Thursday, July 2, 2009

Keep Flying The Airplane First!

When I was learning to fly, one of my instructors told me that most pilots get themselves in trouble, not because they don't know their procedures, but because they respond too quickly without knowing the whole situation, or simply jumping to conclusions. He taught me that when an emergency happens, one of the best things you could do was just to "keep flying the airplane first" (do whatever you are currently doing) until you thought about and understand all that you can about the emergency.

The reason he would say this, is because in the heat of the moment, most people tend to react without thinking. They tend to move switches, turn dials, or pull circuit breakers, trying to solve the problem as fast as they can. Sometimes, this is the right action, but most times, it isn't.

Most times we aggravate situations by responding quickly and emotionally and make things even worse than they already were.

That's because the initial reaction to unplanned stimulus is usually emotional - and rarely thought through. It's simply an emotionally driven reaction.

What my instructor all those years taught me is to "keep flying the airplane first." It sounds obvious, but many pilots forget to do exactly this - fly the airplane. Don't move any switches or react to conditions until you have all the inputs and actually can think about it clearly. The act of flying keeps you grounded in what is important and keeps you on track. By consciously focusing on "flying first", I could change my thought process from reactive to proactive - from simply accepting consequences as they play out before me to thinking through the consequences and choosing the ones that I want.

The great thing is that this is a great business and life lesson as well. No matter what the circumstances are, you get to control your response. Whether it is declining sales in the recession, finding out a trusted employee is leaving you, getting an angry complaint from a customer, or your spouse picking a fight with you over something you did or didn't do yesterday, it doesn't matter. You control the situation, because you have control of your response.

Keep flying your plane, and give yourself time to think!

By continuing to "fly your plane", you ease your emotions and take the edge off of things. Even if its a "silent count to five" in your head, before you respond, you are more likely going to respond with a clearer mind, and less emotionally.

Bottom line and lesson learned from my experiences flying is:

Don't respond instantly and emotionally, every time a crisis comes up. Take your time to respond, its how you take back control of a situation that often times feels completely out of control.

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