Captain’s Log: To Houston After Harvey

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

Captain’s Log: September 4th, 176 passengers, DEN-IAH.

Since becoming a fully-fledged captain on July 7th, I’ve dealt with weather issues, maintenance delays, weather issues, VIP-related airspace closings, unruly passengers, and, by the way, weather issues. Did I mention that I’ve dealt with weather since I became a captain?

I’ve had more “issues” in the few weeks that I’ve flown domestic missions than I experienced in the 15 years I worked as a B-777 first officer in the international operation. It’s been surprising, and deeply gratifying, to learn just how much influence a captain can have on the outcome of a challenging situation. Every time I go to work now I feel like a batter facing a new pitcher: “Ok, punk, show me your heat!”

A few days ago I came to work with a somewhat different mind-set.

Hurricane Harvey, the first major hurricane to make landfall in Texas in over a decade, came ashore during the last few days of August. My small part of the story began the day after it officially dissipated, literally vaporizing into the annals of history.

On September 4th I was assigned to fly the evening run from Denver to Houston. And while I’ll be the first to say that there’s great satisfaction in being able to influence a deteriorating situation for the good, I was hoping for no such satisfaction that particular evening.

That night I didn’t want to see any fastballs.

Not on September 4th, with a plane load of passengers going back to Houston to who knows what kind of devastation. The last thing they needed was the stress of a not-so-perfect operation.

That night I hoped for no need for any particular level of skill on my part. I hoped for no need to know how to deal with weather. Or maintenance. Or air traffic control. Or unruly passengers. I  hoped for clear skies, fair winds, light traffic, and an air transportation system that was operating well.

I got my wish. A good jet. Smooth air. An early arrival. I did nothing unusual.

And my passengers had no need to worry about anything related to their flight. They were at peace to contemplate and prepare for whatever they might find when they arrived in Houston.

And it was the most satisfying flight I’ve had yet as a captain.

Sometimes the “good stuff” has nothing to do with overcoming challenges. Sometimes it really is enough to simply engage. To be there. To just “do life.”

On September the 4th, between Denver and Houston, my passengers never gave a single thought to me as their captain. I was a shadow figure in their lives. And that was perfectly fine by me.

The Symphony of Your Life

#stayintheprocess

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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-777s around the world, 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: You Just Never Know

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

Some time back at a Toastmasters Club meeting a speaker had just finished his presentation and round robin critiques were underway. Another attendee, Toastmasters World Championship Finalist Rich Hopkins rose to offer his critique: “The audience won’t care about you until they know how much you care about them.” Brilliant!

That wasn’t the first time I’d heard that sentiment. As a novice speaker several of my coaches had emphasized that every presentation is always about the audience members – not the speakers. I’d heard it over and over again in different forms and different forums, but never quite so succinctly. Bravo, Rich!

These years later I make it a point to pass that idea along when it’s appropriate. That’s not always in a training setting for speakers.

Some weeks ago I attended a training event for new captains. One module was dedicated to team building. The idea was to give each new captain tools she could use to build the team, i.e., her flight attendants, gate agents, baggage loaders, and mechanics, who could in turn help her realize her vision on every flight.

Rich’s wisdom came to mind during that conversation, so I piped up. “Folks, your support team won’t care about you and your vision until they know how much you care about theirs.” As far as I knew it was one nugget among many during the course. I had no expectation that it might be remembered over any other of the great ideas we gleaned that week.

Yesterday I learned just how much impact Rich’s idea had on at least one other attendee. I walked into the operations office at Newark airport and immediately ran into one of my fellow new captains from that course.

“Hey Captain!”

“Well hi Captain! How’s it going out there?”

We visited for a few minutes, then he told a story that bowled me over. He said that he remembered what I had shared with the class about his team members not caring about his vision for every flight until they know how much he cares about theirs. And how much effect that approach was having with bringing the flight attendants and others on board. Which was in turn having impact on his passengers. And how grateful he was to have received that one little nugget he could immediately apply to his new captainship and come out of the gate as an effective leader at least in part because of that one idea.

Rich doesn’t know I’ve been sharing it. He has no idea I’m writing it here. Maybe I’ll call him. I’d bet he would appreciate knowing how far his 10 second offering at that Toastmasters meeting has gone. First to me. Then to a room full of new captains. On to dozens of flight attendants working for this one new captain in the months since. From there to thousands of his passengers.

And  there were 17 new captains in that class. If you take a minute to do the math the numbers get pretty big pretty quickly.

You just never know how far what you say or do is going to go.

Have you thought about that? Are you conscious of what you are saying and doing with those within your sphere of influence? All the time? Are you being deliberate with how you are living day-to-day?

Something else I learned at that captain development course is that “everything speaks.” Your influence is being created with every aspect of how you are living: how you present yourself to the world all the time every day. What are you saying to the world by how you show up?

Are you good with that? Give it some thought. That would be a great way to let everyone in your world know how much you care about theirs.

Thanks, Rich!

The Symphony of Your Life
#stayintheprocess

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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-777s around the world, 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

Synchronicity, Serendipity, and the Importance of Things Unseen, Conclusion

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Here’s Part 3, in case you missed it…

…And I heard a message with my heart as clearly as if it had come to me out loud. Dad was saying, “It’s ok. All is well.” And there, at that moment, was my beginning of peace.

“All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.”- James Agee

Try to argue that it was wishful thinking on my part. I will certainly listen. But as you do, remember that I had been raised as a Southern Baptist. There is no place in Baptist doctrine for communication with those who have gone before. So it simply would not have occurred to me. But there it was. Indisputable. Undeniable. Un-explainable. Real. Try to argue with me. You will not prevail.

Because there are things we know to be real that cannot be explained by science or logic. Events that are clearly related somehow, though causation cannot be the source of the relationship. Like a man having a heart attack on the Camino de Santiago just as a heart specialist from another part of the world is walking by. Like a father and son each dancing in a drum circle at the same time thousands of miles apart. Like a man passing away in Georgia and roses blooming in Omaha. Meaningful? You bet. Did one cause the other? Impossible.

So how should we then live? Maybe…with an open mind and an honest heart. And an understanding that, while science and logic are certainly good enough to take us to the moon and back, events happen around us every day that cannot (at least not yet!) be explained by science and logic. And that those events might have meaning for us. And that we would do well to look for and embrace that meaning. And because of that, consider the possibility that those around us who claim some expertise around these ideas might not be as “out there” as we may have been taught to believe.

Maybe we should listen a little more. With our hearts as well as our minds. Maybe we should consider that there might have been something to that drum circle after all. And maybe, in that moment of consideration, we’ll find some inspiration, some understanding of why we’re on the planet to begin with. Maybe a sense of mission and purpose. And while, as Mick and the Boys told us, you can’t always get what you want, maybe in that moment, just maybe, you’ll get what you need.

The Symphony of Your Life

 

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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-777s around the world, 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

Synchronicity, Serendipity, and the Importance of Things Unseen, Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Here’s Part 2, in case you missed it…

…Connected events. Coincidental. But no causal relationship. Connected instead by meaning. Like, for instance, my dad and his roses.

In the fall of 1989 I was living in Omaha in the first home I’d ever owned. The house had been neglected, having been taken over by a bank through loan foreclosure. Indeed, the “lawn,” if it could still be called that, had not been mowed since the bank took ownership a couple of years before. I was told by neighbors that the city had come through on two occasions with a bush hog to take down the brush. The condition was reflected in the price, which made it attainable for a young Air Force officer buying his first family home.

The following spring I set to the happy work of bringing the property back up to a livable condition. That included yard work. Lots of yard work. I noticed during the process a row of dog roses growing along the back wall of the house. But they didn’t bloom that spring. Along with everything else, they had been neglected. They were doing well just to stay alive.

They didn’t bloom the following spring, either. I made a mental note to add them to the now shortening list of jobs needing to be done over the course of that summer. But as so often happens, that particular task went begging.

Which brings us to autumn of 1989. We lost Dad that September. Dad had spent a lifetime as an agronomist specializing in weed control. He took great satisfaction in helping farmers increase their yields, and enjoyed seeing results on a global scale. And he loved his roses. We only had a few at the house in which I grew up, but I remember strolling with him through the demonstration gardens at the agricultural experiment station where he spent his working hours.

It’s been more than 25 years and I still miss him. But as autumn of 1989 descended into winter then became spring of 1990 the grief was still fresh and raw. I found therapy in turning my thoughts and energies to the continuing work of restoring the now lush and green lawn of our first house. And then, together with all the other blossoms of spring, the roses bloomed.

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I had not touched them. Zero cultivation, no fertilizer. Nothing. There was no reason for this spring to have been any different from any other.

Except that Dad, who had loved his roses, had passed into another realm. And I heard a message with my heart as clearly as if it had come to me out loud. Dad was saying, “It’s ok. All is well.” And there, at that moment, was my beginning of peace.

So let’s bring it home: Conclusion…

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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-777s around the world, 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. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

Synchronicity, Serendipity, and the Importance of Things Unseen, Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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…It was a good moment. But it was about to get better. Remarkably better. Dramatically better. Unbelievably, serendipitously better.

 

I spent my few minutes in the drum circle, then continued on my way over to Queensway Road to my favorite shawarma hole-in-the-wall to grab some dinner. An hour later I was back in my room, logging my phone into the hotel wifi. That’s how I’ve been keeping up with my son, Seth, who is on a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.

 

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I’m grateful every day for the technology that lets me keep up with him as he moves. He’s only halfway done, but already has accumulated stories and insights that will direct the rest of his life. Sure enough there was a message from him waiting for me on WhatsApp. The time stamp was precisely the moment I had been dancing in Hyde Park. This is what he said:

 

“I was just in a drum circle.”

 

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And just that quickly I learned a new word: Synchronicity.
/ˌsɪnkrəˈnɪsɪtɪ/

noun

1. an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated (from The British Dictionary)

How are we to recognize acausal combinations of events, since it is obviously impossible to examine all chance happenings for their causality? The answer to this is that acausal events may be expected most readily where, on closer reflection, a causal connection appears to be inconceivable. – Carl Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle

Before that night “Synchronicity” had been little more to me than the title of a song by The Police. Since then I’ve found myself reflecting on stuff that I know to be true that simply cannot be explained by science or logic. Moments I’ve lived personally – seen with my own eyes that have given me pause. Seems as though I’m not the first one to reflect in that way. See the Carl Jung pull above, and the Wikipedia link at the very top of Part 1.

According to Wikipedia, “Jung’s belief was that, just as events may be connected by causality, they may also be connected by meaning. Events connected by meaning need not have an explanation in terms of causality.”

 

Connected events. Coincidental. But no causal relationship. Connected instead by meaning. Like, for instance, my dad and his roses.

 

And here’s that story: Part 3…

 

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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-777s around the world, 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. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

Synchronicity, Serendipity, and the Importance of Things Unseen, Part 1

 

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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     Two decades ago I was on a layover in New York. With some time on my hands and a lovely Sunday afternoon on which to spend it, I wandered aimlessly over to Central Park. Late in the day I heard drumming start up on the other side of the park, and curiosity sent me strolling in that direction.
     As I walked up I observed about a dozen drummers in a circle with another dozen or so flower-children inside the circle dancing. Dreadlocks. Facial jewelry. Tattoos. And smiles.
     I’d never seen anything like it before, having grown up in a small town in the south, then college at a military academy. So I stood a short distance away and took it all in. It’s true the first drummers and dancers were not “my tribe.” But over time, other folks joined both the drummers and the dancers. Regular haircuts. Conventional clothes. People who looked like me. Wearing smiles. Giving smiles. Receiving smiles as they danced and drummed.
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     Different people floated in, stayed for a while, then floated out and walked away. I couldn’t tell if there were “rules.” I didn’t think so. But being the outsider I didn’t want to spoil the atmosphere in any way so I kept my distance.
     What I could tell was that there was living going on in that space. These people were vital. Leaving all unpleasantness outside the circle for a moment or two, and enjoying being human. Together. Since then whenever I’ve happened upon similar gatherings I’ve called them “Life Spaces.” They’re good to see.
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     Next day at 35,000 feet I described it to my captain. In his wisdom, he had only one simple question: “Did you dance?”
     I had not, for the reasons I mentioned above, and others. I’ve regretted that choice for all these years. How many times have I promised myself that should I ever run into another such “Life Space” I would certainly dance?
     Tonight I was in London, half a world away from New York, again wandering through another park very much like the one in Manhattan. And there it was. Drumming in the distance. Of course I wandered over that way. And yes, they were there. Hippies. Flower-children. Dreadlocks. Piercings. Tattoos. Smoldering sage bundles. And smiles. Drumming and dancing in a circle. Creating a Life Space.
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     I stepped right in. Cautiously, politely. No one seemed to mind. Me with my conventional clothing and short hair. And a smile. Remembering 20 years of anticipation. Of hope. Thinking of Manhattan in another age. At another age. With a wise old captain who knew just what to ask. Resolving a regret; correcting a mistake.
     It was a good moment. But it was about to get better. Remarkably better. Dramatically better. Unbelievably, serendipitously better.
      Here’s how: Part 2…
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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-777s around the world, 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. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

The Doorways Worn At Sill

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Many years ago one of my pilot buddies was stationed with the military in England. As was often the case, he chose to live on the local economy, and found a room he could rent from a dear old widow who was happy to have a brawny lad around the house.

He happily did odd jobs for her, and in due course noticed that her front step, a single slab of stone, was deeply worn from having been trod upon for who knows how many years.

So one day he took it upon himself to dig it up and turn it over, hoping to present his landlady with a nice smooth surface for her front step.

Only to find when he flipped it that it had already been turned!

Imagine!

I thought of that story last weekend as I was taken to a different place by the Colorado Children’s Chorale. They were singing the Samuel Lancaster setting of John Holmes’ “The People’s Peace.” The line that fired my imagination: “Days into years, the doorways worn at sill…”

How many soles of how many shoes had swept the granite of that stoop at my friend’s lodging? What tidings had they brought? Babes-in-arms carried across; becoming toddlers, adolescents, young adults wearing at the stone of their own accord. Then old. Then children.

“Summer gives way to fall, but winter always gives way to spring, which must then become summer again. The sun passes from east to west each and every day; each and every night, it passes from west to east again while we sleep.”*

Until the tread is worn to the point that it must be turned. And turned again.

And now, in this bleak mid-winter (at the end of 2016, after a stormy year of setting brother against brother), in the bitterness of cold, as those long gone are remembered and missed, we wonder. In the ultimate futility of living… where is peace?

Holmes and Lancaster and the Children’s Chorale would offer that we might look here:

“Peace is the mind’s old wilderness cut down-
A wider nation than the founders dreamed.
Peace is the main street in a country town;
Our children named; our parents’ lives redeemed.

Not scholar’s calm, nor gift of church or state,
Nor everlasting date of death’s release;
But careless noon, the houses lighted late,
Harvest and holiday: the people’s peace.

The peace not past our understanding falls
Like light upon the soft white tablecloth
At winter supper warm between four walls,
A thing too simple to be tried as truth.

Days into years, the doorways worn at sill,
Years into lives, the plans for long increase
Come true at last for those of God’s good will:
These are the things we mean by saying, Peace.”

And so, in this bleak mid-winter, in the bitterness of cold, as those long gone are remembered and missed, we wonder. Where is peace?

It is in the clearing of the mind’s wilderness; the stroll along main street; the naming of the children. It is in the warmth of summer noon gone by and yet to come. The harvest brought in. The table set, the lamps lit, the guests arrived for dinner. The unremarkable yet profound rising and setting of the sun. The turning of the stone. The things we mean by saying, Peace.

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This sparkling winter, then, with best wishes for you heartfelt, I say it.

“Peace.”

Will you say it too?

Thanks for reading!

The Symphony of Your Life

*The Symphony of Your Life: Restoring Harmony When Your World Is Out of Tune, page 7

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

The Symphony of Your Life

The Symphony’s YouTube Channel

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-777s around the world, 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. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

35,000′ In the Middle of the Night

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A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at the Global Business Travel Association’s annual convention in Denver. As my audience, over 100 travel professionals, and I, an airline pilot, visited about restoring harmony when your world is out of tune, one of the ideas that came up was “conversations that matter.”

The early 2000s was the era of bankruptcy in the airline industry, and many pilots saw their wages cut by 50%. How do you manage a 50% pay cut? “Let’s see… I’ll eat on even-numbered days. I’ll use water on odd-numbered days. I’ll use the air conditioner in the winter!” As you can imagine, those pay cuts stimulated some conversations in our cockpits!

Now, there are two kinds of conversations. There are the conversations you have when you’re taking off out of LAX for London in the late afternoon. The sun is bright as it descends toward the Pacific Ocean, the jet is operating well, the weather’s good, the air is smooth. You cross the San Bernardino Mountains at around 25,000’ climbing to 35,000’, and you can see Las Vegas in the distance.

You finish your post-takeoff housekeeping tasks and start to relax into the 10-hour cruise. And before you know it you’re talking about the Dodgers and Rockies. Or the AVs. Or whatever your favorite team is for this time of year. Those light-hearted conversations take you over Denver and Chicago.

But somewhere between Chicago and the east coast the atmosphere in the cockpit changes. It starts to get more personal. You find out that your Captain has 2 kids. One has special needs, the other has the potential to be an Olympic athlete. Both are expensive endeavors. And you start to wonder how she’s making it with the pay cuts.

Have you ever had a conversation that goes beneath the surface with a colleague? Is there someone you work with who really wants to know you on a deeper, more human level – beyond the platitudes? That’s the second kind of conversation.

And as you head out over the North Atlantic at 35,000’, it’s now the middle of the night. The passengers are asleep, the flight attendants relaxing on their jump seats. And you turn to your Captain and ask, “So really. How are you doing? Are you making it? Are you gonna be able to keep your house? Your car? How are you making it? Did you send your stay-at-home husband back to work to pay for that Olympic-level coach?”

Through the era of bankruptcy, then eventually into the Great Recession, those conversations fell into 2 categories: the pilots who were making it, and those who weren’t. The latter category was filled with stories of personal bankruptcies, foreclosures, and divorces.

But the former category, those who were doing ok, contained similarities of a different sort. There were patterns among those who were successfully restoring harmony during this period of historic hardship. Those patterns boiled down to 3 simple ideas. Those who were managing were universally kind, they were doggedly determined, and they were looking for ways to help others restore harmony in their lives, too. Simple. Not necessarily easy.

All these years later I watch for those patterns among people who are clearly meeting life head-on. For example, I look for little instances of kindness.

Just last week the gate agent came into the cockpit to let us know we had a special passenger on board. She was a “Make-A-Wish” Foundation participant on her way to London. He didn’t have to, but the Captain asked the agent to invite this young passenger to come up to the cockpit before our flight for pictures. Next thing I knew, she was sitting in the Captain’s seat, hands on the yoke and throttles, cheesing for her dad as he snapped pictures of our newest “Captain.”

It was a small gesture. A little kindness. But the Captain turned her long journey into an adventure from the start.

How do you restore harmony when your world is out of tune? We talked about that at GBTA. Are you looking for little opportunities to be kind? How can you change your world in a small way today, tomorrow, next week? What can you do to bring a smile. How can you help someone else fight his or her hard battle?

Do you have “conversations that matter?” When do you have them? What in your world are they about? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to know your stories.

The Symphony of Your Life

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

The Symphony of Your Life

The Symphony’s YouTube Channel

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-777s around the world, 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. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

How Big Is A Railroad Tie Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Koko Crater Trail

Here’s Part 2…

I watched as his powerful shoulders, muscles rippling with development over a lifetime of compensating for incapable legs, hauled his crippled body around the spiral staircase. To the first landing. Stop. Breathe. Then to the second landing. Breathe. And he was there. At the artillery observer’s post. Looking out over the Pacific Ocean to the south.

Just in time to see a mother whale and her calf breach off in the distance.

What was the difference between that elderly gentleman from Seattle and all those people with fully functional legs who turned back from their climb on the side of the Koko Crater trail yesterday? What was going through each of their minds?

Clearly the man on crutches understood the simplicity of the situation. All he needed to do was climb one stair. And then another. And another until he was at the top. Simple, though for him, not easy. But do-able.

What did the Koko Crater climbers understand? That it was too hot to climb one railroad tie? That they were too thirsty? Was the railroad tie simply too big for them to be able to step up onto it?

Or were they looking at the wrong thing? Were they seeing the enormity of climbing over 1,000 railroad ties in the heat of the Hawaiian sun when all they had to see was the single 6-inch step at the base of their stride?

What was the real challenge? The totality of the climb? Or the single railroad tie? What did they really have to do?

How about you? What is your challenge today? Today you are facing a very steep climb up some mountainside. What are you looking at? Are you feeling intimidated by the totality of your climb? Or can you focus on the single railroad tie at your feet?

I encourage you to look for the individual stairs on your climb. And have the courage to know that even though they may be many, you have the strength to climb them all, if you’ll simply climb them one at a time.

The Symphony of Your Life

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

The Symphony of Your Life

The Symphony’s YouTube Channel

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-777s around the world, 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. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

How Big Is A Railroad Tie? Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it…

Did any of them have to climb to the top to reap those rewards?

Well, no, actually. All of those people really had to do was climb one railroad tie. Not all of them. Just one.

There’s another famous hike on Oahu. I’ve mentioned Diamond Head, that great guardian of Waikiki Beach. It, too, served as a military lookout in WWII. Today, it offers another challenging hike up a hillside, through a tunnel, up a long, steep stairway to a reward of tremendous views.

On another layover a few weeks ago I was ¾ of an hour into that hike when I noticed the crowd ahead of me starting to pile up, apparently impeded by someone who was having some sort of difficulty. As I got closer I saw that there was indeed an elderly gentleman stopped at the side of the trail breathing hard. When I reached him I saw his crutches leaning against the rail.

This, I learned, was a fellow from Seattle, who’d never been to Hawaii, and was seeing as much as he could see. He had heard of the Diamond Head lookout hike and wanted to make it to the top. But because of his infirmity, what had taken me only forty-five minutes had already taken him a couple of hours, and he was feeling the strain. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go on from this point.

In the course of our brief conversation I asked him if he knew what was before him on the trail to the lookout. He listed the 74 stairs to the first tunnel, then the 99 additional stairs to the second tunnel. But he didn’t know about the two flights of spiral stairs to the very top. My question was simply this: are you able to climb stairs? He quickly and decisively averred that as long as he had something to hold on to, he could climb anything. I smiled and quietly congratulated him for how far he had come. And reminded him of how close he was to the end. And reassured him that from this point on there would be railings for him to hold on to. And told him I’d be waiting for him at the top.

With that I turned and climbed the 74 stairs and walked through the first tunnel. But I didn’t go up the next 99 stairs. Instead I waited. About 10 minutes later here came the man with the crutches. And for the first time I saw the massive effort it took for him to walk. He had the distinctive gait of someone who had been stricken with polio as a child, weight forward on his arms, supported by crutches, twisting to fling one leg forward, shifting his weight onto that leg, advancing the crutches, twisting to fling the other leg forward. Pace. By pace. By pace. One. Shift. Step. Shift. At. Shift. A. Shift. Time.

He exited the tunnel, looked to his right, and saw the 99 stairs to the top. He moved over into the shade and leaned against the wall to gather his strength. Five minutes later he began.

I watched as he placed his crutches on the first stair. Then one leg up. Weight forward. Second leg onto the step. Crutches onto the next step. Balance. Pause. Gasp for breath. Mission accomplished. Victory.

Another step. Mission accomplished. Another victory.

Then one more step. Then one more. Ninety-nine times. Ninety-nine separate tasks. Ninety-nine separate small victories. Then he was there. Through the second tunnel. I watched as his powerful shoulders, muscles rippling with development over a lifetime of compensating for incapable legs, hauled his crippled body around the spiral staircase. To the first landing. Stop. Breathe. Then to the second landing. Breathe. And he was there. At the artillery observer’s post. Looking out over the Pacific Ocean to the south.

Just in time to see a mother whale and her calf breach off in the distance.

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Part 3…

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

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

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-777s around the world, 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. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization!