We believe that the path of self-development is upward. We want to go to the next level or rise up to peak performance. I believe self-development can occur by spiralling downward.
Hop into the cockpit as we take off to a new spin on self-development.
Even as a 4 year old I dreamed of being a pilot. I was transfixed as the old propeller Trans Canada Airlines Vanguards and Viking planes would fly into the Regina airport. My dream was defeated because I was colorblind. My father told me that because I was colorblind I could not fly. I loved my dad but we should be cautious of what anyone tells us, even the people we love and who love us.
Dad was wrong.
I could not get a commercial licence but I but I could qualify for a private pilot’s licence. There was nothing so uplifting as flying solo for the first time.
Yet, as in landing and taking off, flying has its ups and downs. In learning to fly we practice incipient spins. The start of a spin that we pull out of before it goes into a full spin.
On a Tuesday afternoon I was practicing this manoeuvre. I flew up to 4000 feet, stalled the aircraft (on purpose) kicked the rudder hard to the left (on purpose) and moved into the incipient spin. Although the plane was moving my brain froze and in two seconds I was into a full spin…spinning out of control towards the ground.
The airplane seemed to be stuck in the air while the ground started to spin up to suck me and the airplane into the earth. The instruments jerked over the red line and I panicked as I tried to correct by pulling back on the wheel, away from the ground, and kicking the rudder hard to the right, away from the spin. This evasive action merely intensified the spin I was already in.
During the next few moments there were a bizarre chain of events. My life was about to end but nothing meaningful was flashing before consciousness. I had hoped for more and then a momentary curiosity flashed across my neurons. Would I see some kind of light just before I died?
Just as I was drifting into a contemplation of the afterlife, I heard someone scream, “F _ _ K”. That somone was me. What a way to go, an obscenity as my last spoken word on earth. Yet the obscene scream jolted me into action.
The way out is through.
I pushed the control wheel towards the ground.
I kicked the rudder further into the spin.
The cessena shuddered.
The ground paused.
I levelled out with under 100 feet to spare. I had flown the plane through the spin rather than fighting the spin and making it worse.
You can call it a near death experience, you can call it a miracle, but I call it ineptitude with a dash of obscene good luck.
Below are lessons spun from this experience. I offer them to you as invitations so that you can pull out of your own “incipient spin.”
Be careful what you dream for, you never know how it might end up.
Don’t always trust people who tell you that you can’t do something but they might be more helpful than you know at the time.
The key lesson not just in flying but in life from this for me was: The way out of something is through it. We often need to push into what we fear and experience what we dread.
If you are not competent it may be best to stop before you hurt yourself of someone else. I was the best ground school pilot that year at the Winnipeg Flying Club but I sucked as a real pilot. You will be happy to know the sky is safe and that I only fly as a passenger now – but be careful if you sit beside me as I might want to tell you my story.
Sometimes our toughest moments become our best stories. When we transform experience into story we can change the past — not the facts of the past but what we take away from it.
Although I embrace respectful language I discovered that swear words, at the right time and place, can be quite liberating and maybe even put a whole new spin on our life.
Photo Credit: Cessna 172R by http://flickr.com/photos/lonetown/712037662/
If this were your last day, would you die happy today?