I have no idea why, but the best topics of conversation seem to come up most frequently over a meal. Case in point: I was at lunch with a good friend recently. A musician, my friend is a supremely talented man who knows a thing or two about pushing himself to improve at a skill most of us do little more than dabble at. The waitress interrupted us briefly to ask a question about learning to fly, and so we had a short but very enjoyable chat about flight training right there in the middle of a lunch that would have never touched on the subject had it not been for the happy accident of her injecting the topic into our conversation.
After she’d left the table my friend, the musician, asked a question that really resonated with me. “Why would anyone want to learn to fly?” he queried. His inquiry was sincere. It wasn’t a challenge and he implied nothing negative or combative in his question.
My friend simply couldn’t understand why anyone would put themselves through all that work, through the hours of study and practice and expense required to become a pilot.
It’s a good question. So I posed a question of my own. Why would anyone want to become a musician?
It takes years to attain a reasonable level of skill. The potential musician has to study and practice and persist in the pursuit of the ability to play well. They purchase a musical instrument that can cost a significant amount of money, and they have to replace the wearable parts of that instrument, whether it be reeds, or strings, or skins, for as long as they play. As their ability improves they step up to better quality instruments that cost even more. They play in public, subjecting themselves to stage-fright, bad reviews, and the possibility a less than stellar performance coupled with a surly audience might result in booing and jeering that will live in ones memory forever.
Why would anyone want to learn to play an instrument?
Between us, my friend and I own perhaps 20 guitars, two pianos, at least one ukelele, a handful of harmonicas, and a wide assortment of other musical instruments. Clearly, we know why someone would want to learn to play.
As individual as the pursuit to play may be, there are universal qualities involved in the quest to learn something new, to acquire a skill most don’t possess.
Somewhere inside us we have a drive to learn, to perform, to do something that has real value to us, even if we can’t fully articulate to others why we want to learn that skill. Whether in pursuit of a professional goal, or just as a hobby, we feel a need to play, and so we do. We spend years working at our craft.
And at some point we realize, quite by accident I’m sure, that we truly love what we do. We love to play. We love to understand the intricacies of what it takes to sit at a piano, or pick up a guitar, or hang a saxophone around our necks and make it do something our friends and neighbors can’t do, but they can appreciate the sounds we produce.
Flying appeals to the exact same aspect of our personalities.
Surely, I learned to fly for completely different reasons than everybody else who ever learned to fly. I am confident of that. And I certainly never intended it to become my profession. But the act of flying called out to me in exactly the same way it called out to all the rest of the pilot population. I can’t explain it, but I can feel it.
It’s my suspicion that pilots enjoy the accomplishment of landing a squeaker on the centerline every bit as much as Eric Clapton experiences pride at a well played performance of Layla.
Like all other pilots, I took that first step of visiting the local airport. I took a lesson. All the rest just sort of happened while I was doing nothing more than trying to get better at this flying thing. My original goal was to be a hobbyist. Somewhere along the way, I became a professional. I’m as surprised as anyone else about how it all turned out. My mother is pleased, however. That’s got to count for something.
In a practical sense, developing the ability to fly has certain advantages over developing the ability to play a musical instrument, however. Be it the guitar, or the trombone, or the sousaphone, there is limited value to including that skill on your resume. At least in most cases, the odds are slim a hiring manager will give you the edge when applying for a job because you’re able to play the trumpet.
On the other hand, including the fact that you’re a pilot just might grab someone’s attention. Your chances of being interviewed for the open position increase and your chances of bonding with someone of note in the company improve – because people tend to fall into one of two camps. They either are pilots or they find people who are pilots to be interesting.
Of course you could always opt to be an overachiever and do both. As a pilot who can play an instrument, you’re really a double-threat. Your resume will pretty much shout from the mountaintops, “Hey, I’m competent enough to get things done, and I’m a barrel of laughs to work with too.”
There are worse messages to subtly inject into your business and social interactions.