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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, March 6, 2014

The First Step

T.H.ursday with Tom Hill

I think it’s pretty easy to discount possibility. We talk about dreaming big, setting large goals, making pithy statements like, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” But, when you point yourself into the wind and carefully consider what’s possible, it’s easy to flinch. “The path is too long.” “I don’t have enough money.” “There isn’t enough time.” “I’m not good enough.” Think of all the reasons you can’t make it. Write them down. Even if you have a million reasons not to take that first step, I’m sure there’s one more reason. I’m pointing this out to make an observation: It is always easier to say, “I can’t,” than it is to say, “I can.”

As Yoda says 
“Do or do not. There is no try.”


All of that sounds awesome in moviedom, but it also rings true with us somehow. I know it does for me. It rings true because it IS true. So often, we let doubt get in the way. Even though the desire is there, the doubt gets in the way. “I’ll try,” some may say. That's just another way of saying, “If this doesn't work out, I was right to doubt myself.”

I’ve never heard of a formal poll that asks what students of Test Pilot School dreamed of doing when they were kids. When I was five, I clearly remember telling my sister, who was seven at the time, that I wanted to be an astronaut. I have friends who were “that kid” who played spaceship with gigantic cardboard boxes. They had posters of airplanes and aviation heroes on their bedroom walls instead of pop stars. Getting to TPS is not a fly-by-night desire. It’s a goal built on years of dreams.

Aviation was always a part of my future. TPS only became a specific career goal when I was getting my engineering degree at the University of Michigan. While the likelihood of me attending TPS was pretty small back then, it became more of a real possibility with every milestone in my Air Force career.


After flying for 30 years, being a test pilot, experimenting with dozens of aircraft, and doing a whole lot of cool things, I never thought the path from the beginning of my career would have led me where I am. Each of the twists in my early career took me in seemingly unrelated directions that in hindsight made my application for attending TPS stronger. 
 
If someone told me at the beginning of that path that I needed to hit each of the steps just as I did, I probably would’ve turned away, full of doubt. Instead, I had no idea there was a reason to doubt. Back then, I had faith that if I tried as hard as I could and constantly pointed myself where I wanted to go, it would all work out. In the end, that is precisely what happened.

When I started my path, I was full of possibility. I had no confirmation it would all work out. That’s another way of saying, if I really thought it out, I probably would have picked another, more rational, direction. I probably would have been full of doubt and it’s not likely I would be where I am today. I am glad it did not occur to me to doubt. I am glad I had faith in what was possible. I am glad I knew where I wanted to go far into the distance. I am glad I took that first step.

Cheers 
Tom

8 comments:

  1. Tom, this is a perfect post for me today. I am working on my next work...and this is a theme. There are so many reasons we make excuses to not do something. The question is why do some go into that wind and others don't. Could it be the power of focus on possibility with a bit of faith thrown in, where failure is not an option and opportunities abound? Thanks for another great post! This is something for all to think about.

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    1. Here's something... when we were graduating from high school and thinking about what was next, we had few of the concerns that would face us nowadays with today's issues. What I mean is I don't think I thought twice about "what if I don't pass." It never entered my brain. Now that I'm successful at something and think about branching out, I constantly think about that, "what if I don't pass." I think it's interesting how our brains adjust and interpret risk as we get older.

      Cheers

      Tom

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  2. Unfortunately for me, the path to TPS starts with 20/20 vision. :(

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    1. Yes, so :( But in my world you just need "corrected" to 20/20. It's never too late, until it's too late.

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    2. DB... there is more to test pilot school than being a pilot or a pilot with 20/20 vision. As long as your vision is correctable to 20/20, things are good.

      Passing the physical is a challenge for lots of people. Unfortunately, the physical is not a test you can study for. For some it's seeing colors properly. For others, its height. Still others, it's a totally treatable heart thing. It's unfortunate... I've been lucky in that I still pass my annual just fine. The only thing I"m working through nowadays is hearing which might be my downfall somewhere down the road. Who knows...

      Cheers

      Tom

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    3. Tom, As it is...that lost hearing is a result of the job. As is the eyesight with age. I have to smile at the initial health requirements for the airlines. I think American was the most strict at one time. I suspect they forgot their pilots would age, and our eyesight and hearing would fail. Now most things are doable if correctable. I was sure about the military. Thanks for the info.

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  3. Tom,
    I had the same dream. I too wanted to be an astronaut. I let a physical issue derail me - found out later I could have gotten a waiver for the military. Great advice here!

    Brent

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    1. Thanks for your comment Brent. A good message to all. Don't let your limitations derail you until you've given it everything you have. That old saying... "If I'd only known" is heard often.

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