A “Symphony of Your Life” Blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain’s Log: January 25, 2022. A day of work, although no flying. I flew hard during the pilot absences over the holidays created by the notorious Omicron outbreak. I gave 100% during that push, but it’s over now, and I’m on retreat in Leadville, CO, giving my manuscript all I’ve got in hopes of finishing this week.

That flying surge had me constantly self-evaluating. In my world I simply must show up every day with 100%. In fact, that’s enshrined in law via the Federal Aviation Regulations. Our duty rigs make it possible for us to fly hard during unusual times like this endless Covid era, because those FARs draw the line for us. We can only fly so much over the course of a day, a week, a month, or a year before we run out of available duty time. So we always know where we stand, and how much more we can contribute.

But despite those rules, it’s just as plausible that we might get too burnt too soon and have to call a time out, for which we also have protocols in place. Every time we approach a plane we self-assess and decide how close to the line we happen to be, as I did over the holidays. And I’m glad my time is now up for this short season, and I can think of concerns other than flying.

I’m curious, though, about you. How does it work in your world? Do you ever have one of those days when you know from the get-go that you just don’t have 100% today? You take your shower as always, have your breakfast of champions and make your coffee with an extra tablespoon of grinds. But no matter what, you’re not gonna get to your day with the effort you’re normally able to give it. And you know it.

In my world I can call “King’s X” and take a break. How about you? Are you in a place where you are able simply to accept it and go in anyway? Then what? Do you chastise yourself? Tell yourself to get it together? Respond to the situation with grace for yourself and those around you?

Hang with me now while I make a hard turn. Do you meditate? If so you may have heard of the Headspace App. It provides a catalog of guided meditations of varying lengths and with myriad objectives. Over time the app expanded into a daily podcast which has become the first thing my phone serves me in the morning after it wakes me up and tells me the weather and how long it’s gonna take to drive to work.

One recent episode dealt with perfection and our inability to achieve it. The point wasn’t really surprising. It was giving us permission simply to do our best and learn to be ok with that.

Nothing new there. It’s the sort of idea that’s so common in my world of personal development and inspiration (though not flying, as I said above!) as to be well into the realm of cliché. Which meant that while I thought the piece from Headspace was nice enough, I didn’t find it particularly useful.

But then as I rolled out of bed and the Headspace sentiment settled into my still-foggy brain, I remembered another “aha” moment.

I was having lunch at Cooper’s Troopers, a monthly meeting of veterans from all wars, listening to my friend Captain Bob Zimmerman regale these aging veterans with stories of leadership he’d learned from coaching teenage lacrosse.

Bob told us of the day he noticed that one of his guys wasn’t performing up to his usual skill. In fact, it looked like he wasn’t giving 100% at practice. So he called the kid over to check in. The kid thought a minute, and said, “you know coach, you’re right, I’m not. In fact, I don’t think I even have 100% today.”

Not what Bob was expecting. But in a flash of coaching genius he thought to ask, “ok, how much do you have?” “About 80% I guess” was the response. “Ok, give me 100% of 80%. Now get back in there.”

“100% of 80%.” As a member of Bob’s audience how could it not stick with me?

When I remembered that, my moment of “meh” at the Headspace offering became a smile of actual gratitude for them having brought the story to mind, albeit unintentionally and indirectly. Still, there it was.

Both sources were expressing the same fundamental sentiment: “be ok with whoever you are and however you need to show up on any given day.” Why was Bob’s so much more impactful to me?

While I’m in no way averse to receiving grace in a moment of challenge, Headspace was being too easy on me, and, for that matter, everyone else listening to the podcast. The narrator seemed to be giving me (us) a free pass. It was an “I’m ok, you’re ok” sentiment from the ’70’s that contained no measure of accountability.

As a Captain I’m in a position to lead my crew, including myself, to be the best they can be. The idea of accepting mediocrity simply because someone may not feel like expending the effort to be excellent grates on me. 

That said, I get it. Nobody shows up as his or her absolute best self every single day. Granted: stuff happens. No need to list all the “stuff” here.

What I like about the “100% of 80%” idea is that it takes that reality into account without letting me slide. It gives me grace to do and be the best that I can on any given day while challenging me still to give as close to excellence as I can in the circumstances.

My “Type A” self likes that a whole lot better.

How does that resonate with you? Am I quibbling over “a distinction without a difference”? Or am I on to something?

I can imagine my more empathetic readers will gravitate toward a softer, more general “just be your best and we’ll be good” response when someone nearby isn’t up to the full ticket. My harder-nosed “git ‘er done” friends may think even this new standard isn’t strong enough. Where do you fall on that continuum? Are you able to apply a consistent standard to yourself as well as those on your team?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this. I’ll be glad to pass them on to Captain Bob.

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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


2 thoughts on “Captain’s Log: 100% of 80%

  1. Hi Mark,
    I always like reading your Captain’s logs. They inspire me and make me reflect. This one, in particular, “100% of 80%,” was one that not only produced reflection, but also the need to add a few thoughts.
    Unless we can record every thought in our minds moment to moment, how do we actually know we are providing 80, 90, or 100% of our attention to what is happening in the present moment in front of us at any given moment?
    According to most research by neuroscientists, on average, “we are missing 50 percent of what is happening in front of us (Amishi Jha, “Peak Mind: Find Your Focus; Own Your Attention; Invest 12 Minutes a Day). Incredibly, and surprisingly, we are able to still accomplish many things, including driving cars and flying airplanes while not having our full attention on the actual task. As a matter of fact, I am sure you have written many articles (in your mind) while still driving home from work.
    The practice that you are now engaged in using Headspace is what will slowly give you the awareness of all that is happening in your mind at any given moment that is taking your focus away from the present moment. Because our thoughts and emotions are an ever-present threat to our attention system, constantly tugging away our attention from present moment awareness, sometimes, we might not “show up 100%” in what we are attempting to accomplish at that given moment and we might miss an important detail, and maybe, even make a mistake. When we catch ourselves in that moment, the recommendation to “recognize it and be ok with it” has more to do with recognizing the mind pattern that will be created by “not being ok with it,” rather than with acceptance of mediocrity. And, I would argue, that it is exactly the opposite. The moment one gets upset or disappointed at not having shown up at 100%, is the very moment when a mental loop begins in our minds that will even further take our attention away from what we are engaged in.
    In other words, if we are flying and we make a mistake, should we duel on it? Or, should we keep flying the aircraft with our full attention on what is happening in front of us, maybe, repairing the mistake we just did (the aircraft will certainly not wait for us to think about for too long on our mistake)? The recommendation would probably be, “note the mistake, be ok with it, and keep flying. Once on the ground, then debrief and evaluate.”



    Liked by 1 person

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