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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Be The Person I Want to Be

T.H.ursday with Tom Hill

As I write this article, I'm sitting in a motorcycle service shop waiting for my bike to get a routine service. It's my first time using this shop since I moved to California a couple months ago. Surprises get me going, and sometimes it's hard to control the emotions that well up if the surprises aren't of the good variety. Before exploding in such situations, I learned to say a little mantra: "Now is the time for me to be the person I want to be."

I'm always angst filled when I go to a new service place because I never know what the people will be like, whether they'll do right by me, and so on. Everything looked great here until the service advisor came by very politely and said, "I misspoke. To change your spark plugs the mechanic said that'll be another 3.5 hours of labor." Essentially, the service I had done for $200 dollars at my previous mechanic will now be almost $600. Dang! 

I'm watching them work on my bike through the window thinking about my gigantic bill. They're struggling with the engine protection plate I put on, which only has five nuts to deal with. As they mess with the bike, I can't see what they're doing all that clearly. There are hammer pounding sounds. With each strike I'm getting more and more agitated. It's everything I can do not to rush into the service bay to see what’s going on. I'm thinking, if they can't do a simple thing like get the plate off, how can they do anything else?

I repeat my mantra, "Be the person I want to be," and calmly ask the service advisor, "Can you ask them what's going on? Because the plate is really easy to take off." She's very sweet and goes out to talk to the mechanics and returns. Seems a nut was stripped because the previous service over tightened it. I settle down a lot but I'm still very aware of the impending large bill.

Eventually, I talk to the service manager who helped with the nut removal. He's a nice guy. He spoke very clearly about how tight "someone" had torqued down the nut, and how much of a pain it was to remove. I thanked him for his answers.

Calm is returning to the scene.

I learned the "mantra" about 15 years ago. I can't remember why I adopted it but having it, saying it to myself, has helped me maintain my cool when things get particularly stressful in critical situations (I'm not just talking about flying, by the way).

When I was new to flying, if I didn't perform as I thought I should, I was extremely hard on myself. I remember one sim evaluation that wasn't going as well as I wanted. My internal pressure built so much, it was everything I could do to stay focused and still finish the simulator. All that self-applied pressure was not helping - it was actually hurting me.

Somewhere along the way I adopted the mantra. I learned that becoming overly agitated, adding emotion on top of already tense situations, doesn't do much good at all. And, it wouldn’t allow me to be the person I wanted to be. I wanted to be that calm person in the sea of chaos when "stuff" was happening. Getting overly animated, agitated, whatever you want to call it, was not who I wanted to be. I did not want to portray myself that way. The most important thing I learned in all this was I had a choice. I could decide not to be "that guy."

I don't think most people realize they have this type of control. For me, saying that mantra when I have those feelings build inside does me wonders. Even if being calm didn't fix the situation as it was, at least I wasn't acting like an idiot while things weren't going right.

As aviators we are constantly exposed to stressful situations. Most of the time we handle the stress easily. But, sometimes circumstances make us act other than we desire. Some of us are more prone to that than others. Me, I have my share of being that way. What some of you might not know is yes, it's totally controllable - that at any given moment we can be precisely who we want to be, 100% of the time. We have that choice. And those that don't believe it - well, that's a choice in itself.


The photos are from Tom's vacation to the east which included Acadia National Park in Maine. 


  1. Oh Tom!

    This is exactly what I needed! And the photos... Very nice!


    1. Thanks for your comment Alex. You need to find your mantra. The positive one that will kill the voices! You will be the person you want to become. Yes...this was for you! And lots of us.


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