One of the first things pilots are taught when they start learning to operate an aircraft is to systematically take in all the information around them. This starts with the physical approach to the aircraft and the observation of the surrounding environment. A pre-flight check of the aircraft and her systems tells you how she’s doing today, and further information is taken in from various amounts of paperwork indicating everything from weather and routing, to fuel requirements and passenger/cargo load. Information must be mined from many different sources to knit together a complete picture of operation before an aircraft can take flight.
However, once all these peripheral sources are pulled together, when a pilot settles into the cockpit, a different viewpoint presents itself. There are two main sources of information from where the pilot sits. Firstly, the instrument panel directly in front of and around you, and secondly, what you can observe out the cockpit window. At various points of the start of any flight, all instruments are checked to see whether they’re returning accurate, expected and correlating information. These instruments are the lifeblood of communication between the pilot’s mind and the intricacies of the aircraft’s operation – both in the way she flies, climbs, descends, banks and turns, and the health of all of her operating systems – engine settings, temperatures, fuel state, etc.
Regardless of the size of your aircraft, pilots are taught to cultivate a scan of the instrument panel and of the sky outside, and to alternate between the two. This scan is not haphazard or arbitrary, but intentional and specifically ordered. It takes in vital information from instruments that will indicate a turn before the heading of the aircraft changes, or a descent before the altimeter responds. A pilot’s keen eyes can pick up traffic on the horizon and determine its proximity and track.
I remember as a young pilot, often being told “don’t fixate, look out” – because I had become so focused on the fascinating intricacies of what my instruments were telling me that I’d forgotten to look outside, adjust my eyes, and scan for traffic.
Over the past few years of operating within the corporate business world, helping various teams improve their communications, strategy and operations in the same way that flight crew do, I’ve often found the same problem – people tend to become fixated on whatever is currently demanding their attention – usually a short term and immediate problem. The risk when we fixate on one thing is that we lose sight of all else, of the bigger picture, and that whilst we’re lost in thought about that one thing, no one is actively flying the aircraft. This can have disastrous consequences.
Over the past few weeks, our viewpoint has changed significantly. Our long-term view of the horizon has become hazy at best, and our inability to predict where we’re going has meant that we’ve been called to concentrate primarily on what’s right in front of us. This is good as a short term, steadying technique. In aviation, when an emergency or immediate uncertainty presents itself, we’re taught to default to the axiom “Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.”. This means first, fly the aircraft. It prevents us from fixating on anything that may take our immediate focus away from this primary job.
Over the past few weeks, this is where our focus has been for many of us. “Just fly the airplane”. Our focus has been close – just make sure that you and yours are okay and that you can operate within your own confines, within this new normal – that you have what you need and you can figure out how to overcome the mental anxiety of change. Immediate new rules have been complied with; some businesses have continued; some have not; many have had to figure out how to repackage and redeliver; many have ground to a halt entirely.
All of our worlds have come sharply into focus and we’ve been brought smack up against the reality of what we can and can’t control. For many, the initial discomfort of curtailment has started to wane, and the itch is now with “what next” – when will we be able to move again? And that, in itself, brings new thoughts, concerns, even fears for many.
Determining what’s happening on the horizon doesn’t seem a whole lot clearer now than it did a few weeks ago. What does seem clear is that the view has changed irrevocably, even if we still can’t guess with any accuracy at what it might look like once the haze clears and world starts turning again. What we can say is that it will be different.
There will be layers of different. Some people’s jobs have been reinvented or amped up as they deliver essential services in ways not previously imagined. Some people’s jobs don’t exist anymore either because they’ve folded or fallen away. Some people’s jobs will pick up again and move forward. But nothing will be the same and this presents us with an opportunity. A choice.
In the short term, most of us have been inwardly focused on our humanness. We’ve been dealing with reconfiguring our own heads and dealing with new parameters of daily survival.
What I’d like to invite you to do this week is look up and look out. And, because we still don’t have clarity on what the horizon looks like, to dream a little. Rather than fixating on the current problem and allowing yourself to get weighted down by it, shake yourself off a little and imagine what may be needed moving forward. Considering the stress, anxiety and restriction most people are facing during this time, it stands to reason that the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction.
As we move through this next chapter, we will look for ease, for joy, for freedom. We will look for ease of movement and of doing business. Joy of giving and receiving value, of genuine communication and authentic delivery. We will look for freedom of choice. That the world is changing rapidly doesn’t mean that your value as an individual has disappeared. The value of our businesses as we previously delivered them may indeed have changed considerably – but it likely hasn’t disappeared either.
What will change, as I mentioned above, is what people will look for. What people will seek more of when we emerge from this current chapter. Ease. Joy. Freedom. The question is how we will all rise to the delivery of that. Now is an opportunity to look up, to look out, and to scan the possibilities on the horizon. And to dream a little.
Dreaming is light. Airy. Imaginative. It is the antithesis of the weight of stress, of fear, of frustration. Around the world, anything that has this weight to it is being shrugged off. We are looking for simplicity. For authenticity. For true value. I guarantee that every single one of you has personal value that is beautifully and vitally different from those around you. How we deliver our value is being challenged. So, look up. Look out. Imagine, and rise.
by Christen Killick
April 20th, 2020