Captain’s Log: Esse Quam Videri, Part 1 (of 4)

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

Wandering on a recent layover as I do, this time in Raleigh, I happened upon an image of North Carolina’s Great Seal which includes the state’s motto: Esse Quam Videri – “To be rather than to seem.”

Stopped me in my tracks.

Am I the only one to have noticed the general obsession with “authenticity” in recent months? It seems that everywhere I look I see people trying to be “authentic”.

There’s a common angst around even the possibility of being seen as inauthentic. We’re interested in living authentically and having what we do be a true reflection of who and what we are. But hasn’t that always been the case? I mean… who doesn’t feel like that?

So why all this sudden interest? And why all this angst? And what should we do about it, if anything?

In a 1989 correspondence with William Safire of the New York Post, Woody Allen took credit for saying, “80% of success in life is showing up.” In other words, whatever your chosen field, do your work.

The quote had originated even earlier while Allen was working on “Annie Hall,” the Oscar-winning movie that came out in 1977. So it’s old enough to be a cliche’. Which means today I’m not going to ask you whether you show up. I’m going to ask you how.

How do you show up? Or maybe more clearly, who are you when you show up? Do you show up as… You?

I can see your shoulders rising. The tension building in the back of your neck. Your overall stress level getting higher. Because it’s really not that simple. So let’s see if we can get you some stress relief.

Let’s start with the obvious. Is it even possible to show up as something other than ourselves? Of course it is. There is that person who is actively trying to be deceptive, dragging his/her show wagon of snake oil from town to town.

But we aren’t that person. Which means we certainly don’t want to be perceived as that person. So why are we sometimes afraid that others might see us that way?

One reason is called Imposter Syndrome: the fear that somebody significant is gonna find out that we are intellectual frauds. Which implies that we think on some level that we actually are. That we don’t belong where we are, doing what we’re doing. And we’re gonna be kicked out.

At the US Military Academy at West Point they have an expression for what happens to a cadet when he is separated from the Academy involuntarily (for academic failure, unsatisfactory military bearing, honor violation, etc.). The cadets refer to that separation as “being found.” I’m speculating here, but I imagine the phrase may have originated early in West Point’s history when somebody realized that one of his peers no longer belonged there. His weaknesses had become apparent. His reality was discovered – found out. Or simply “found.”

Is that what we’re all worried about? Getting “found?”

In Part 2 we’ll think together about why so many of us, over 50% of the population according to Psychology Today magazine, have that fear.

Thanks for reading!

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-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: Do the Right Thing

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

“Right is right, even if none be for it, and wrong is wrong, even if all be for it.” – William Penn

But how do you know what’s right?

I’ve been reading, enjoying, and learning from Gus Lee’s memoir, With Schwarzkopf: Life Lessons of the Bear, perhaps the best book on leadership I’ve ever read. One of Lee’s stories took me back to early 2005. In the summer of that year I was a brand new real estate agent with a rental property of my own I was ready to flip. The work on the house was done. It was time to get it on the market.

And sure enough an offer came in. But as I read the offer I realized that something was very wrong. It was as if the buyer’s agent had written it on my behalf. Almost every negotiable item was written to my benefit.

Think back with me to the summer of 2005. The Denver market in which I practiced had not yet started the spectacular decline that was already on the horizon. The economics were still fairly well-balanced, unlike today as I write in 2018 with the market heavily tilted in favor of sellers. So back then there was no reason for a buyer to make a particularly generous offer. I was puzzled.

As I looked more closely it became clear that this agent was new. Not only were the terms poorly-written, but there were technical errors, lots of them, in the way the contract had been prepared.

This was my very first transaction as a licensed agent – I had no idea what to expect from other real estate professionals. But it wasn’t my first deal. Over the years I had acquired and sold multiple properties as an investor. So despite my “greenness” in the agency world, I was able to recognize that this agent was exposed. Were I of such a mind, this would have been an opportunity to take advantage of her inexperience. I could just see some of my fellow investors licking their chops.

But it didn’t feel right. I was after a fair deal, sure. Maybe even a “good” deal. This, though, had the potential to cause harm to the buyer. And that reality hung me up. Because this was my own property, I could do whatever I wanted. Ultimately I would completely re-write the contract.

But what if I were negotiating on behalf of a client? Having just graduated from real estate school I was powerfully aware that my fiduciary responsibility would have “required” me to negotiate the absolute best possible deal for my client regardless of what I might do on my own.

I didn’t want to be that agent. You know the one I’m talking about. The hard-nosed, hard-driving stereotype of an agent who takes advantage of every unintentional slip without any regard for good faith.

I needed guidance. Newly minted, I didn’t have the tools. And having recently hung my shingle with the largest real estate company in Colorado, I feared that they would expect me to be… aggressive. Still, I went looking for advice.

Unfortunately it was a Saturday. The broker wasn’t in. The agency trainer was enjoying his weekend as well. So I went to the front desk receptionist to ask who was taking agent questions. She pointed me down the hall to a senior agent whose name I didn’t yet know.

His door was closed, but the light was on. I knocked. When the door opened I was looking up at a mountain of flesh with a face of thunder who was clearly wondering why I’d interrupted his desk work. My palms started to sweat. Quaking, I stammered out my dilemma.

I’ll never forget his answer. He didn’t roar at me. He was actually rather gentle. In the voice of a father, he said, “you know, Mark, it’s simple. Just do the right thing.”

Do the right thing. He didn’t ask for numbers. In fact, he didn’t ask for any details at all. He didn’t care about the commission split to the company. He only had one concern: do the right thing. Not necessarily easy. But simple.

If up to that point I’d had any reservation about whether I’d made the right choice of agency to join, those doubts evaporated in an instant and I knew I was home. And as ethical questions came up during my years as an agent I found great comfort as well as utility in his advice.

In his book, Gus Lee reminisces about Schwarzkopf telling him, “every real question in life comes off as a tough ethics question. And the answer’s always the same to tough questions: do the right thing.”

Of course, the point here is that those “real” questions are called “tough” for a reason. The right thing sometimes requires personal sacrifice. And The Bear had plenty to say about army “careerists” protecting their own interests at the expense of the “harder right.”

Still, as humans living in the real world we naturally want to avoid that. And our own interests can be legitimate. It’s ok to be as fair to ourselves as to others. In the case of my first real estate transaction, it wasn’t really all that hard, partly because I was a principal to the deal, partly because I knew that even if this particular deal failed another buyer would come along.

Which takes us back to the “tough” part. Sometimes, the right thing has nothing to do with us. Had I been working for a client it wouldn’t have been so easy. The client’s interests would have been at play. And the agency under whose license I toiled always had a say. Multiple interests, sometimes in conflict, make it harder to discern “right.”

So here you are, facing a tough question. Maybe you’re involved in the problem, maybe you’re not. Regardless, you’re the decision maker. How can you know what to do?

Again from Schwarzkopf: “Character means you have to do the right thing all of the time. Character guarantees competence because to do the right thing you must acquire and develop your competence.” In other words, the better you get at what you do, the easier it becomes to know what’s right.

Finally in this regard, The Bear referenced the cadet prayer from West Point. Part of it implores, “…strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.” He then taught that “you need fine judgment to know the harder right. You get that judgment by practicing and by learning from errors.”

I imagine that General Schwarzkopf might suggest you face today’s difficult decision by sifting through the issues in search of the harder right. And then move forward with admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking. Not without fear of making the wrong decision, but with the courage of knowing that if you make a mistake you will learn.

Doing that will lead to your best decision today and will make hard decisions easier tomorrow. Learning begets competence; competence begets judgment. The more you practice the better you will become. And in time you will become the one to whom the new folks turn, because you will know where to find the harder right.

And you’ll hear yourself saying, “It’s simple. Just do the right thing.” And then you’ll lead the way.

Thanks for reading!

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-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: Not What I’m Thankful For

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

Rather, why I am thankful…

Captain’s Log: November 22, 2017, 0 passengers, Not flying today. A day of rest.

A couple of days ago a close friend called me with a challenge. This being Thanksgiving week, he had been asked to present at his church on the subject of thankfulness. He asked if I might be able to help. Apparently, he regards me as a positive individual. Who knew?

Anyway, he wondered if I might give his congregation some perspective on living “thankfully”, especially  in light of the serious accident I lived through some years ago.

He kinda caught me by surprise. I’m sure I stammered out some words about the accident, and how I’d navigated the “dark ages” described in my book. A question like that, though, gets a person thinking. Here’s what has occurred to me since that conversation.

It’s true that I had a bad bike crash in 2012. My neck was broken in 5 places! Miraculously, everything I needed to have happen during the recovery happened, and looking at me you would never know I’d been in an accident unless you learned about it some other way. Still, I don’t know how I could have come any closer to death and not died.

What does that mean? It means I’m about to commit an unpardonable sin as a writer and invoke a cliche’. And here it is: I live as if I died that day. No, you don’t see me doing any weird stuff on street corners. It’s an attitude. Every day is a day I might never have had. I’m still an incarnate human person,  capable of enjoying exquisite experiences. (Yes, I’m also as capable as anyone of experiencing fears and hesitations of daily living. But which would you rather focus on if you had come close to lights out?) As I was speaking with my friend autumn had taken its toll on Colorado’s trees and their leaves were all gone. But Sacramento outside my hotel window was still resplendent with red, yellow, brown, and even still some green trees. The sky was blue with white cirrus feathers adding to its brightness. I paused in the conversation to enjoy those visual sensations and thought again about how it might be different. I’m thankful because every day is a gift.

And I remind myself often that life is not fair, and I am always thankful for that. I’ve heard it said that if all the world’s miseries were gathered in one place, and we were offered the choice of taking our pro-rata share from the pile or keeping our own, most of us would keep our own. I certainly would. From that perspective I have a charmed life, as do most of us in America. Our first-world problems fade into insignificance when we think that there are humans today living in cardboard slums reeking of street sewage wondering where their next sip of clean water will come from. I’m thankful because of my “miseries.”

I’ve written before about having won the birth lottery. I was born into 20th-century America rather than 11th-century anywhere. Think about the greatest, wealthiest, most notorious medieval king you’ve read about in history. Who was he? It doesn’t matter! In many ways I live better than he did. Dude didn’t have hot/cold running water or central heating like we do. I know that there are exceptions to those generalizations in modern America. But I posited to my friend that its likely that every member of his congregation this Sunday will have greater luxuries than that medieval king. I’m thankful because of my good fortune.

A confession is now in order. I used to be kinda whiny. (I know… Hard to believe, right? Still, I’m a pilot, and pilots whine – like jet engines!) But that was before the “dark ages.” Again, in my book I give details about the “dark ages” in the post-9/11 airline bankruptcy era. About having invested in real estate at exactly the wrong time. About dealing with an incredibly intrusive and unjust (proven by a later case!) IRS audit. There were weeks, months even, when I ended the day by taking inventory: today, do my kids and I have clothes on our backs, food in our bellies, and a roof over our heads? Somehow, the answer was always yes. Somehow, our basic needs were always taken care of. I’m certainly thankful for that. But so what? Is there more to that idea?

While I recognize that there are exceptions to that generalization as well, for those in my friend’s congregation I bet it holds. And what that experience did for me is stop me from worrying about money. I have learned that it’s possible to face staggering loss and survive. I’m not a wastrel. But I don’t concern myself with pennies, or any kind of small thinking anymore. Those experiences have given me a new sense of peace. And I’m thankful because Fortune threw challenges my way.

And here’s something else those experiences gave me: a tool box. Incredibly, while I still feel those days from over a decade ago, I’m still here. Which is kinda the point. We have all been through often heavy challenges. And we’re still here. Each challenge we successfully navigate gives us a tool for facing the next challenge that we know is inevitable. So when I hear folks in my own sphere complain about just about anything, I think (though rarely say out loud) “the best thing that could happen to you is for you to lose about a half-million dollars.” Because that person would survive. And would have a new set of tools. I’m thankful because I have a tool box.

Today we stop to remember all the things we’re thankful for. I trust that your list is long and brings warmth to your soul. And I hope you’ll pause as well to ponder all the experiences you’ve enjoyed and endured that make it possible to be thankful!

Happy Holidays!

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: 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

camino-heart-attack-screenshot

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

sketch-of-dad

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.

dad-in-moms-kitchen

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

seth-camino-taza

 

…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.”

 

drum-circle-whatsapp-screen-shot

 

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 glad 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, 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