The vast majority of us were raised by civilized mothers and fathers. That’s a good thing. We belonged to the Boy Scouts, or the Girl Scouts, or a sports team of some kind. And of course all of us had some sort of educational experience, which almost always consisted of at least one adult who served in a supervisory capacity, some bigger kids, some smaller kids, and you – somewhere in the middle of it all.
The common experience we all shared while involved in those activities was the noble and entirely democratic practice of standing in line, waiting our turn, and behaving ourselves.
Admit it, you’ve spent a good deal of your life standing idly by, waiting for somebody further up, at the front of the line, to do something that would ultimately have an effect on you. Whether their job was to slap a ladle full of macaroni and cheese onto a lunch tray, hand out report cards, or lead a line of young ones on an organized assault of the rest room facilities — you were dependent on them. You waited until it was your turn. No matter how hungry you were, how good or bad your grades might me, or how badly you had to go, you waited. You learned not to take cuts, not to jostle your neighbor, and not to make waves.
If I may be so bold as to rock the boat, please take it with the best of intentions when I suggest, that was then, this is now. You’re grown up these days and you don’t always want to wait in line, or wait your turn, or even behave yourself. That’s understandable. But there’s a time and a place for everything, and knowing the difference between when you should wait, and when you should move toward your goal unilaterally, is important.
Let’s get down to cases. There are still times when it is best to wait. When you’re number three in line at the active runway for instance. Just because you feel like you’re ready to go and the airplane at the hold short line isn’t moving, that doesn’t mean it would be a good idea to pull off the taxiway, go overland through the grassy infield, and motor out onto the runway ahead of the others. For one thing, the folks in the tower might have a thing or two to say about that bonehead move. For another, you might have gotten so focused on your preeminence in that situation, you missed the C-17 on short final.
Oops. That’s not going to work out well.
On the other hand, there are times when it’s okay to get out of line and make your own way in the world. In fact, it’s practically a moral imperative. The likelihood of getting anything truly important done in life is slim if you’re content to spend a great deal of time standing in line, waiting your turn, just hoping that someone let’s you take a shot at the big time — eventually.
This is a common issue in the political world. There are politicians who are in attendance when things happen, and there are other politicians who make things happen. If you’re hoping to make much of an impact on your community, your airport, or general aviation as a whole, I would strongly recommend you find a way to subscribe to the methods of the latter group. They’re the ones we owe most of our progress to.
Now there is a subset of the population who looks to the structured meeting model and says, “I can’t depart from the agenda, and the issue I wish I could take action on isn’t on the agenda.” That’s a problem, because under our system of government, almost all laws, regulations, and rules come out of a discussion that takes place during a structured meeting which is ruled in large part by an agenda.
Here’s a news flash that even some of your elected and appointed officials don’t know. Somebody, somewhere, makes up that agenda. Find out who is responsible for the agenda, find out how they identify the items that are going to be on it, and become a part of that process. Zip, boom, bang, just like that, you’re now in a position to think of the inner sanctum as your home away from home. You’re helping to set the agenda for issues to be discussed and acted upon. And you didn’t have to make a payoff, scream and yell, or even write a letter to the editor. All you have to do is know who to talk to, when to talk to them, and what you want to tell them. That’s pretty much it. ??See, it’s not that tough, is it?
The long and the short of it is actually pretty simple. There are ways to get things done. Rather than fight city hall (or the county seat, the state capital, or the feds), find out what those ways are, get meaningfully involved, and start making progress.
Admittedly, the process almost never involves standing in line, minding your manners, or waiting your turn. To be successful you’re going to have to know your facts, know your philosophy, and be willing to speak up assertively to make your point. If you can do that, you’re way ahead of the game.
Good luck to you.
Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.