4 Life Lessons I Learned While flying

Planes do have keys. And not like car keys, more like locker keys or safe keys – one of the things that went through my mind while I was on my way to my first flying lesson.

Why did I decide to take flying lessons? It may come as a shock to some of my friends and family, but I never really showed an interest in flying. But as the whole world can attest to, we’re not all acting right these days. And so, while I was doing my daily YouTube or Netflix binge, someone on screen mentioned they were learning to fly, and I stopped and said to myself, “That would be a cool bucket-list thing – fly a plane!” As our attention spans get shorter and shorter, I put the idea into the back of my mind and forgot about it.

When I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post in an LA group I’m part of advertising private flying lessons. First, I was shocked, thinking that my Google home picked it up somehow and is now showing me relevant posts due to keywords. But then I lost interest in that idea and went back to how cool it would be to learn to fly. I hit up the flying instructor, and a week later, I had booked a demo flying lesson. The demo is to see how I’d feel up in the air at the helm and also to see if it gave me the spark I was looking for.

But you clicked this because you want to learn some sweet life lessons (or because you’re curious why I chose to fly in the first place). I’ll get to those lessons in a sec. But, I wanted to articulate just how cool it is up in the air. Taking control of the plane as my instructor sat there and looked at her iPad, trying to ensure air traffic control was doing well. Seeing LA from a different perspective is such a vibe. Flying past Catalina Island and Queen Mary 4000 feet in the air is something not everyone can say they did. And although my demo flying lesson was short, some things clicked for me while I was up there. Here it goes.

Lesson 1: Don’t Force Things

The plane yoke, not the steering wheel (I learned that up there too), moves the plane only with the slightest push/tug/pull. My instructor explained to me when turning the plane left to nudge it ever so slightly to the left. After doing that, there’s a slight delay in the plane, as if it’s registering the move, and then it follows suit. It was super cool making my first turn and feeling the plane move in all its glory. To say I moved an aeronautical device in the air to the left, upwards, to the right, and doing a 360, it’s all so cool to me.

That feeling came from not forcing it. Some things in life happen better when done organically; when they’re not forced. Great things, like meaningful relationships, take time to build and form. When relationships, jobs, or hobbies are forced to fall in a specific place, often they may not, causing further stress. When I was in the air flying the plane, I knew that it took care and patience to get it to where I wanted it to go. This opened up my eyes to practice the same care and patience with all aspects of life.

Lesson 2: Pay Attention to Details

I admit that sometimes I’m passé about details and crossing my Ts and dotting my Is. Sometimes I just can not be bothered. This chill vibe ruined my Peru vacation. Perhaps I’m too type b, I don’t know. But that certainly isn’t the attitude one should have in the air. I observed just how detail-oriented my instructor is.

First, she had to fill out a lot of paperwork before we even got on the plane. I asked what she was doing, and she said the paperwork she was filling out had to do with regular maintenance – that the maintenance team needs to know which planes to look at and when. Further, she had all these different devices and checklists to get the plane ready, doing final checks and tests making sure everything is in order. Once in the plane, she had another checklist that she was going over to make sure everything was in tip-top shape for takeoff. Next time your Air Canada pilot is running late, it probably means they misplaced their checklist. 

Can you imagine if she forgot to check some things and they ended up going wonky in the air? Now not everything in life needs to be meticulously reviewed, but I admire her dedication to the craft and being so focused on every single thing. Not only the checklist was impressive, but while in the air she was looking at all the gauges to make sure everything was going as planned. I even asked her if she ever does not consult the checklist. She said that even after 1000 flights, she still consults the checklist. That’s dedication. Such attention to detail can serve others well in so many areas: yearly planning at work, figuring out the education, and even deciding what to wear on Saturday. I appreciate it.

Lesson 3: Ignoring Things Around You Could Be Detrimental

I mentioned earlier that my flight instructor was looking at her iPad religiously to see all other planes in the vicinity. Not only was she paying attention to the planes, but also listening to air traffic control explain where some of these planes were flying from. At one point, a Delta Airlines flight was notified that we were in their flight path and that they had to be aware of that. Ignoring traffic control would be devastating.

This thought stuck with me in terms of maneuvering in life. They say that you should not care what others think or that you should not let other people get to you. This does make sense. But this particular lesson resonates with me when it comes to determining if those around you are good for you; if those around you are detrimental. You may already know that you’re most like the handful of people that are around you. Say your GF/BF, best friend, mom/dad, sister/brother, boss – let’s say you’re most like those people. If one of those people is poisonous to your health, or brings you bad energy and makes you feel like crap, if you continue with that relationship, then it can take its toll. That’s why it’s important to be aware of others around us, as they can make or break our quality of life. If someone no longer serves you well, cut them off for 2021! Make space for someone better like we made space for Delta Airlines.

Lesson 4: Trust the Process if Things Go to Shit

My flight instructor explained that planes tend to do their things up there. Yeah, you’re piloting the plane, but if you don’t do anything it’ll somehow correct itself. She then explained there’s a spiraling exercise they do where they replicate a plane spiraling out of control and how to fix it. Full disclaimer here, I may have misheard her, but she said that during a spiral to let the plane be as it will find a way to correct itself. If I’m wrong, well fuck me, but that’s what I got from her up in the air.

This lesson is particularly fitting for last year and 2021. The world has gone to shit (in LA especially). Many of us are probably wondering what to do next, how to fix the life we’re living, when will it all get better. But when life goes wonky, sometimes it’s best to trust the process. Things will get better as long as we practice safety protocols during COVID-19. But without COVID-19, it’s good to trust that things will work out. Know that you don’t have control over everything in life, only how you react to it.

I hope my $109 demo lesson resonated with you, dear reader, as much as it did to me while I was up there. If you’re curious to learn how to fly, I say do it. It was an absolute rush controlling a plane up in the skies of LA, and it’s an awesome bucket-list thing I checked off. Although my time in the air was short, it showed me cool things about life that I hope to practice on the regular ole’ boring ground.

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