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fly the airplane

pilots have a saying. when you're flying an airplane a lot can go on, but one thing will always be your priority:

fly the airplane.

maybe something is distracting you in the plane, or in your mind, or out in the world. maybe you're out of fuel or lost or ate too much at lunch, or you missed a radio call or screwed up a radio call. whatever. fly the airplane. maybe you're not sure which airport you're over and worried about landing on the wrong runway... you'll probably figure it out. UNLESS you pitch up too far into an uncoordinated stall and and lose hundreds of feet of altitude because you weren't paying attention to which way the nose is pointed! then you're in trouble... so don't do that! fly the airplane.

it's good life advice, anyway. I think about it a lot on a stressful day when I'm not in any airplane, just have a lot to do. It's closely related to the Hitchhiker's Guide first rule: don't panic.

I bring this up because there was a great episode of Fresh Air last week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our moon landing, where astronaut Chris Hadfield was talking about overcoming fear with training, procedures, routines, and keeping your head about you. his heartwarming quote I will commit to memory:

There's no problem so bad that you can't make it worse

This might not make you feel better in life, it's kind of scary! But it is a logical reason to keep your head about you and think calmly about your next step when a problem arises. Prioritize. ask for help. brainstorm next steps. take a break! but don't tune out or forget the basics.

see also: hoosiers. yeah, the basketball movie, where a determined coach teaches his frustrated players to act as a team and train the basics. and the tougher the situation, the MORE you depend on your basics. Always go back to them. It might seem like your boring passing drill, but you can do it and it will get you through this, that's why you practiced it so much.

Enough examples, they all say the same thing. It's harder than it sounds. Humans like to freeze up or freak out. We have to get around a lot of instincts to stay focused when the going gets tough. It takes drilling into your head. It's worth it.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 27th, 2019 03:37 am (UTC)
It sounds as if there's something going on in your life that is making you remind yourself of this. Is there?
Jul. 27th, 2019 09:07 am (UTC)
Well, the moon landing interview.

Life wise I don’t know... kids breaking down into tantrums instead of using their words to state what’s wrong and address the problem, a LOT!
Jul. 27th, 2019 03:57 pm (UTC)
Aaargh. That was the thing I was most unprepared for in parenting; the raw, unprocessed emotion you have to deal with, no matter how you feel at the moment.
Jul. 27th, 2019 05:06 am (UTC)
When did you learn to fly?
Jul. 27th, 2019 09:08 am (UTC)
2010-ish. I haven’t in a while, life gets in the way but it was wonderful. I have a basic private pilot license that’s it.
Jul. 27th, 2019 12:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that’s a really good one.
It’s true about how all the examples say the same thing. The example I went to right away, reading this, is from my work with non-profit orgs. It’s why I refer to orgs’ missions statements. It gets people out of the momentary panic and back into “what are we doing here, again, anyway?” In this sense, it’s like “where’s that airplane you’re supposed to be flying?” Funny how quickly people lose that.
Jul. 28th, 2019 04:28 pm (UTC)
ha ha, now I realize I left out ANOTHER example, a manager I had who'd frequently get us to keep things in perspective by asking "Will this make all the airplanes stop flying?"

ie, I emailed a request and got yelled at for not using the official form, the printer didn't do two-sided printing, I forgot I was meeting with senior leadership and wore jeans. He'd look up and say "Hey somehow the airplanes are STILL IN THE SKY."

That is an example I've used in non-profit work because it's so easy to get spun up on tiny details (or dare I say it... DRAMA!) that don't contribute to the overarching mission.
Jul. 29th, 2019 04:37 am (UTC)
I love that quote. It easily applies to equestrian pursuits as well. You can pretty much always make something worse, and often the first thing people do is quit guiding the horse. For the most part, in "human" environments horses are pretty terrible decision makers. The plane doesn't have a mind of its own, but I imagine the natural forces surrounding it can make it feel like it does!

Edited at 2019-07-29 04:37 am (UTC)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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