Mar 23, 2007

Finding the Center

Log Entry 1980 - DC9 F/O. - Winnipeg - Taxiing out

“You know, this job isn’t fun any more. It’s so routine. And I’m flying with some captains who are driving me crazy with their idiosyncrasies and inefficient practices. When I try to show them a better idea, they don’t listen. In fact they get ticked off with me.” I could hear the discontent loud and clear when first officer Tommy Turrel first expressed his frustrations. “It’ll be better when I get promoted,” he continued. “Then I’ll be able to run things my way and it’ll be fun again.”

Now here we were a year later taxiing the long distance towards the button of runway 18 at CYWG and we had a couple of moments to chat. Tommy had his promotion to the left seat, and I had moved up to first 'O' on the DC-9. It was our first trip together on the new airplane.

“How are you enjoying the left seat?” I asked.

“You know, it’s still the same job," he replied. "I thought that once I upgraded to Captain I’d enjoy it more, but it’s still the same.”

I learned something important from Tommy that day. No matter how much I enjoy flying, I decided I’d better look for something deeper than a mere job on which to center my life.

This is a realization that some airline pilots get, but others never do. Some remain continually focused on moving up the seniority ladder always certain that the next promotion will bring the 'fun' back into life. It’s easy to spot these folks when the airline industry takes a nose-dive, which it always does at regular intervals. During the down-times as careers actually slide backwards, and pilots are layed off, those for whom ‘the career’ is the end-all and be-all are understandably shaken. They become morose, angry and generally sullen. Meanwhile the pilots who have centered themselves elsewhere, recognize the current troubles, but still manage to enjoy the wonders of life.

Another colleague put it this way one day during our initial training days at GooseAir.

“I just realized my whole life is now mapped out! I’ll be a Boeing 727 second officer, then a DC-9 first officer, then a B-767 first officer, then a DC-9 Captain, then a 727 captain, then a 767 captain — I’ll never make it to the left seat of the Boeing 747 because I’m too old. The only pilots who’ll ever gain enough seniority to fly the left seat of the B747 are the ones who are hired when they’re eighteen…. So I’ll remain a B-767 captain until I retire. Then I’ll die.”

He was obviously a little discontented by this prospect. He began looking for excitement beyond his career. It wasn’t long before stories emerged of huge debts he had piled up from stock market losses. And these were soon followed by stories of gambling problems.

Long before his career played out the way he’d pictured it that day back in training school, he lost his job through a combination of personal problems and attendant medical woes.

When we realize the need to center ourselves beyond the career, it's wise to look for the right way to do that. It's critical that we zero in on the true source of the discontentment.

Here’s something from a book I'm reading that talks about this:

“A discontented person won’t find contentment through any outward change. Put her in a new and bigger house, and she’ll still complain. A discontented man can change wives, but if he doesn’t address the spiritual cancer within, he’ll grow just as weary with the new one. Trying to find contentment in this world without addressing the inner person is no more drastic a change than simply changing cubicles while continuing to work for the same company. Your location may change but the overall environment is exactly the same.” pg. 188; Authentic Faith — Gary Thomas


Aviatrix said...

I phrase that one, "Wherever you go, there you are." I used to think it was just a silly thing people said, but then as I began to recognize my own strengths and weaknesses and have them manifest in Weasel Falls as easily as Metropolis it dawned on me what the phrase really meant.

You can't run away from your problems, and if you're not happy where you are, then you never will be.

Aluwings said...

Yup - good way to express it. I think that discovering this aspect of life is sometimes the 'silver lining' in trials and set-backs. From reading your "Cockpit Comments" I know this is something you are familiar with.