Captain’s Log: Enjoying Our Own Company

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain’s Log: May 28th. No flying today, a day of rest, (although I will fly tomorrow and through the weekend as others observe the solemn Memorial Day). Starting, as I often do, in The Meadow of Wisdom, I find myself waiting for Arthur and Merlin to come riding up out of these mists, and I realize yet again that while I don’t like getting up early, I like being up early!


And it occurs to me that yesterday I had the pleasure of coffee with someone for whom it was his first face-to-face meeting in over a year. Very cool!


Are you glad to be “free” again? How have you fared during the pandemic-related months of separateness? I guess what I’d really like to know is what you have learned. About yourself, about others, about how the world really works.


Here’s one of the Captain’s random thoughts as he sauntered through la Sainte Terre this morning: I don’t think I have fared as badly as many others on account of being separated from my friends. It’s true that everyone involved in travel has had to wear masks and avoid physical contact. But what seems to have been a powerful side-effect of being in the cockpit has been the necessity to remove our masks once the flight deck door is closed. It’s simply hard to communicate effectively on the radio through a boom mic when there’s a physical barrier. So the majority of us take them off as a matter of course.


Which means that from take-off through cruise, landing, and block-in, there has been an oasis of normalcy throughout the pandemic. It’s been good for me.


On the other hand, once-in-a-while, it’s good to be away from other people. And while I can, when I want to, escape from pretty much anyone else for periods of time, I can never escape from myself. So mask or no mask, there’s always someone with me who insists on talking! That person is Me!

So here’s a question… Do you realize that you talk to yourself – all the time? Have you come to the place in your life where you’re aware of those in-your-head conversations? Before we can enjoy those “visits”, we have to become aware that they’re happening. That self-awareness came to me some time ago. Of course it did. I’ve been on the planet for more than 62 years!


Still, I know some folks, aware though they may be, for whom those conversations are not pleasant. In fact, I would hazard to say that’s the case for most people. We tend to be hard on ourselves – much harder than we would on anyone else in our sphere. Why is that? (That’s a rhetorical question – we’ll cover it in another essay on another day – maybe!)


I’m grateful that at some point in my past I became aware of those two realities. I was constantly talking to myself, and I wasn’t being very kind. Then one day a mentor suggested that we need to be kind to ourselves, and the light bulb came on.


And I think that’s one reason I may have done better than some others during the pandemic. I have learned over the years to enjoy my own company. When I finally learned to be kind to Myself, and, shocker, Myself started being kind to Me! And we’ve sojourned happily together ever since.

It took me decades to get to this point. I hope you’ve arrived as well. If not, maybe you can talk it over with yourself during one of your next conversations. Truth: we can’t escape from ourselves. Another truth seems to be that we can be pretty good company when we’re kind to ourselves. Why wouldn’t we be? Don’t you like to be around folks who treat you nicely?


The pandemic is starting to lose its steam. Being around others is becoming possible. Still, I’m grateful for the reality that we can always be in good company regardless of the state of the world.
I hope you enjoy yourself today!

Thanks for reading!


Captain Mark

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life

The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com for information.

Posted in Inspiration, Motivation, UncategorizedTagged BeingUnited, CaptainsLog, determination, how, inspiration, NewWorld, perseverance, PostCovid, purpose, StayInTheProcess, StepOverTheBar, symphonyofyourlife, TheSymphonyofYourLife, United, WeAreUnited

Captain’s Log: (Re)Creating the Dream in the “New” World, Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” Blog With Mark Hardcastle

2020, “The Year That Was,” happened. Now, thank goodness, it’s in the past. We’ve been considering how to turn away from pretty much everything that happened last year, and turn with optimism and intention toward what’s possible in 2021. Following the example of #United Airlines, we are thinking beyond the more conventional idea of returning to normal. United is encouraging us to return to “new.”

We’ve recognized that returning to “new” means thinking about what we want our lives, indeed our worlds, to look like down the road. The plan is simple. Just 3 steps. Get clear about the dream, figure out how to make it manifest, and begin. Then stay in the process until the dream is real. We looked at those ideas here and here.

So far we’ve figured out how to manage Step 1. Today let’s look at Steps 2 and 3.

First, Step 2. Figure out how.

If Step 1 was the most thought-intensive, this is probably the least. Can you say, “Google?” How about “YouTube?”

I bought a new-to-me car a few weeks ago. My 4-Runner had well over 300K miles on it. It had served me well for 19 years. But it was time. So I bought a 2013 RAV4. It’s gorgeous! I love it! And get this. I searched Google for what I wanted, found it, and bought it sight unseen, all online. Odd? Maybe in another world. Feel free to ask me about the process.

But it came with a worn-out rear wiper blade. And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to replace it. So I did a search on YouTube, and the first result was a 2-minute video that made everything completely clear. Another two minutes and the new blade was installed. Such is the power of the computer in your pocket. You can learn how to do a lotta stuff on the internet.

Right. Not everything can be fixed with an internet search. Sometimes we benefit best by mining the experiences of others. Now that you know what you want to do, seek out others who have done that. Mentors, who will teach you without charge, and coaches, who will charge for their expertise (and properly so, I might add), can be tremendous resources for the softer skills of creating and building businesses worth owning and lives worth living. Go find a few who look good on paper. They’re not hard to find. Have conversations with them to find the one(s) with the best fit. Then engage at the appropriate level. The “how” you are looking for will reveal itself in due course.

Finally, Step 3. Begin.

I said in jest that Step 1 might be the hardest of the three. In truth I think it could be this one. Starting any new endeavor can be fraught with peril, real or imagined. Our families, our cultures, our environments; all these and many more factors can bear on our sense of capability. Fears emerge from all quarters. The bigger the dream, the bigger the fear may be, even though in many cases it’s simply not necessary.

Inertia, too, is no small factor. We’ve lived the way we’ve lived and done things the way we’ve done them for a very long time. And what we know all too well is that if we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we always got. But as 2020 fades, we want something different. We know what it is from Step 1. We know how from Step 2. Step 3 challenges us to summon the courage that will enable us to feel the fear, the inertia, the tendency to procrastinate, and take action anyway. Isn’t that what courage is all about? Feeling the fear and moving forward anyway?

So we do that in celebration of 2021. We begin. With determination to succeed.

And life gets in the way. Those close to us pull us away from our dream. The world intrudes. We revert to the old ways without even realizing it. Then some time later we see that we’ve left the path.

Then what?

The easy choice would be to decide that it was never realistic. We should never have stepped out. We should have known that the dreams we created were never going to be for us. And simply drift back into the way it always was.

Or, we could recognize that stuff happens. Change happens. Challenge happens. We are called to leave the path for a moment. And then we return.

Because we recognize that life is not about what happens to us. It’s about how we respond. If our dream is big enough and we want it badly enough, we keep it in front of us for as long as it takes. Stepping away and coming back time after time, always moving forward, staying in the process, until the dream is real and in our grasp.

2020, the year that was, happened. Now, finally, it’s in the past. We have turned to the “new” future and anticipate creating it with intention and optimism. It will not necessarily be easy. But it will be simple indeed.

Define the dream. Figure out how to make it real. Begin.

And stay in the process.

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com for information.

Captain’s Log: How To (Re)Create the Dream In the New World, Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” Blog with Mark Hardcastle

Seth heading west from the Pyrenees on his 500-mile pilgrimage, beginning with the end in mind.

A few days ago in Part 1 we thought together about how we’re feeling during this transition out of the year-that-was (I feel like I’m in Hogwarts referring to things that “must not be named”. It’s a Harry Potter reference – see Question 6 below.). #United Airlines is leading us into a world that isn’t back to “normal.” Rather, they are suggesting we work back into “new.” If that feels a bit unsettling, you’re not alone. Still, it’s a path I suggest we should want to travel intentionally. How do we create that intention, then the path? Part 1 was an introduction to the idea of getting clarity around that question. Today we’ll get to the nuts-and-bolts.

In that spirit, here are 6 questions I’ve found to be powerful in getting clarity around how we can create lives we want to live.

First, the list:

  1. What do I want to do?
  2. What do I want to be?
  3. What do I want to have?
  4. What do I want to give?
  5. How do I want to spend my time?
  6. With whom do I want to spend my time?

Now let’s sit with each of these questions and digest them one-by-one. Don’t forget – we’re operating in a world in which we simply can’t fail, so we’re free to imagine absolutely anything!

Question 1: What do I want to do? This is your bucket list – all the boxes you want to check off before you “kick the bucket.” These wishes begin with verbs: see, hike, stand, walk, swim, etc., as in see the grand canyon, hike the Appalachian Trail or the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, swim with dolphins or great white sharks, or stand under the Eiffel Tower at night. Let your imagination run wild. What do you want to do before you’re finished?

Question 2: What do I want to be? This will become your legacy. So in another way you’re asking how you want to be remembered. I would love to be remembered as an author, a speaker, a music teacher to young members of the Colorado Children’s Chorale, and the best father any four children could want to have. How about you?

Question 3: What do I want to have? Again, money is no object, so write down all the nice things that have caught your eye over the years but you thought you’d never be able to have. I’d like to have a grand piano in my living room, for example. And a really cool car symbolizing my financial success. And since broke people can’t give… see question 4 for additional perspective. How about $1 million to live on, and $1 million to give away?

Question 4: What do I want to give? This is your chance to think about the impact you want to have on the world. I have some friends who want to use their wealth to plant elementary schools in 3rd world countries. Others who want to be able to commission great musical works for children’s choirs closer to home. Would you like to create an endowment for your favorite non-profit, perhaps?

Question 5: How do I want to spend my time? This is how you will build an intentional life. It’s similar to question 1, but different. Here we’re talking about your daily activities. If we don’t give thought to this our lives will slip away. Whatever we do will be by accident rather than by intention. Would you like to spend a part of each day meditating? Writing? Reading? Exercising? Teaching? Building a business? This dovetails with some of your answers to the first 4 questions.

And finally, question 6: With whom do I want to spend my time? I’ve heard it said that 95% of a person’s happiness in life comes from being partnered with the right person. And 95% of a person’s misery in life comes from being partnered with the wrong person. Our relationships are incredibly important to our sense of well-being.

I’ve also heard it said that we are a composite of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Who are your building blocks? Are you spending time with people who enrich your life, who encourage you to be the best, happiest, most productive human you can be?

Or are you giving your energy to other people – those who drain away your life force with negativity and toxic perspectives? Think of the “dementors” from the Harry Potter books. (If you haven’t read Harry Potter I recommend the series. But since you don’t know about dementors, you can call these people “energy vampires” because they suck away your energy and give nothing in return.) This question gives you permission to release all those people from your life.

Good answers to these six questions will provide a framework of clarity you can use to flesh out your dream. And because what we focus on expands, they will also generate thinking around how to bring all these “wants” into concrete reality.

Which leads to a 7th – bonus – question: Will what I’m about to do take me closer to, or further from, my life’s purpose? If we keep this final question perking as we walk through life, we’ll see results we might never have imagined otherwise.

And… the answers to all of these questions will change over time. As we achieve successes around the questions we’ve answered before, new dreams will occur to us. And, by the very act of living, our perspectives will change. Over time our children grow up, work lives evolve, and our world changes around us. Feel free, indeed expect, to ask these questions again as you progress through the stages of life, or more often as necessary, to know where you are and how you want to live at your present stage.

And, if you’d like, go out and get your own T-shirt that reminds you to “Dream Big!” As your life becomes large, you might want to buy a bunch of them and give them to those around you who need your help in imagining great lives of their own.

But hang on a sec… We now have a way to get clarity, but it seems like something’s still missing. Oh, yeah – clarity is only Step 1. We haven’t yet covered Steps 2 and 3. Not to worry! Step 2 is on deck with Step 3 in the hole. We’ll see them on Thursday in Part 3.

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com for information.

 

Captain’s Log: How to (Re)Create the Dream In the “New” World, Part 1

A “Symphony of Your Life” Blog With Mark Hardcastle

It’s mid-January 2021. Many of my colleagues at #United are still on furlough, others making ends meet on severely reduced hours. Still, as 2021 gets underway in earnest, Covid shots are going into arms, and it feels like we are starting to see, off in the distance, the end of this literal and metaphorical winter.

@Scott Kirby, our CEO, has chosen an interesting word to describe the post-Covid world. He doesn’t talk about returning to “normal.” Understanding that many of the changes Covid has forced upon us will be permanent, he speaks of returning to “new.” How does that feel in your stomach? A little unsettling? Maybe not exactly how you’ve thought about leaving “that year” behind?

I get it. But I think he’s on to something.

We’re all working to dig ourselves out of the chaos that was 2020. Your dreams around your life’s work and how you’d like to grow out the things that give you pleasure? It’s easy for me to imagine that they may not be as clear in your crystal ball as they once were.

So how do we get back on track, whatever “on track” means in this “new” world? Let’s put it this way. It’s all about vision plus follow-through. It really is that simple. Much as we’d like to, there’s no need to complicate it.

But since my training in personal development tells me you desperately want a 3-step process, I’ll gladly put it in that form. Here you go!

  1. Get clear on what you want to accomplish.
  2. Figure out how.
  3. Begin. Then stay in the process until it’s complete.

But didn’t we just realize that it’s the lack of clarity around that vision that’s the problem? We sure did. So let’s take a closer look at step 1 in Part 1 of this article. We’ll get to steps 2 and 3 in our next couple of articles.

Step 1: Getting clarity.

The first principle is that everything begins with a thought. That house you live in? Somebody had to imagine it built before the ground was ever cleared. Somebody had to have an idea that facial tissues might be useful, and that maybe they should come in a box, before that person invented the tissues on your desk and the box they came in. So we’re going to have to spend some time just…thinking.

Of course, that may be the hardest part of the whole process. If you’re at all like me you might sit down in your most comfy chair, close your eyes to think, and wake up an hour later none the wiser! So maybe there’s a bit more to this step!

Today in Starbucks I saw a couple of moms meeting for coffee. I have no doubt they understood this idea. They were accompanied by a toddler, no more than 2, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “Dream Big!” across the front. Imagine what other vision-creating advice she’ll get from her parents as she grows! I wonder what kind of “house” she’ll imagine, on what sort of “land”…

Most of us didn’t have such visionary parents. If that’s you, I’d offer 6 questions to help you actively create your own “house” in your mind’s eye. (How I discovered these questions is a great story for another day – watch this space!)

Last suggestion before we get to the list. To make our dreams as big as they can be, we shouldn’t constrain ourselves in any way. I’d particularly like to call out two limitations. Let’s agree to imagine that we’re operating in a world in which we cannot fail, and wherein money is no object. I know – the second is a subset of the first. Still, it’s big enough all by itself that it’s worth its own mention.

This coming Monday, in Part 2, we’ll look at the 6 questions that will help you define your dream in any arena of life at any age.

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com for information.

 

Captain’s Log: The Great Gift of 2020

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

December 20th. Two flights today. As I write this, I’m at 34,000 feet (Brad Montgomery), deadheading from Newark to Chicago. From there I’ll operate Chicago to San Diego. I’m gonna have a good load to California: not full (although yesterday I was!), but healthy. And in front of me for the last hour of flight will be Jupiter and Saturn, together as they’ve not been for 800 years!

They’re roughly the same size, but Jupiter will be brighter. Saturn is further away.

This “Great Conjunction” will be an astronomical fact with only the faintest significance to our lives. Still, it feels like a remarkable coincidence, especially given the reality that they will appear to be at their closest tomorrow, on the Winter Solstice. It gives me pause. How about you?

Jupiter earned many titles over his generations at the top of the Roman Pantheon: Maximus, the best and brightest; Imperator, the supreme general; Invictus, unconquered; and Triumphator, one to whom an ovation is given. Importantly, as this infamous year comes to a close and Jupiter dominates the evening sky, he was also known as Elicius, that is, one who brings forth. Think of him bringing rain in a time of drought.

Jupiter’s companion in the sky this evening, looking over his shoulder from behind, is his father, Saturn, the god of sowing seed. And there they are. Closer than we have ever seen them and will ever see them again, at the end of the shortest day of the year and the beginning of the longest night. Father and son, the best and brightest, unconquered at the end of a monumentally difficult 2020, sowing seed, bringing rain, along with the great gift of a fascinating synchronicity. And… hope for peace.

Yeah, it’s a wonder. It gives me pause. How about you?

Tomorrow I’ll re-publish my favorite work: “The Doorways Worn At Sill.” It will be my wish for you as the sun is reborn on Tuesday, a wish for peace, and a holiday greeting to those I love. That’s you.

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

United #UnitedTogether #StayInTheProcess #CaptainsLog #SymphonyOfYourLife #StepOverTheBar #ColoradoChildrensChorale

Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com for information.

Captain’s Log: What It Means To Be a Veteran

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

When my friend, Gary Tedder asked me to give a presentation on what it means to me to be a military veteran I was caught off guard. No one has ever asked me about that. And now 30 years after having left the military it’s just not a part of what I do or how I live from day to day. Which means that I just hadn’t thought about that particular question in those particular terms.

But sit to think about it I did. And it didn’t take long after I sat down for me to realize that what we do as veterans is we live our lives… and we remember. We remember… and we live our lives.

On Veterans’ Day in 2019 I was on a layover in Palm Springs. I’d never been there before in my life, so I had no idea where to get breakfast. Of course, like any good baby boomer, I asked “the google.” And “the google” suggested I try out a place called “Pinochio In the Desert.”

As I walked the few blocks to Pinochio’s, I was feeling particularly grateful to be an airline pilot. The skies were clear and blue in the Palm Desert, and the air was a balmy 78 degrees. At the same time, my family and friends in Denver were dealing with the fifth snow event of the year.

The restaurant was open to the air, and I was seated along a rail at the front of the dining room. The sidewalk was just on the other side of the rail, so I was in a great place to watch the patriots of Palm Springs walking up and down the street in their red, white, and blue regalia, and all the American flags waving over the store fronts. And from my corner of the restaurant I could watch the patrons coming and going, and the wait staff as they went from table to table, doing their thing.

In this particular restaurant the servers wore black. Except for one guy who was wearing a white t-shirt. There was an American flag on the front of the shirt, with the words, “United We Stand, 9/1/2001.”

If you were alive and old enough to notice statement t-shirts in the fall of 2001 you remember that shirt. It was everywhere. But as I sat  in that restaurant I hadn’t seen one for a long, long time. Not only had I not seen one being worn, but I hadn’t even seen one for sale anywhere in decades.

The server with the t-shirt was not my server. But I had noticed the shirt, and I casually kept an eye on him as he moved around the room. And it gradually dawned on me that his t-shirt was really white! Which was remarkable, because I had to think it was maybe 18 years old. And I know what my white t-shirts look like after just a few washings – they don’t stay particularly white for very long. But this server’s t-shirt looked like it was new.

So I finished my breakfast and paid the tab. But as I was leaving, I felt compelled to introduce myself and ask the server about his shirt.

He explained that, “no, the t-shirt is not new. In fact, you’re right, it is actually 18 years old. But I only wear it twice a year: on Veterans Day, and again on Memorial Day. And in the days in between, it stays folded neatly in a drawer, and I live my life.”

“And on the days that I wear it, it helps me, and those around me, to remember.”

A few days later, as I sat wondering what in the world I could bring to my friend Gary and his “Cor2Cor Net-giving Group” in Denver, I thought about my new friend, Robert, the server, and I recognized that he is a perfect picture for what it means, at least to me, to be a veteran.

I didn’t ask him – I wish I had – if he’d worn the military uniform. But it became obvious to me that he has worn his love of our country every six months for the last 18 years. He lives his life, then he stops to look back and remember. He remembers, then he looks forward, and lives his life.

In my own case, I had the honor and privilege of wearing the uniform of our country. It shaped who I am today. Now as a veteran all these years later, I live my life from day to day. And every once-in-a-while something takes me back to that time, and I stop to remember. Having remembered then, I look forward, and live my life.

Veterans Day is one of those somethings. It gives us all a reason to stop. Look back. And remember. With gratitude for the sacrifices that have made today’s lives possible. And then, having remembered, we can look forward and live our lives.

There is a scene at the end of the movie, “Saving Private Ryan,” where one of the heroes, who is dying of his wounds, looks to a very young Ryan, and says, “Earn this.” I think of that scene on days like Veterans Day. And I pledge again to myself and all those veterans who have sacrificed on my behalf, that I will live a life worthy of their sacrifices.

November 11th is Veterans Day. Let’s stop, and remember. And beginning again on November 12th, let’s live our lives.

Thanks for reading.

Captain Mark

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#stayintheprocess #symphonyofyourlife

 
 

 

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com for information.

 

Captain’s Log: Practicing What We Preach

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

March, 2021

Every so often I find myself in front of a room wearing my corduroy blazer with leather elbow patches rather than my uniform jacket with four stripes. On some of those occasions my conversation with my audience revolves around their need and ability to be kind to themselves. Shortly thereafter something inevitably happens to challenge me, and I have to ask myself whether or not I really believe what I tell the audience. Am I willing to do that for myself? Today I invite you to join me in that self-reflection. Do you need to be more kind to yourself? Are you even able?

Back in the summer of 2017, when I was a brand-new captain, I had a bad night. I remember it well. I also remember my visit with my Chief Pilot asking him about what I might have done better. Some things just stick in your memory.

It was significant enough that I wrote the following essay. No idea why I never published it. I imagine I may have set it aside, fully intending to come back and finish it, got distracted by other writing projects, and just forgot about it. But now, after more than 3 years as a captain with over 900 flights (and way more than 100,000 passengers!) under my belt I can think of a few things I would likely do differently given the opportunity. I’m glad that I chose to “#stayintheprocess.”

And I feel compassion for the guy who wrote this.

These years later, in my opinion there’s still good stuff in it. I hope it might still inspire you, and that you’ll enjoy it. Here you go!

August, 2017

Two weeks ago I was the hero. This weekend I was the goat. Another dark and stormy night in Newark, and I failed my passengers. A series of unfortunate events that started with a line of thunder storms shutting down the airport for several hours ended badly for us. As the airport re-opened for arrivals, the company needed my gate, so I had to push off knowing I’d sit on the tarmac for at least an hour before I could take off. New as I was, with two hours still on my duty clock, I thought all would be well.

It wasn’t. As time passed without movement toward the runway, if I’d known then what I know now, I shoulda, coulda, woulda bugged my operations controller in Newark, my dispatcher in Chicago, the air traffic controllers with whom I was already in radio contact, for a different flight plan, different departure route, or higher departure priority as my duty day relentlessly decayed. Sadly, I didn’t know then what I know now.

We canceled.

But could I have really affected the outcome? What if I’d acted, become airborne, then had to divert? What if I’d asked all the right questions and all the answers had been no? Same outcome. But I’m second-guessing myself because I didn’t think in time to even try. And here I am beating myself up about unknown outcomes.

Do you do that?

Here’s the thing: Conor McGregor says, “We win or we learn.” A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of “winning.” This weekend I had the opportunity to “learn.” I’m new to the plane, the pace, the environment, the weather, duty time constraints. It’s a very real learning curve. I feel guilty that my passengers had to pay for my learning. And the reality is that stuff happens with frequency in the domestic operation. And it has happened on my flights: this was not my first cancellation. But it was the first one where I felt like I could have done better.

On the other hand, am I beating myself up too hard? Another reality is that in the short time I’ve been a captain I’ve carried more than five thousand passengers to the places they’ve needed to go. So I’ve decided to give myself grace and space to learn from this. To get better at what I do. To pick up the ability to see sooner so I’m not bitten by these same issues again. So I can get my passengers where they want to go despite the weather, the company, the FAA.

It’s been a challenge to learn the new airplane, the new environment, the new pace. There have been moments where I’ve asked myself, “what was I thinking leaving my very comfortable B-777? After 15 years I could make that baby sing!” Do I want to go back? Or do I want to stay in the process and get good at this new thing?

This, I have decided, is where I need to be for this season. So it’s the latter course for me. I will stay in the process and work to become the captain that my passengers need me to be. And give myself permission to learn. Sooner, rather than later, I expect to be just as good as I was on the 777.

Have you been “the goat” recently? Are you beating yourself up too hard? Can you maybe give yourself grace to learn from what went wrong rather than falling into the trap of second-guessing? The inspirational speaker in me says of course you can. I hope my story helps you know that.

#YouCanYouJustNeedToKnowYouCan      #StayInTheProcess

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

Captain’s Log: “Burn the Ships!”

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

Seriously? Not on my watch. It’s all about having backups. Or we wouldn’t have made it to Seattle…

It has been said that in July of 1519, Spanish colonizer Hernán Cortés ordered his men to burn their ships after the battle of Veracruz on the eastern shore of Mexico, thus forcing the men to conquer or die. He had effectively removed any idea of a backup plan, should the invasion be repulsed.

I hear this notion bandied about frequently by so-called “motivational speakers.” (That phrase always always makes me laugh. It conjures up the Saturday Night Live sketch of Chris Farley living in a van down by the river.) The concept these thought-leaders are getting at is the idea of commitment. Their challenge: how committed are you to the outcomes you say you want? Are you willing to burn your bridges, or in this illustration, your ships?

If you’re not, the thinking goes, then you will find a host of reasons not to advance. It’s too hard. It costs too much. Your friends or family won’t support you.

Here’s a thought. If your big plans are bold enough, your friends and family won’t support you anyway. Ask Toastmasters World Champion Darren LaCroix whose family told him he could never be a comedian because they knew he wasn’t funny. Which was true when he started out. Being a comedian is a learned skill. His close relations were comparing his first year of being a comedian with Jerry Seinfeld’s twentieth. Which, of course, is not fair in any world, but it happens all the time. And those who’ve known (and, of course, loved) you since you were small will have a hard time visualizing you creating something grand.

As usual, I digress.

Seattle, WA is not known for snowfall. It averages 5 inches per year, according to bestplaces.net. And February of 2019 was anything but average. The 8th had seen over a year’s-worth in one day. Together, the 9th and 10th received another year’s-worth of 5 inches between the two of them. If you’re doing the math, you’re starting to get the picture. There was a LOT of snow on the ground. There was no way Seattle’s airport could have planned on that much snow at any given time. They did not have the resources to manage. Snow was piling up on the ramps and spilling over onto the taxiways. Still, as we departed Denver, the runways had not yet been affected.

The air force schools have a platitude they’re quite fond of. They like to say that “flexibility is the key to air power.” And let’s just say my copilot and I were feeling pretty powerful the evening of Monday, the 11th, as we turned northwest from Cheyenne to point the nose at Seattle. We knew that more snow was in the forecast, so we’d added substantial fuel to give us options en route. We could hold along the way if necessary to get sequenced in, or in a worst-case scenario we had options to divert to land somewhere else. We could be flexible. So far, so good. And by dinner time, as I was winging my way there from Denver, snow hadn’t yet started to fall.

That changed as we passed over Boysen Reservoir. The data link message from our dispatcher in Chicago informed us that it had started snowing, but to his knowledge operations were normal. So we pressed on.

Message number two reached us over Dillon, Montana. This time the dispatcher told us that snow was falling heavily and that arrivals were starting to be impacted. We might want to slow down to build in options along the way (backup option A), but his recommendation was to continue for Seattle.

So we did both. The third message, received as we came abeam Mullen Pass, was that Seattle could no longer accommodate planes landing and taxiing to the gate. There was too much snow and planes couldn’t get to the terminal. We should plan on taxiing to a remote parking area to meet buses that would drive our passengers to the terminal to pick up their bags.

Odd, but okay. We’re flexible, remember? We figured we could execute on that plan (backup option B), unusual as it was, but we’d both done stranger things.

Westbound approaching Ephrata, we got the big one. Seattle Center advised that Seattle was no longer accepting arrivals. No further information was available. “Plan to hold at Ephrata (option C). I’ll get back to you.”

And there we were, being flexible, driving race tracks in the sky over central Washington state, thankful that we hadn’t “burned the ships” as we were flight planning safely on the ground back in Denver.

On any other day in just about any other year we would have held for a little while, then landed a bit late but uneventfully at our destination. That was not going to be our lot on the evening of February 11th, 2019. We flew around in circles for three quarters of an hour. Then with snow falling at a record rate, and Seattle airport in chaos with no plan for reopening before we ran out of gas, we engaged backup plan D, and turned southwest for Portland.

Our next concern was what would happen after landing in Portland. With Seattle closed, we wondered if there would be parking space available as all the planes planned for Seattle diverted to Portland. Thankfully, our dispatcher had been in contact with Portland operations who had reserved a gate just for us. We landed there, taxied to the gate, plugged in the fuel truck, and engaged with the recovery plan for getting our passengers to their intended destination of Seattle.

You may be wondering why we might have had an expectation of actually making it to Seattle. They were closed, right? They had more snow than they could manage, right? We had the same questions. As it turns out, while we were holding, then flying to Portland, then re-provisioning the airplane, Seattle had found adequate snow plows, front-end loaders, and dump trucks to keep the runways clear, and remove snow from the taxiways and ramps. And by the time we were ready to go, Seattle was back open and ready for business.

Ninety minutes after we departed Ephrata for Portland, our passengers were disembarking in Seattle. Because we had not “burned our ships” back in Denver. We had built in options, back up plans, to enable us to manage seen and unseen contingencies.

That idea of “burning the ships” has merit as a means to convey the importance of genuine commitment. I don’t want to minimize that. On the other hand, what you might find in the real world of grinding it out, dealing with the reality that stuff happens, is that while “burning the ships” sounds romantic, it may not have a lot of practical use. Now at the tender age of 60+, I don’t feel at all guilty about looking for ways that the plan can go wrong. Seems like a good idea to build in back up plans to deal with those potentials. And then maybe add a little extra fuel, just in case.

Burn the ships? Seriously? Not on my watch. Nor on yours. We have to get the folks to Seattle, and it looks like snow!

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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#stayintheprocess #symphonyofyourlife

 
 
Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com for information.

Captain’s Log: The Burden of the Future

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

Has it occurred to you yet that at some point in life there is not going to be another old friend? And that at some point in life we are relieved of the burden of the future?

I’m over 60, and these concepts only recently came to me via NPR’s TED Radio Hour. The “idea worth spreading” on this episode had to do with the meaning of time. And one of the guests hit me with both of these ideas. They both set me back on my heels.

“Tomorrow is a word on the fool’s calendar.” – Tammy Kling

I’ve been powerfully aware of my mortality for many years now. Still, every once-in-a-while something blindsides me and brings the end of time to the front-and-center of my awareness. This was one of those moments.

Much is made of the idea that our biggest end-of-life regrets will be around the things we wanted to do but didn’t even try. That seems plausible to me. But I’ve recently become aware of another reality. People in the later years begin at some point to realize that what they are is what they are, and what they have is what they have. Their lives are fully formed. What remains is to live them out.

And because they are very aware that they are much closer to the end of life than the beginning, they start to realize that there isn’t time for there to ever be another new old friend. There isn’t time enough to grow old together.

Something else they realize is that there simply isn’t enough time remaining to start, then build out, grand projects that as a matter of course take years to create. Which means they have no choice but to leave those grand projects to those who follow. In other words, they no longer feel responsible for the future. They are relieved of the burden of creating it.

These epiphanies give emphasis to who and what older folks have become during all the preceding years. Clarity of identity becomes important.

These people, the thoughtful ones, the ones who have the benefit of recognizing the proximity of the ephemeral “fullness of time,” find ways to get clear about what the years have meant to them. And they make peace with that clarity. And live accordingly.

What this understanding tells me is that I need to be aware of how I am living today. If I am to have the magnanimity of these aged ones who are living their last stage in peace and contentment I need to live with intention – not by accident.

After Victor Frankl had digested the horrors he had experienced as a holocaust survivor in Nazi Germany, he came to the conclusion that life is not so much a quest for pleasure or power as it is a search for meaning. He went on to say that we can find or create meaningful lives through the challenges that life inevitably throws our way.

Frankl, along with others who have understood meaning, challenges me to be aware of the way the world really works. I need to acknowledge that the world works the way the world works which may not be the way I’d like it to work. I live in the world as it is – not necessarily as I’d like it to be.

So who am I becoming as a result? Who, in fact, am I? And what does who I have become in my six decades of life enable and embolden me to do with the challenges I see around me?

The biggest occupier of my time these days is my work as an airline captain. It is a deeply satisfying occupation. But would I be right to believe that my work is my identity?  Is it who I am?

I don’t think so. I am not what I do, that is, work as a pilot flying big commercial jets. But what I do enables me to express who I am – a human who touches travelers and eases their way as they connect to their moments that matter most. How can I grow that out?

And I have the great good fortune of knowing the latest date that I will be allowed to engage in that purpose. By law I will have to hang up my jacket with four stripes on the sleeves on my 65th birthday. Other factors have to remain in play for me to make it to that point, i.e., I have to stay healthy for one. But if nothing happens to intervene, I will retire when I turn 65.

But then what? Knowing the latest time at which I will move into the next stage gives me the privilege of thinking about my next “life” and how to go about creating it. That’s actually pretty cool. But there’s nothing really remarkable about it.

Our lives are marked by a series of station changes. Shakespeare wrote about “The Seven Ages of Man” in his play, “As You Like It.” You and I may live those seven stages. Or more. Or fewer. And they may come to us in turn by choice, or as in my case, by factors over which we have no control. They will, however, most assuredly come. And the more of them that we walk through, the fewer there will be in front of us. And our capacity to navigate each next one will diminish as we age.

Those are the ground rules. They don’t necessarily impact the way we approach the game. At some point we are relieved of the burden of the future. And yet…

My mother, in her mid-80s, has just welcomed another great grand-child into her life. And, of course, I got the picture of mom stretched out in her bed with young Ryder snuggled under her arm. Here’s what I wrote to the family in response: “Oh my goodness, that is a powerful pic with mom holding the newborn! Four generations! And that child has the great benefit of being able to know his great grandmother in ways almost unheard of in previous generations! Mom gets the similar joy of watching her legacy blossom  and bear great fruit. We speak of planting trees whose shade we’ll never enjoy… Mom gets to enjoy the shade! Yay for the baby! Yay for mom!!!”

Mom has long been relieved of the burden of the future. She has long since stopped stressing over what she needs to “build” next. Her closest “old friend” recently passed away – one of many in a long line of friendships that have transitioned into a new stage. There will be no more new “old friends” for her.

But there are new ones. Like my grand-nephew Ryder. No more burdens in the future for my mom. Only joys.

As I age and shift stages I want to be like her.

Thanks for reading.

Captain Mark

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#stayintheprocess #symphonyofyourlife

Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life

The Symphony of Your Life

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com for information.

Captain’s Log: Sitting Quietly

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

No longer allowed to read on my IPad en route, I sat quietly one night watching the lights of the cities go by, musing. Which happens to be one of my favorite pastimes… Ironically, I thought of Pascal’s Pensee: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

I know people who can’t sit quietly. They have to have distractions. The TV has to be on. Or Facebook open on their phones.

So why did Pascal attribute all of humanity’s problems to this characteristic?

Maybe a better first question would be why must these folks have distractions? What is it about sitting quietly that they find so uncomfortable?

Or, put another way, why don’t they like their own company?

I can hear you now… “Mark, what does that even mean? What is “my own company? If I’m by myself, I’m by myself. By definition I can’t be “my own company.”

Actually, you can. And frequently you are. What you’re saying is that you haven’t yet become aware of the reality that you are always talking with yourself. We tell ourselves stories all the time. Unless, of course, our minds are on things outside of ourselves; that is, we’re looking at our phones.

Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you had a headache. Why did you go grab some Tylenol? See? You became aware of a reality in your world, talked yourself through how to respond to it, and took action. Or why did you stop in the gas station the last time you filled up? Same idea. You became aware of a situation, had a conversation with yourself around whether this was a good time to stop at the gas station, or whether to wait until next time you were out of the house because at that point you’d be less rushed. And you took action based on that conversation.

That’s what I’m talking about. When we’re not distracted by social media or the television or conversations with other folks, our minds wander to realities in our lives that we want or need to think about. It’s our nature. And every thought around the issue you’re considering is one side of the conversation. The next thought in response is the other side.

It’s also what Pascal was talking about. We don’t resolve issues in our lives without addressing them. We address them alone or in conversation with others. If we address them at all.

Are there issues active in your life you’d prefer to keep to yourself? I imagine so. I know a few people who are maybe too eager to “air their dirty laundry.” I know more people who are sensitive to realities that are likely no one else’s business. And out of sensitivity to those around them, or out of self-respect, these issues are not shared. But they are real and need to be addressed. So our other option is to consider them in the quiet of our alone-ness.

Pascal is recognizing that in his experience, the issues we are most likely to need to address alone are hard issues. And in much the same way as we don’t want to address them with the help of those around us, we avoid thinking about them on our own. So they fester unresolved.

It’s also our nature that these issues don’t stay quiet. It may be why we have sleepless nights sometimes. And who enjoys wrestling with issues when we need to be asleep? And maybe it’s not a bad thing to get up after tossing and turning for a couple of hours and open a book or turn on the TV. Those are ways to relieve ourselves from the need to think about hard issues at a particularly inappropriate time.

But that illustrates Pascal’s point. Sleep time is not a good time to have a heavy conversation with ourselves. So if we are to resolve issues we need to set aside a quiet time to have that hard conversation alone. Or the hard issue will haunt us. And there will be more sleepless nights spent in the company of fictional characters in books or on TV.

This can go on. And on. Until we find the strength to sit quietly in a room alone. Or the issue resolves itself without our input, which might not be the best resolution. Which I think is what Pascal is trying to say.

Finding the courage to confront our issues is a learned skill. It comes from determining to give the issues their due, either with the help of others or in conversations with ourselves “quietly in a room alone.” Once we become determined, then what? If we’ve never picked up a baseball, it’s hard to throw a strike.

Maybe the first step is to realize that this is something we all need to learn if we are to solve, or even prevent predictable issues, and then by extension take care of “all of humanity’s problems.” And then to realize that we actually do have conversations with ourselves all the time, and maybe to become intentional about the topics of those conversations. And then to find the courage to confront the issues that demand to be confronted. During the day, when we can be at our best, so we don’t have to distract ourselves in the middle of the night.

One potential challenge… We don’t like to admit how we got into this pickle to begin with. So acknowledging it makes us admit a fallibility. If it’s a “shameful” issue we attach to our “selves,” we may not like who we are very much. So we don’t want to think about the issue and go down the rabbit hole of diminishing our self-esteem. So we avoid. And lose the ability to metaphorically enjoy the beauty of watching the lights of small towns in the Midwest float by as we cruise at 35,000 feet in the middle of the night.

Better to sit quietly alone and decide to like ourselves despite our humanity and deal courageously with issues. So we can then enjoy everything else around us without feeling the need to reach for our phones.

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

IMG_20151209_182818

#stayintheprocess #symphonyofyourlife

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com for information.