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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.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Hard Way

T.H.ursday with Tom Hill

Karlene and I shared a couple observations when I sent in an article a few weeks ago. I told her how impressed I am with her crazy schedule, the many irons she has in the fire, and the recent "watch" she had over her husband while he was in the hospital. I know lots of people, myself included, might've cried, "Uncle!" if we had half her list of things to do. Our discussion traveled quickly from what comforts us in trying times to a quote I found by noted polar explorer Ben Saunders: 
"Inspiration and growth only come from adversity and from challenge - from stepping away from what's comfortable and familiar and stepping out into the unknown." 
That is so true. What I found from my own experiences is that the path that takes me to the most satisfying events in my life is most likely the one colored with the most challenge. If you are a seeking to accomplish significant things, challenge is simply the cost of doing business. There's no free lunch, in other words. Unfortunately, in our "instant and constant satisfaction now" world, the harder path isn't easily embraced.

Since this is an aviation website, let's consider this: it's not easy becoming a pilot. If you're just starting your training, the economics of making a career as a commercial aviator could look foolish. The cost is so high and the risks are so great. If you get a little carried away with the facts, you might even convince yourself it's safer to stay in bed than risk wasting money on another cross-country flight. Doing a little math, you could estimate the total cost of earning all the hours required by a commercial operator. With tens of thousands of dollars staring at you at the beginning of your training, you might say to yourself, "How am I going to afford that and still put food on the table?"

This is a reasonable question, but people figure it out. Folks take the leap and start the journey all the time and eventually make their dreams come true. Ask Karlene. I'm sure she has story after story of people who took that first step into adversity and it all worked out. It's kind of miraculous how it happens.

What I promote is this perspective: don't be put off by the hard path before you've even started. In fact, that path might be the best one in the end. For one thing, assessing how hard something will be while sitting on your couch is terribly unreliable. In the end, that hard path is never as difficult as we fear, and life always seems to work out. When you're committed to something, life always seems to work for you. At least that's been my experience.

As Ben Saunders says, "inspiration and growth only come from adversity and from challenge...." While we aren't talking about something as epic as schlepping a sledge weighed with hundreds of kilos of food and equipment across the Arctic ice, there is opportunity in our everyday lives for inspiration and growth just by turning toward challenges instead of turning away. With each step on the epic journey, there's an opportunity to realize what's possible and expand our lives. How cool would that be - to discover there is more to our lives than we thought?

Is it possible to be inspired and grow while sitting in the comfort of your den eating bonbon's? I guess, but I don't see how. After all, how can you realize what more you can do unless you actually get out there and operate at the edge of your comfort zone?

How can these thoughts turn into everyday action? I think it's pretty simple. It's related to my article last week, "Our Experiences." The topic last week was about living a life colored with epic stories. To help us find those stories, to identify that path toward inspiration and growth, take the hard way. When given the choice between two directions, don't be afraid of the one that looks more difficult. That one will likely be the better choice.



  1. Absolutely agree! It's the proverbial pearl, made from an irritation in the oyster. Or perhaps you can say, "When one door closes, a window opens."

    Bonbons are yummy, but they don't solve the world's problems!

    1. Thanks for the comment CapnAux. I love the pearl analogy.... so true! And those Bonbons...just glue them to my...

  2. Awesome article Tom! You nailed it!

    I am amazed at how risk averse we have become. As a population we are increasingly seditary and unwilling to trek out.
    Out there is where the magic happens.

    1. Brent, this is so true. I wonder if this ability to push into fear is something that some personalities are more inclined to do. One thing I know is true...once we do and survive, it's easier the next time. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I've always said, the struggle is what makes reaching the summit so wonderful. I don't think I'd appreciate my achievements in aviation nearly as much if it had been as easy as, say, getting a driver's license to obtain them.

    1. Ron, and there is the truth. I've always been on the side of intrinsic rewards being the most powerful. When everything is given and too easy, we lose so many life lessons. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Tom, Thank you for another great post. Whomever created the company "No Fear" knew the answer to greatness. We will always be challenged. Life it a test. But the only way to pass is to take it.

    I believe that nothing ever happens that we can't handle. This thought makes it easier to take those challenging paths, and to face all obstacles.

    The challenging paths lead to the epic stories called life.

  5. This is absolutely true, and this is one absolutely great post!

    I have learned at a very young age that to achieve greatness, we must all exceed our own expectations. That fear is psychological and does not exist. That success is not an illusive and/or a mythological creation that us humans create in our minds. That anyone can achieve greatness, and to achieve such thing, we must trust in ourselves, give more importance to our lives, to take out the losers from our path, define our values.

    Sometimes you need to walk down the aisles of your train to see the past fading in the fog. Sometimes we need to pace slowly, so we can skyrocket in the future. And defining our values is something that keeps changing constantly - value definition is a mutant (if you know what I mean).

    Some people can only inspire through words (but not through action), some people can only inspire through actions (the most important), and some people can inspire with both words and actions (this one is cool!).

    Inspiring is a very hard task. If you want to inspire, you have to let it come naturally from your character. It is a non sequitur to consider yourself inspiring (or successful) if you cannot handle your family (cheating on your partner and things of this nature), if you cannot manage your job as supposed to, or if you cannot handle friendship (and partnership) without forgiving or making any good (no matter what kind) to you and to whomever you are with.

    It takes time to reach greatness. I haven't achieved yet, but I have my virtues of which I'm proud of. But one thing I know is that I am heading towards that direction, because I have faith and I trust in myself.

    It is very important to have FAITH. No matter what God you have inside you, but you must have faith. Metaphorically, faith is the light of your train (remember?).

    It will always be hard. No matter how strong you are, life will always throw you on the floor. But we must all step up again and keep walking straight forward.

    Most people grow up, get a job, raise a family, and then they die. They stop pushing themselves, they stop growing themselves. Would you give up if all your lights were shut off? Would you give up if you fail, fail and fail? It is VERY hard, but we ALL can DO IT if we take the FIRST STEP.

    Remember, don't care what others say, be humble/confident/kind, follow your dreams.



    1. Alex, how did I miss commenting? I read your incredible thoughts! Yes... take that first step. Then the next will follow. Then the next. And the next. Keep up the great work. You know how much work it is, and you will greatly benefit from all your efforts!!!

  6. I just hope all you youngsters out there are totally inspired by this.There is no better formula for life.


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