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

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, 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. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Secrets Of Success...

Through Life's Instructional Moments
Blogging in Formation continues....

Many years ago I began a Masters Degree in Education because I wanted to understand how people learned, what hindered them and what helped them to achieve their highest success. As it turned out, the Masters in Education was geared more to the administrative side of education and less to the psychology. Thus I shifted to a Masters in Human Services and focused on psychology. Primarily—what made people tick.

My most Instructional Moments 
are those I find in everyday life

My quest began. Today I will share seven easy lessons to put in your flight bag. Success will be yours. 

If you can capture the art of learning, 
there is nothing you cannot do.

Lesson One: YOU are Responsible for Learning.

Ron Rapp posed a great question… Who is responsible for learning? While the debate continues, the fact of the matter is—you are responsible for your learning. Teachers present the information but it’s up to the student to learn. 
Do the work. Study. Prepare.

You will have bad teachers—some who can’t teach, others whose personality doesn’t mesh with yours and some with alternate motives than your success. This is not an excuse for your failure. This is an excuse for you to move on and find another teacher.

If you went to the market and picked up a bag of apples that upon inspection had worms, were soft and bruised… whose fault is it if you purchase them?

Lesson Two: Be accountable for your own training

I was a low time pilot with a 727-type rating. Three engines on the tail… not a big deal with an engine failure. Heck, even two failing were a piece of cake. Then I went to the 737 and the first engine failure in the simulator I went sideways.
The instructor said, “You’re doing it wrong.”

“No Kidding!”

If I had accepted his telling me I was doing it wrong (5 times) and not demanded the answer to 'why' from myself, I would have failed. I  wanted to know why I was doing it wrong and fix it. Once I figured out that I needed more rudder than the 727 I was on my way. He was a shitty instructor for a student who had never flown a twin-engine jet before. He may have been great for an experienced pilot. I also learned another valuable lesson...

Lesson Three: Figure out why you failed 
and don’t do it again.

I trained my mind to look for the reason(s) I was not achieving the results I desired. Once I figured out how to fix my runway excursion myself I progressed nicely. Could I have achieved those results with an awesome instructor? Absolutely. But I did not allow his inability lead to my demise. There is a world of resources that we all have available to us. Use them! I found another instructor. I also live by this mantra. I want to know why. With that information, I can remember anything.

Lesson Four: Learn From Experience

Capn Aux and Brent Owens provided great examples of their best learning moments from life mishaps.

Building flight hours

I was given a clearance coming over the mountains to descend. I accepted it, and put myself in icing conditions in a plane that could not handle the buildup. Fortunately I was far enough over the pass that further descent was an option. I learned… do not allow ATC to put you where you do not want to be.

During a ferry flight of a Cessna 172 from Wichita Kansas, to Renton WA, I flight planned to make many stops. Fuel would not be an issue. However, I ran into winds that left me an hour plus behind schedule and hovering over the end of a runway. I got her in and taxied to the fuel pump just as my engine shutdown. Yes… she was hungry. I had put myself in a spot with un-forecasted winds and for the final hour of flight was planning on which road I would land on. I got lucky.
Two traits inimical to learning are:
The Fear of Failure and The Need To Be Right.

Lesson Five: Lose the need be right.

Your ego might just be your greatest hindrance to learning. You have the ability to condition your brain to search, query, and wonder—Brain training. When a situation arises your brain will go on autopilot searching for an answer. But if you think you are always right, you will condition your brain to shutdown options of incoming data if it does not match your paradigm. A closed mind is an ignorant mind. It is also a mind that doesn't play well with others.

Lesson Six: Do Not Fear Failure

If you fear failure, you won’t push yourself to achieve the success you could achieve. What if you fail? What if you don’t achieve what you were set out to accomplish? 
Columbus was in search of India and ended up in America. Dr. Spencer Silver was attempting to make the strongest adhesive and failed—the result: Post It Notes. 
There is nothing that you could fail at that cannot be used to your benefit. You may not become a millionaire but you might just learn a valuable lesson for the future. 
Every cloud has a silver lining. 
It is up to you to find it.

When you fear failure you limit yourself 
as to how far you are able to fly.
Lesson Seven: There are only two ways to fail
Never try, or quit.
There will be times that you try something and realize you don't like it. Quitting in this case is not a failure. It's a lesson learned through experience and you move on. It takes great courage to know yourself well enough and change your mind, despite the external pressures of family and friends. 
But if you quit something that you love because you fear you can't be the best, or it's too hard, or any multitude of reasons... in my book, that is a failure. If you don't do it because of fear of failure... that is a failure. 
You will always be a success 
if you go boldly into your dreams 
and do the best you can... the outcome is immaterial. 
What Is Your Favorite Lesson? 
Remember to check out Andrew and Dan’s posts. More instructional moments coming your way!

Thu Oct 3: Smart Flight Training - Andrew Hartley
Fri Oct 4: Airplanista - Dan Pimentel

Enjoy the Journey!

XO Karlene


  1. Awesome Karlene! Your personal stories woven into those seven keys to success are a home run! It's would be impossible to read this post and not learn something immensely valuable.

    1. Thank you so much Brent. It would be great to have everyone follow your great example of life. But sometimes we are an example of what not to do, too.

  2. Then I'm doing exactly right. What a relief!

    Okay, I will never give up on my dreadful studies. I promise!

    And... My favorite lesson? All seven. But more about the ego.


    1. Thank you Alex! You just keep up that great work. You're going to do awesome in your life. Yes... more about that ego. Just tame the beast as needed. :)

  3. Excellent list! Quite eye-opening as well.

    I especially like, "Two traits inimical to learning are:
    The Fear of Failure and The Need To Be Right." True, pilots tend to have huge egos--the very thing that hinders proper learning!

    I once had to tell a student "You're not a very good pilot." Why? Because his ego was so huge, he was NOT learning! It shocked him out of his dream world, and humbled him enough to where learning could take place, and he finally started advancing again!

    Thanks for the excellent insight!

    1. It's very difficult to say that to someone you want to encourage, but sometimes it HAS to be said. Good on 'ya for not shying away from it!

    2. Eric, so much power for you to tell him that! This is the one thing I've witnessed over the years... if they could lose the ego, anything is possible. Thank you for sharing your example.

      And Ron... so true. Sometimes the most difficult thing to say is the most necessary. But far too often those words go left unsaid because we don't want to cause problems. Sometimes it does...but in Eric's case, the guy figured it out.


  4. All good lessons. As they say, half of life is just showing up. I'm always amazed at how many people have trouble with that!

    Your axioms are pilot friendly -- by that I mean they are very short and sweet, which makes them simple, kind of like a checklist. :)

    1. Thank you so much Ron. Short and sweet...easy for pilots to get and retain. lol Thank you so much for the comment!

  5. I've had students that were angry or frustrated that they didn't get it right. I've told many "Hey, it's a lesson. If you were expected to do it perfectly by now, it would have been a checkride!"
    We often learn more by our mistakes, and seeing what it's like to not do it perfectly, its consequences and then recognizing and recovering from that.
    It's a lesson, don't be afraid to try stuff, or to fail (within safe limits, of course). Don't set out to impress anyone, you'll do much better by trying to expand grasp the concepts and the edges of the envelope.
    Example: If you're perfectly on speed for ever approach in the lesson, then you'll never learn what it takes to slow down when you're too fast, or the limits of how fast you can be and still be able to slow down.

    1. Bill, Thank you so much for the great comment. Yes... we all need to know what it takes to slow down. That is a perfect analogy. Imagine if we only taught pilots to fly their plane with the perfect vectors to final... on managed speed.

      Then one day they found themselves high, fast, and had to know how to make it work.

      Yes... training is the best place for experience... to learn is all. Thanks for the great comment and being a great instructor!

  6. Thanks Karlene. IMO that's one of t he very best posts that you've ever written and spot on!! -C.

    1. Thank you so much Craig! I really appreciate it. And... more to come.

    2. Thanks Karlene. In the end, it is 99% about Human Performance. Even most mechanical issues can be overcome by educated and attentive pilots. I'm jazzed about your pending doctoral program and I think you'll dive into this, head-first. I've often wondered if, in addition to the PF and PM traditions, flying rolls should be swapped more often that just every leg; even in cruise, put 90% of the load on one pilot for an hour -or even a half hour and let the other relax a bit. At the interval time, brief relevant details and swap. If done right, it could achieve a high degree of attention by someone, but not long enough that the intense focus burns them out. Long-haul might have a longer interval and short haul perhaps much shorter. In an earlier life, my OR nurse colleagues and I often used this routine during some long, very intense procedures. Maybe? WHen you get into your studies and research, please don't over look Human Factors experience from other professions. Some may translate and some may not, but I hope you will at least have a look at how other high tech professions operate. Sadly, OR nursing is not a great example. There are a few enlightened crews, but too much like pilots, many are bound by tradition and often to the degree of 'eating' their young. The tech performance world needs folks like you to study these things, test improvements and sell the evidence to those who write and approve the SOPs. Go for it! -C.

    3. Thank you so much Craig. Yes... in the end it is all about human performance. And I love your idea.

      The interesting thing is on the long haul flights there is not a lot to be done. The overload comes in at the departure or arrival phase.

      I flew with a captain who had his own way of doing things... and one of which I had done at another airline and worked great then, and now.

      Something as simple as radio work. Now the pilot running radios listens, complies and dials in the freq. So often you're tired, repeating back and the numbers we transpose. So many times we hear... "can you repeat the frequency."

      It had nothing to do with not hearing it. It has everything to do with dialing in, while repeating back. Either there is a long delay while you type then talk. Or you try to talk while typing to not forget. Task saturation while fatigued.

      But... what if the PF who is not talking dials in the freq while the pilot talking repeats to freq to ATC.

      This pulls both pilots into a freq change. Makes it more efficient in dialing. And... reduces radio congestion... "What was that freq again?"

      I am really excited to begin this journey as there is so much to be done! And there are many ways we can share the load.

      Thank you so much for the comment and the vote of confidence!!

  7. This article is excellent advice for any student pilot, I bookmarked this one! Will be sharing it on my Twitter and Linkedin soon!

    What a thorough article Karlene, I'm going to have to link to it on my own site :)

    Thanks for another awesome post,
    -Swayne Martin

    1. Thank you so much Swayne. I am actually writing a book with more of this. And... each letter in Flight To Success is a less to be learned. Coming soon!

  8. You are right.The words are well chosen and correct to find success and improve safety.
    Thank you very much for your advices. These seven rules should be learnt in all flying schools. I'm going to use them with my students pilots.
    Thank you so much


    1. Yannick, Thank you very much for the wonderful comment. One of the greatest gifts we receive is when we can share information and that info is passed on. Thank you for your support.


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