Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Of Passion and Failure

Some of you may have detected a note of desperation in my last post. A feeling of being at the end of my rope and unable to diagnose and fix the problems I've been having with a particular maneuver. In a moment of particular loneliness and hopelessness... feeling I just may be unable to "do this" I sent an email to my brothers and sisters expressing my frustrations. None of my siblings fly, but they all understand my passion for flight and, it turns out, in their own passions...  be that music, math, parenthood and family, motorcycles, hacking or learning how to fail successfully... they've hit similar learning plateaus and had similar frustrations. They reached back out to me and sent me notes of support and understanding from their own experiences.

One note in particular brought tears of joy and relief to my eyes. I share part of that note below... I hope my brother won't mind but I think this is particularly inspirational to all who have a passion for what they do and are hitting one of those plateaus. So I share it with you...

A lot of successful people are asked advice for choosing careers.  The most common response I've read is "do something you're passionate about."  What is often left out of that sentiment is the reason *why* you should do something you're passionate about.  I believe the reason is that when you start hitting the inevitable brick wall, you need an irrational reason to keep going.  No one sane will keep hitting their head against the wall.  They'll give up after a few reasonable tries.  But the passionate, the ones who have some love behind it, will keep going.  And they'll eventually get through.  And that what makes them successful.  When everyone else turned around and gave it their best, the successful kept going.

You're going to learn more through this failure, and this stumbling block than anyone else who gets it right without any problems.  You're going to walk away with a better understanding of what's happening, and why.  This is going to make you a better pilot, and a better teacher (not that you're going for being a teacher) - precisely because when you encounter a friend who's having the same issue, you'll have a better chance of knowing what's actually going on.  Or at least some empathy and a history of things that you tried, with an understanding of what worked, what didn't, and ultimately why.
After receiving the notes of support from my siblings, I met with my flight instructor. I was very candid with him about my frustrations and feeling of just not "getting it". You can tell I'm not the first person who's had this type of issue. He listened very carefully to what I said and what I didn't say. He recommended instead of trying to land on a spot, we would focus on the process of the approach. 

While we were flying he had me focus on the balance between airspeed and altitude and power and altitude. He had me practice giving up one to gain the other... for instance, if I was trending lower on glide slope and had some extra airspeed, I could pitch up, which would both gain me some altitude momentarily and decrease the airspeed to where I needed it to be. Or if I was high, don't pitch down (unless I needed to gain airspeed), instead pull power. Then apply power if I need to. We also worked on my visuals for what was high or low on base and identifying where the current trajectory of the plane would put the plane on the runway if conditions were maintained. 

In the end I was placing the plane on the numbers, often within feet of the place I thought I would. I need to work a bit more on managing and keeping the airspeed I require. Also, there's a trick I can try right before landing of pitching up just a bit more to either cushion the landing or get myself another 50 feet before landing if needed. This new way of thinking of managing and using airspeed and altitude and power to get the plane to go where I need it to go will help me with all of my flying, especially all of my landings. Before today I understood the concepts of aerodynamics that rule us in the sky but now I feel I am starting to really know how to use those forces.

These are things I would not have learned yet if I could have just mechanically managed to get these landings before now. As my brother said... these perceived failures... are making me a better pilot and my passion will help me keep pushing through these plateaus of learning when reasonable people would walk away.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and today I am very grateful to have the support of my delightful, talented, loving, smart, funny and cool siblings. That my parents are still with me and love me too.  I am grateful to have a fantastic CFI. A flight club with well maintained planes that I can afford to fly. A job that funds my flying. A passion that carries me forward day to day. Friends that celebrate in my passion even though it has taken me away from some of my old haunts and running habits. A husband that loves me and got me into flying in the first place and the friendship of my 15 year old daughter. 

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving where ever you are, and, if you ever feel like you are you hitting one of those stumbling blocks please look back at the wise words of my brother and feel solace. You are not alone and you will not remain where you are if you don't give up.

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