When fears are grounded, dreams take flight.
After discussing what it means to take off and head towards dreams, I had a question for the pilot. We all know that when it comes to flying, there are baggage allowances, with slight variations according to airlines but in line with aviation requirements.
Nevertheless, I’ve come across stories whereby some passengers have complained and even sued airlines for being asked to sit next to what they called 'overweight' passengers. How do airlines address this issue?
The Thoughtful Pilot answered, “Everybody is allowed to fly because there are allowances for people, including those with flaws. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh, it’s already been factored in the Weight and Balance Allowances. Don’t let anything hold you back from pursuing your dreams or going on an adventure. It doesn’t matter what your situation is, whether you’re a single mum with children, etc. There’s baggage, then there’s luggage.”
He continued, “No-one is perfect, which is why airlines make allowances. This means you can actively participate, however much you’ve been through in life. Don’t limit yourself, go on that adventure!”
As I heard this, I thought about the times when I talked myself out of going on adventures or pursuing what I really wanted, for fear of what others would say. Perhaps you can relate. Some people have even developed flight phobias, not because of what they’ve gone through, but because of what they fear could happen. As you journey towards your dreams, there will be people out there who will highlight your imperfections and give you a million and more reasons why you can’t fly. They will tell that you’re too ambitious, too small, too big, too inexperienced, unqualified, overqualified, too skinny, too dark, too old, too young, too something! Must you stay on the ground because of other people’s opinions?
In light of his words of wisdom concerning baggage, I also reflected on our previous chats. The writer in me thrives on engaging and meaningful conversations, so a lot of the things he'd previously mentioned had not gone unnoticed. The first time we spoke, I knew I’d crossed paths with not only a confident individual who is genuinely passionate about what he does, but someone capable of ruffling feathers until you get to understand him. He’d touched on his personal journey and said that fear was not his friend. All the trials and challenges he’d faced had only made him stronger and more resilient. His faith had been tested to the maximum, but he’d seen and experienced God’s grace, which makes him approach new challenges with confidence. The Thoughtful Pilot said it was like having a faith reserve: each time he experiences difficult moments, he remembers when all odds were stacked against him yet still, he pulled through.
But how does he keep his faith reserves in tip-top condition? His answer will probably make you assess the kind of people you surround yourself with: “I don’t have time for negativity, negative thinking and negative people, and never waste my time trying to prove anything to people, especially those who don’t matter. People will always have an opinion, which is usually a true reflection of who they are. Also, the more successful I become or the bigger the reward, the more obstacles I have to go past.”
I’ve yet to come across an inspirational individual who’s never had to carry a cross of some sort and go through trials and tribulations. It’s all part of the process; blessings often come with burdens.
Change the labels
May I take this moment to encourage each person who has been through something to take a moment and be grateful that despite everything you’ve been through, you're still standing. Sometimes, that's all the faith reserve you need. It was never meant to be easy, but all things work together for good for all those who have faith in the Lord. He can use what was expected to destroy you as a stepping stone towards your destiny. Is it something you’ve endured, observed or gone through? Use it to make a difference, and turn your life around.
Sometimes, it’s about how you choose to name a situation that makes all the difference. Upon losing a husband and two sons, Naomi asked people to call her Mara because the Almighty had made her life very bitter (Ruth 1:20). She’s not the only one. We tend to describe who we are based on previous bad experiences, instead of opening our eyes to potential blessings or opportunities before us. Even when you've been knocked down, you’re perfectly placed to get up again, and again, and again. I've learnt that success usually is on the other side of how many times you get up, not how everything was plain sailing. You'll most likely come across opportunities while you're still bleeding, hurting and dishevelled as a result of previous falls. Don't dwell on the past, have courage and reach for your dreams.
When a blessing or an opportunity is within reach, the worst thing you can do is keep focusing on what you went through. That’s how you burden yourself with excess baggage. Fear has a way of wanting to trap us in the old, and as humans, we dread change, no matter how promising an opportunity is.
The movie, Queen of Katwe, comes to mind. When the slum kids were finally given a chance to play chess at national level, they were gripped with fear such that some of them yearned to go back home, the very place where they didn’t have good food or many opportunities. Being at home was what they fought so hard to overcome yet it had the power to pull them backwards. It wasn’t because it was enough to sustain them. It was because that's all they’d ever known, and so they went into self-sabotage mode. Haven’t you been through enough already? Change the narrative and rewrite the story, it doesn't have to end the way it started. Go on and embrace change, even if it scares you. Have faith and keep on focusing on where you want to go, even when you sometimes lose control of the situation. Those who've driven in the snow will probably tell you that when the car is skidding, the only way to regain control is to stay calm and steer towards where you want to go.
I've heard of planes that were brought down by lightning, a flock of birds, turbulent winds or other unforeseen circumstances, yet everyone survived, because of how the pilots handled the situation. Captain Sullenberger famously landed a plane on the Hudson River and averted disaster thanks to how the crew handled an emergency landing. There are many other pilots and indeed other individuals who did the unthinkable and steered themselves and passengers out of an impending disaster. We too sometimes face unpleasant and unpredictable situations in life. It's scary, but there will be times when we'll have to utilise what we learnt, not how we feel, to avert disasters.
Going through separation or divorce and don't know how it's going to affect the kids? Read a book and follow instructions. If you are raising a toddler and don't know how to handle their emotions, it helps to do a bit of research about these things. Successful flights mean that we have to keep learning, we can never know everything and here's the best part, the more you fly and go places, the more interesting things you discover!
Driving a point home
The Thoughtful Pilot was not done. “Excess baggage is detrimental to the plane’s ability to take off. The last thing you want is more weight than your energy can carry. Examples of baggage in our lives can include consumerism, perfectionism, bad habits, addictions, fears, inability to forgive, certain friends and indeed families.”
I couldn’t agree more. A lot of the time, how we act is influenced by other people's opinions. Maybe you're living your life, trying to prove a point to that bully from school or the verbally abusive and insecure person who calls you names. Perhaps you’ve been told to reconsider your dreams because no one you know has been to where you’re trying to go. For how long will you allow their fears, concerns or even lack of understanding to be projected onto you? Excess baggage alert!
Cleared for take-off!
As I write this, I’m thinking about a documentary that I once watched on the Discovery Channel. A commercial plane had been grounded for days, thanks to bad weather, but later cleared for take-off by maintenance engineers. Sure enough, the plane went up into the sky, with passengers and crew on board. However, moments after taking off, it started to experience technical problems. The plane crashed, killing everyone on board.
Air crash investigators touched on how the flight should have been aborted immediately after take-off but, as we’ve pointed out in the previous article, communication between senior and junior pilots can be influenced by other factors, such as seniority and lack of confidence to voice observations during critical times. Through no fault of his own, the captain instructed the co-pilot to do the opposite of what he was trying to achieve, based on his faulty readings. The other two pilots didn’t challenge the captain, although their dashboard interpretations conflicted with what they were being asked to do.
However, the main focus of the accident report was not on communication between the three pilots, although it played a role in the events that led to the crash. Investigations also pointed towards a tiny insect, as the chief culprit. They concluded that a wasp had built a nest inside the pitot-tube cylinder while the plane was grounded. Most likely, someone forgot to cover the pitot-tube, and the little insect found its way inside this small yet vital part of the aircraft. This led to incorrect speed readings soon after taking off, which created chaos in the cockpit.
How many of us have unwittingly ignored small issues, which often look harmless, yet affect our personal journey? We tend to focus on tremendous achievements that are visible as measures of success. Meanwhile, we’re losing connection with those people who genuinely matter, or perhaps failing to sustain our well-being with vital things that are essential to our health. A walk in the park for some fresh air, freshly-prepared meals instead of takeaways, a few minutes a day talking to a friend, instead of aimlessly scrolling on your phone. Perhaps you're spending 60-72 hours a week at work, trying to raise enough money to make life-changing decisions, at the expense of your health. I’m not writing about this lightly, because I know what it takes to achieve our goals. Sometimes we just have to put in the hours. However, the number of immigrant men and women living alone in the U.K. who suddenly collapse at work or at home is staggering.
Some are relying on antidepressants to keep themselves going. We’ll probably never know the complete stories, but usually there’s a pattern of long working hours (shift work), lack of sleep, lack of social interactions, isolation and loneliness. When I studied Operations Management as part of my qualification towards my Master’s degree (International Management), I was surprised to learn that the effects of shift work patterns are well documented, and they often bring undesirable consequences to workers and their families. Not suggesting that people quit work, but sometimes, we carry heavy loads because that’s what we’re expected to do. Remember, there’s baggage, and there’s luggage. Only you can determine if something is worth carrying at the expense of your health or well-being.
Examples of baggage in our lives can include consumerism, perfectionism, bad habits, addictions, fears, inability to forgive, certain friends and indeed families.
Indeed, there will be times when we all have to make sacrifices and carry each other to go far. But it will create problems if that becomes a way of life, and the small things ignored are giving you problems. Even a tiny insect can bring a mighty plane down.
It may not be visible. It will most certainly seem harmless, but nevertheless, there are specific issues that we need to address before we commit to flying, lest we crash, taking others with us. Small things could be resentment, envy, jealousy, deep-seated anger, unresolved conflicts or negative thoughts that crept in while we thought we were just living. Sometimes, the things that can bring us down feel like light weights, because we’ve carried them for too long, and we’ve become used to the pain.
Be honest with yourself and address any negativity in your life as much as possible, otherwise, "you will end up with more weight than your energy can carry."
The Thoughtful Pilot also touched on the ups and downs of life and how to deal with the unexpected. “There are things that you have to penetrate through, e.g. fears, phobias, doubts and life’s challenges, to get to where you’re meant to be. It may be uncomfortable but the more prepared you are, the better you handle life’s battles.”
He continued, “Choosing battles is also vital; some things you avoid, some you don’t. However, trying to prevent conflicts that you should be fighting can unduly prolong your journey. You will come across some uncomfortable turbulences that can shake you, but they don’t cause damage to the craft. Sometimes, turbulence is predictable, but it can be unexpected. However, the size of the aircraft determines how much turbulence you can get through. Sometimes, it’s best to stay on the ground until conditions improve.”
"A plane may develop cracks or system failures as a result of turbulence; in that case, you may need to divert. However, the more confident you are (skills, resources and training), the more prepared you will be. Continue to monitor systems; it could be through self-appraisal and evaluations concerning your life. System checks can help you identify if you’ve suffered damage during turbulent times. Make sure there is no damage to yourself, your employees or even your marriage. If there’s been some damage, do not ignore the signs. Seek help if you have to before it’s too late. Underlying problems should be detected before things get worse. For example, a fuel leak unchecked can cause catastrophic damage, however small the amount.”
I couldn't help but revisit Chuck Yeager's famous words about landing. Having taken a few risky flights during World War II, he reflected:
"If you can walk away from a landing, it's a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it's an outstanding landing."
You see, as you go through life, things will sometimes get bumpy, and you might be forced to land in emergency situations. You might take detours, the road to destiny is never straight forward. Don't be hard on yourself when bad things happen, either due to your own mistakes or indeed, attacks from the enemy. Dust yourself up, and be grateful that you're still alive. Take it as a lesson learnt. Rocky Balboa once said, "It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!"
You too can get up, and start all over again!
Thoughtful Pilot continued, “Before you fly again, make sure you’ve assessed the plane. Has there been damage to the aircraft or systems during previous flights? Have you been at the mercy of abnormal weather patterns and forced to stay on the ground for a while? As an individual, make sure you assess these three areas of your life:
Here's the Thoughtful Pilot's final take, "God always has protection mechanisms to guide and protect all of us. There are angels assigned to protect us. Although there is now a lower level of trust and more security measures in place, the only thing that sometimes keeps you airborne is having a secure belief system. Personally, having a Christian background has seen me through the worst storms in life and taken me places I never thought possible."
With that ladies and gentlemen, we've come to the end of our discussions concerning life as a flight from point A to B. I hope you'll be encouraged to keep soaring, despite life's ups and downs.
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Life as a journey...
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard as Ubuntu Courtyard takes you through a series of inspirational travel stories so you can reach for the stars.