Monday, April 20, 2009

Push Yourself A Little Bit Each Day To Become A Better Person

One of the biggest struggles in Naval Aviation is safety. And because flying small fighter aircraft off of aircraft carriers is dangerous by definition, the Navy and all of its leaders do everything they can to keep mishap rates down. But even with their best efforts, the mishap rates still averages between 1-2 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours.

But unlike the airlines, we have to train in all conditions, because you can't decide when the enemy is going to attack you. We have to be ready to fly anytime, day and night - in any kind of weather . And that is where it gets pretty scary. I've seen flight ops in winds as high as 60mph, rough seas when the ship was bouncing plus or minus 30 feet, and clouds so low, the first thing the pilot saw as the tower was it went behind him after he caught the wire.

Good or bad, I had the luxury of being both the Operations Officer (the advocate for flying every day, no matter what) and the Safety Officer (the advocate for never flying) - obviously at different times in my career.

As Safety Officer, I was responsible for preventing accidents. And the truth be known, the only sure way to avoid an aviation mishap is to NOT FLY. But to be honest with you I was not the best Safety Officer in many Senior Official's Eyes - they used to say I was entirely TOO "Operationally Focused". Not because there was ever an accident when I as on the job, I believe it was because I believed that sometimes you had to press the limits as much as you could, during controlled situations, so that when the situation became "uncontrolled", you were ready to handle it. Truth be known, I hardly ever advocated for flight ops to stop - however, I was savvy enough to know who was ready to handle which conditions and who wasn't. Sometimes that hurt some of the pilots egos, but it was never my job to coddle egos.

Then, as Operations Officer, I was always pushing the envelope - trying to fly in the toughest of conditions to get the other pilots ready for anything. Unfortunately, this very often meant sometimes pushing guys to the edge of their ability - so that they could become better and more adept to the possible conditions they may face in combat.

Did I push some guys too far sometimes? Maybe.

Did I ever get anyone hurt or even put them in any real jeopardy? Absolutely not.

Did they become better pilots for the experience? Definitely!

Looking back, I think it was a huge benefit that I was able to have both of these jobs during my tenure in the Navy - it gave me a perspective to see both sides of the fence - understand both sides of the argument.

Frankly though, when it comes right down to it, Pilots are meant to fly - just as you and I are meant to live. Yeah, they may have hiccups now and again - and they may even make a major mistake that costs an airplane or even a life every once in awhile (I have a half a dozen really good friends that have had to eject for one reason or another), but if you don't push things regularly, then you will never grow - you will never get better. YOU WILL NEVER REACH YOUR POTENTIAL!

Funny, the quote says, "what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger". No where is that more evident than in Naval Aviation. And now, as a Coach, I've found it to also be extremely relevant in everyday life. Much more than people realize.

We all have a Safety Officer and Operations Officer that live inside our heads - one telling us to push forward, the other telling us, it's too scary out there - your gonna get hurt. They both have good arguments, but remember, you were put on this earth to just be another warm body - you were given the gift of life to live. I'm not advocating pushing yourself to the extreme every day. But I am telling you that you should be looking for ways to test the edges of the envelope and do your best to live by a quote that is hanging on my refrigerator - a gift from a very dear friend of mine:

Do one thing everyday that scares you.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Living is an active participation sport. Push yourself to be a little better everyday, by finding that ONE thing, and just doing it - no matter the outcome.


  1. This was such an inspiring post! Thank you :) Love this line: You were given the gift of life to LIVE! :)

  2. Wendy,

    Thank you! Your feedback is an inspiration to me.