity.”

It wasn’t all glamorous. He also juggled college, earning a psychology degree, and a stint working as an EMT. That’s where he honed in on the human potential.

“Take two fingers, put it on your pulse. That’s electrical activity. It’s a power inside of you,” he said. “Every two seconds someone’s pulse stops. But your heart is pumping right now.”

When a friend suggested trying again for his wings, this time with the Air National Guard, Barrett pursued it with heart-pumping intensity. “I had nothing to lose,” he said.

Three years after finally achieving that goal, Barrett is still awed every time he climbs into the cockpit. "Lighting the wick, turning on the afterburners, feeling the enormous amount of thrust, you continue to accelerate even as you climb straight up,” he said.

That’s the power of persistence.

“Too often we’re handcuffed by being told no. But the constraints of life are not real.”

In fact, many times we limit ourselves much more than those around us.

Join us at the 2023 MWEC Annual Meeting, where we will be challenged to think about one question. ‘What powers your purpose?’ We hope the answer you unveil is just what you need to find the purpose to your pulse.