(Air) Crafting a Successful life

Watch your dreams take flight

Photo credit: Ross Parmly, Unsplash

Last month, I spent close to 45 hours in total on an airplane and in various airports waiting for flights. That’s one work-week spent on the commute! And that’s excluding the time spent in getting to and from the Bengaluru airport ;-)

I don’t mind flying long distances to be honest, in fact, I quite like airplanes -as a little girl I even had a toy airplane that I treasured and wove stories around.

The idea of being so high up in the air was exhilarating to an 8 year old me, and I must confess it still is. I have no trouble admitting that I specifically choose the window seat to look out the window in wide eyed wonder as the plane takes off – just watching the landscape get smaller and smaller and feeling the airplane ascending makes me grin every single time.

Lately though my fascination for airplanes and the airline industry has taken a slightly different turn – mostly because of the following 3 airline specific concepts that translate just as well outside the airline industry.

Setting course – Flights set course before commencing the journey and the course is monitored all through the journey. Without going into the technicalities, setting course is denoted by ‘degrees’. Now it’s not always easy to maintain the course that’s set at the start of the journey simply because the medium of transport, i.e. air, affects the flight path of the aircraft. There is plenty of opportunity to knock an aircraft “off course” so to speak, given the high altitude of 35,000 feet. Even if you’re off course just a tiny bit, say one degree off course, over long distances, it could mean the difference between landing at the airport and having to use your life jacket due to an emergency water landing or worse!

It’s the same thing with life. To paraphrase Mel Robbins, we make these teeny tiny decisions all say long – a decision to not wake up on time, a decision to not eat the right thing, a decision to snap at someone because we’re having a bad day, a decision to not deal with our finances, a decision to not make that phone call... all day long, and over time, these tiny decisions take you so far off track and you realise this one day and start to wonder “ how did I get here?” and you have no idea how to get back on ‘course’. Definitely something to think about – the small decisions or the one degree changes in the wrong direction could hurt you but conversely small decisions to make better choices could bring you back on course.

Change course for the better – one degree at a time.

Expanding the envelope – In the world of aircrafts, the word envelope has nothing to with paper or postcards, interestingly. It is something that refers to the capabilities in terms of attaining altitude. Brian Tracy writes, “A flight envey consists of a lower edge and an upper edge - the upper edge of the envelope is the maximum height and speed deemed possible for a new aircraft before it theoretically comes apart in the air or malfunctions or self-destructs.” Test pilots continually take an aircraft higher and faster until they feel that the plane has reached its absolute outer limits. This is called the outer edge of the envelope which could vary from the initial theoretical limits. What’s interesting is that this new outer edge that the test pilot determines then becomes the “lower edge of the envelope’ for the next aircraft that is tested.

In simple terms, better and faster aircrafts are built in the same way a person pushes themselves to be better – If you’re a student, your best score last year is your new benchmark/the lowest score you’re allowed this year just so you can see how much further you can go! That is a solid self improvement lesson right there – push the envelope each time, see how far you can go. Unlike an aircraft which could blow up in the air when pushed too far, the worst thing that can happen when you overreach is that you learn something - the feedback just helps you identify blind spots and empowers you to keep moving forward.

Expand the envelope to understand what you’re capable of.

Using the Black boxes - This one is a personal favourite of mine –within every aircraft , there are usually two black boxes that are nearly indestructible – one of these records instructions sent to onboard electronic systems and another which records the conversations and sounds in the cockpit.

Whenever there is an accident, the data in the black boxes is analysed and procedures are then changed to ensure that the error never repeats. I like to think that this is a lot like journaling – each day, you play the black box of the day’s events in your head and examine what went well and what you could have done better – if you messed up, acknowledge it, decide what you will do to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again and record the desired response so it registers.

Reflect on what you’ve done objectively - let your journal hold up a mirror to show you who you are.

It’s no coincidence therefore that flying is the safest form of travel. What’s even better is that with a little bit of imagination the principles that underpin the running of the airline industry could turn you into a ‘high-flying’ individual – literally and figuratively.

Mull over that one on your next flight.

Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.

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