It is a basic human drive to acquire things. Historically, this ambition has been used as a means of showing affluence.
Mr. Smith owns a tidy three-bedroom, one-bath house, which causes Mr. Jones to set his sights on a bigger, more opulent home. Mrs. Pierce drives a new mid-line sedan, sparking Mrs. Snyder to purchase an upscale SUV.
The 42-inch LCD television on your apartment wall pales when your neighbor upgrades to a 60-inch model, inspiring you to begin pricing the new 65-inch units.
It’s human nature. You buy a motorcycle, your friend buys a boat. He picks up an iPhone 5, and you go plunk down plastic and take home the new 6.
Perhaps that is why aircraft owners are so often misconstrued to be wealthy.
Most of the general populace is deep in the quagmire of buying, upgrading, expanding, and so on, while most aircraft owners have made a conscious decision to forgo some of those same consumer items in order to afford the one thing that really calls out to them — an aircraft.
Of course the aircraft itself is not the true point of aircraft ownership. It’s a means to an end. It’s the machine that can carry the owner and his or her guests upward and outward to see the world in a whole new way. It is, in a very real sense, the magic carpet we read about as children.
The aircraft brings value to the lives of their owners not because of what it costs, or that it can be inferred the owner belongs to a rarified class of individuals.
No, the aircraft allows an activity to take place that couldn’t take place without it. There is no replacement for climbing into an aircraft and heading up hill even in places where there is no high ground.
Flying is a challenge. It’s a gift. It is a life-affirming event that is reserved for those who strive to acquire the necessary skills and master the requisite thought processes — even if they never own an aircraft.
Yet, this column is not about tangible items. Houses and cars, motorcycles and boats — even aircraft — are simply products that can be built, modified, bought and sold. They will all one day be recycled, parted out, or thrown away. Their useful life will come to an end one day. That is simply the nature of tangible things. Even rocks erode over time. Nothing lasts forever.
As individuals we spend far less time considering the intangible side of life. These are the attributes that make us truly special. Irrespective of wealth, fame, zip code, or gender, it is the intangibles that separate the exceptional from the pedestrian among us.
We truly are all created with the same two intangibles at our disposal. And there may be nothing more profoundly important in our lives than how we choose to deal with these two critical elements of life.
If we are judicious and thoughtful, our lives will be more fulfilling and valuable in the long run. If we are careless however, we may find we are little more than a flash in the pan. All smoke and bluster, but no substance to speak of.
The intangibles I refer to are time and integrity. We each arrive on earth, on Day 1, with a clean slate. We’ve got a finite amount of time to work with, and a fixed quantity of integrity. They are ours to use as we will. If we cherish our time and use it wisely, we thrive and make progress. If we waste it, it is gone. You cannot get back one second of what you’ve lost.
Those wasted days, or years, will not come back to us. There are no do-overs, no second takes, no mulligans. In this respect, life is a one-shot deal. Our time is irreplaceable. Which makes it somewhat ironic that so few of us put much thought into what we’re doing with the mystery allotment issued to us at birth.
Time’s fraternal twin may well be integrity. It is ours to make use of, or squander. Too many of us do the latter.
As election time rolls around you’ll see plenty of examples of this phenomenon. Of course anyone who has dated or been related to someone who takes the gift of integrity lightly knows the price to be paid for such hubris, just as they know the pain a lack of integrity can prompt.
In layman’s terms, the issue is honesty. But integrity is more than that. It is a calling card that walks beside us through life. It announces our value to others based on past performance. It’s a critical component to any success story, and the central inadequacy in which many failures are rooted.
Your home may be humble, your car old and well used, your boat may be powered by a paddle, and your alma mater may be a state school that specializes in technical skills and night classes. If your integrity is intact and you’ve used your time well, you are more than likely respected and admired in your community.
And if that community extends no farther than the other side of your kitchen table, you can count yourself fortunate. You did something worthwhile with your time and preserved your integrity. That’s nothing to sneeze at.