Because I often deal with the non-flying public in venues where my affection for aviation becomes a topic of conversation, I’ve become fascinated by the limits people put on themselves. I often talk to people who profess to want to fly. They wish they could. They dream they can. They imagine the wonder of it all. But they don’t actually fly.
In most cases these folks build up a series of totally plausible reasons why flying just won’t work for them, at least not right now.
It’s too expensive. It’s too time consuming. It’s too scary. The physical requirements are too lofty. The airport’s too far away. And so forth, and so on, infinitum.
In the end, right now becomes years, then decades, until the ultimate excuse becomes, “I’m too old. My time has passed.”
When viewed more objectively, these apparently plausible reasons turn out to be little more than convenient excuses.
And these self-imposed limits have nothing to do with flying, frankly. They have to do with fear, lack of confidence, basic human insecurity, and an unwillingness to risk failure on any level, even if it’s in an attempt to enrich one’s own life.
Yes, I said enrich one’s own life. That’s what flying is for most of us. It’s a means of expanding the possibilities in our life experience. It’s a means of pushing ourselves to new heights, even when those heights have nothing at all to do with altitude.
We who fly have chosen to become a better version of ourselves. Learning to fly, practicing those skills, addressing the myriad issues that are inherent to leaving the ground and returning to it safely, are all part of that process.
Too many of us short-circuit our dreams in favor of the perceived warmth of not risking personal discomfort. We caution others that to pursue life in the sky may be dangerous, or cost-prohibitive, or damaging to our most important relationships. We cheapen the lives of young people who are dreaming big by warning them off of pursuits where the challenges are real and failure is a possibility.
If we’re to evolve as a species, to improve as a culture, we must learn to leave these fear-based behaviors behind.
Instead, we would be better served if we viewed education as a salve that eradicates ignorance. Our lives would be enhanced immeasurably if we took the position that learning to do almost anything safely and well is an improvement over fostering fears of the unknown and accepting failure as a probable, if not unavoidable outcome.
Let me point you to Greg Cope White as a prime example of a man who overcame significant obstacles rather than simply avoiding the quest to become a better man.
Greg is a U.S. Marine. In fact, during his years of service he rose to the rank of Sergeant in the U.S. Marines, where he learned to crawl through mud, sweat in the noon-day sun while carrying a full pack, eat cold mush and be glad to have it, fire a rifle with precision, and bond with the men in his squad to a degree mere casual acquaintances will never understand.
Greg Cope White functioned and flourished as a United States Marine, and he did it in spite of the fact that he weighed in at a spindly 112 pounds when he showed up at the recruiting office…and he’s gay.
Now seriously, are the challenges that are preventing you from pursuing your dream of flight more daunting than that? I don’t think so.
There is a clear parallel between the two scenarios. It is rooted in one sentence that is easy to say, but significantly harder to put into practice: Dream big and strive to live the life you truly want.
Greg Cope White became a U.S. Marine and in the process found his limits were well beyond those he’d imposed on himself. He chronicles his transition impressively, with great humanity and humor, in “The Pink Marine.” A fine book that’s well worth reading.
As for myself, I dreamed of making a living with a guitar in my hand from very early on. And I did that for a number of years. Yet, as I crept up on my 30th birthday I began a transition that would take me from an exciting, invigorating career in music to an equally intriguing career in the cockpit. Like Greg Cope White, I found my world got much bigger and considerably more fulfilling as a result.
Life is weird, and far too short for most of us. So grab on with both hands, wrestle your fears into submission, and make a commitment to become the person you truly want to be. The person you dreamed you might become.
After all, you only get one shot at this — so make it a good one. Because if you try, you just might achieve your goals and reach that highest peak you harbor deep in your imagination – or even exceed your loftiest expectations.
It could happen.
Certainly, if you don’t try, you won’t get there. And that would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Yes, it would.