Captain’s Log: #StayInTheProcess

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

March 25, 2021

Back on March 25th of 2020 I was scheduled to speak at a networking happy hour. I’d attended their meetings as a guest, had actually spoken for them before, and by this time I had become friends with many and was looking forward to seeing them. Obviously, that event did not happen.

The pandemic still had the upper hand: its impact growing, its ultimate effect not yet known. I couldn’t encourage them in person, but I wanted to do something. So I wrote them a letter. Part of the text follows in quotations below.

When I wrote that letter, to borrow from Churchill, we weren’t even at the end of the beginning. A year later I believe we’re beyond the beginning of the end. And we’re like a squadron of B-17s in March of 1945: bullet-riddled. Those still air-worthy continue to fly, taking the battle to the enemy, until the conclusion, though foregone, is at hand. I hope the idea I shared with my friends a year ago encourages you today. Today, 12 months down the road, the end is in sight. All we have to do is #StayInTheProcess.

“…We’re not meeting today because we’re fighting a battle together. It’s touching each of us. Every member of Cor2Cor. And here’s something you’re not hearing in the media, or from our government leaders, but I’m 100% certain that it’s true. You have been through hard battles before. And by virtue of the fact that you are present today, reading this note, I know that you’ve survived. Indeed, you’ve thrived. And each battle you’ve worked over, under, around, or through has given you tools that you’ve been able to use in subsequent fights. Including the one we’re all fighting today.

When we connect with the pandemic behind us, I’ll share some stories about that reality. I’ll tell you about my daughter, Anna, who pursued her dream for more than a decade before it came true. I’ll introduce you to the Jump Master at Fort Benning who daily teaches soldiers that they can keep going as long as they need to. We’ll talk about how Koko Crater taught me to manage the enormity of any great challenge.

And I’ll invite you to know my friend and mentor, Captain Mark Hoog, who taught me one of the most important lessons Life has for us: if we are ever to succeed in anything, we simply must stay in the process. It’s a simple idea, though not necessarily easy in times like these.

I look forward to visiting with you when we can. Until then, I encourage you to lean into the idea that you are equipped for this challenge. And thank you for being the leaders I know you to be. You are the encouragers who are leading our community through and ultimately away from this crisis.

I’ll see you soon!

#StayInTheProcess

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: The Meadow of Wisdom

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

April 5, 2021. Where do you do your thinking? When do you have those epiphanies? (You do have them, right? Do you write them down?) My friend, Rear Admiral Scott Jones, Ironman, Champion Triathlete, says his brain doesn’t kick in until his heart rate hits 125. In my case it’s when I’ve been walking for about 45 minutes. I often do that walking in the nearby Willow Springs Open Space. I call it The Meadow of Wisdom.

Today at about that point in that open space it occurred to me that my peers in the airline world are generally high achievers. They exist in the world of about 95%. They show up to every flight prepared, competent, happy to be there, and ready to give great service. That’s sustainable. It’s a level of excellence that isn’t exhausting and won’t lead to burnout.

But what would it look like if they showed up with 97 or 98% of their ability? How would their passengers experience the flight?

In his inspirational presentations, my friend, Captain Bob Zimmermann often asks listeners to raise a hand as high as they can. He then asks them to raise it a little bit more. Inevitably they do!

And then there’s this. What do you have if you have a pot of water at 211 degrees Fahrenheit? The answer is a pot of really hot water. But what happens when you add just enough additional energy to raise that water just one more degree? This answer is…”magic.” With that tiny addition of just a little more heat, water boils!

So I find myself asking what might happen if I were to bring that extra little bit to my flight? What is possible if I’m able to find that last little bit of energy? I wonder what kind of magic might happen. How would it change the way my passengers experience the flight?

My imagination tells me that in that transition from 211 degrees to 212, my passengers are no longer just flying from point A to point B. When the water boils, again, in my imagination, the flight might actually become an extraordinary experience.

And now, thanks to 45 minutes of walking in The Meadow of Wisdom, I have a new ambition.

Which leads to a few questions for you to consider as you start your day. First, have you recognized that there’s a place/time/condition in which you have your best ideas? Can you reproduce that? And then… what would it look like if you were able to take what you do from 211 degrees to 212? What sort of magic might occur? What kind of extraordinary experience could you create?

Let me know what you come up with. This could be good!

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

Perspective Affects Perception – Why I Am Thankful, Again

A Symphony of Your Life Blog With Captain Mark Hardcastle

Part One: December 2013.

Captain’s Log: I’m so thankful to be living in the 21st Century! What I’m about to write would not have been possible a decade ago, let alone in any other century.

I’m sitting in a hotel in Houston on a layover, listening to my kids in the Colorado Children’s Chorale sing “Velvet Shoes” by Randall Thompson as recorded at our concert last weekend. The concert was in Boettcher Hall, the municipal concert venue for downtown Denver. It’s being broadcast tonight by Colorado Public Radio. None of this is particularly remarkable.

The 21st-century part is that the concert recording is streaming in real time as part of the radio broadcast from Colorado Public Radio over the internet. In a minute they’ll sing “There Will Be Rest”, a poem by Sarah Teasdale, set to music by Daniel Kallman. Then a few moments later I’ll get to listen to Cameron sing “Balulalow” again. Merry Christmas, World, from the perspective of 2013.

Part Two: July 2020

Captain’s Log: Today a short hop from San Antonio to Houston, then deadhead home to Denver as a passenger.

This morning the Captain is out for a wander around the working-class neighborhood near his layover hotel, as he often does. He’s appreciating the working-class architecture displaying pride-of-ownership to varying degrees as with any neighborhood; lawns filled with the St. Augustine grass so common in the south. It’s hot in San Antonio. Forecast high will be 105 degrees Fahrenheit. That doesn’t stop the cicada chatter that surrounds him. https://drive.google.com/…/1uPY7znXkZdRYXAXtfe2…/view…

A flash of red catches his eye and his heart is lifted by the sight of a female cardinal, the first he’s seen in many years, her head and breast bright red, her wings and tail dusky as is the way of the female bird. All of these things take him back to his childhood and remind him of the tall trees and green grass, the dogwoods and azaleas he so loved growing up in Georgia. And he misses them.

His way then takes him by a neighborhood grocery store, the outdoor display by the entrance piled high with bags of ant killer specifically formulated to target fire ants. And he remembers again. Those fire ants. The mosquitoes. Chiggers, for heaven’s sake. Those things he does not miss. And just that fast he is content again to live in Denver.

Perspective. It’s a thing.

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

Captain’s Log: Cicadas of Summer, Crickets of Fall – The Equinox

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Captain Mark Hardcastle

Last week, flying over the Front Range, seeing clumps of aspens, now yellow in the forests below.

Days ago walking in The Meadow of Wisdom hours before sunrise, Orion in the southern sky having risen hours before me, walking east to west at a thousand miles an hour, a rate undetectable by the naked eye, racing to achieve the western horizon before being obliterated by the sun. He’s gonna lose that race.

Yesterday I flew over the Never Summer Wilderness and saw that there was snow. The first snow of the season, the snow of September.

Today I’m thinking back to the cicadas of summer, the crickets of fall. And today’s Equinox. Some use clocks. I keep time by the rhythm of The Meadow.

And I’m urgently aware that too much time has passed as I’ve worked on material for my next book. I want to get it out before Christmas!

That may or may not happen. I still have much to do, although my content has almost all been gathered in one place. (I say almost. I still have two draft articles to publish at thesymphoyofyourlifeblog.com, and I haven’t completed harvesting my countless posts from Facebook. Gotta get that done!) If I can get that organized it’s still plausible that I might have my paperback ready for gift-giving by the end of the year.

The hard deadline, though, is May 18th, 2022. That will be another mile stone that ends in zero. It will be the 10th anniversary of the mountain bike crash that altered the course of my life. The full hard-cover special edition simply must be published by then. So mote it be!

Whenever it comes out it will be based on the articles you’ve seen here and other places under the heading, “The Captain’s Log.” I’ll officially begin asking for title suggestions very soon. Please give that some thought!

For today, though, I invite you to mark the passage of time. The autumnal equinox will occur at 1:20p.m. Denver time. I’ll step outside on this Colorado-blue-sky day, face south, and take note as the sun continues gradually away from me on its way to the solstice in late December.

And I’ll think about the cicadas of summer, the crickets of fall, the snow of September, the equinox. And the rhythm of The Meadow.

Happy Equinox!

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

Captain’s Log: Desert Storm Day Zero

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Captain Mark Hardcastle

A little humility and a good idea can go a long way toward fixing a flawed plan…

January, 1991. Desert Shield is over. Tomorrow we will go into battle. My Ravens, with whom I have flown almost exclusively throughout the Shield, have come to me with bad news. They have been replaced by senior staff from their squadron, and are asking for my help in getting back onto the crew. Is there anything I can do?

Our airplane was officially designated the “RC-135,” known more affectionately as “The Hog” because of its distinctive long nose. The interior of the plane, based on an early variant of Boeing’s 707 passenger jet, was divided into several compartments, each populated by operators who hold multiple reconnaissance specialties. Each specialty came from its own squadron with its own chain of command. With the exception of my compartment, I had nothing to do with my mission staffing, and flew with whomever happened to show up on any given day.

The compartment I occupied was the flight deck and was separated from the “recon” sections of the plane by a curtain. My communication with the rest of the plane was via inter-phone through the senior Electronic Warfare Officer, or “Raven,” who coordinated with the remaining recon operators.

You may be starting to get an idea of the complexity of our normal routine. While we were governed by standard operating procedures that guaranteed our effectiveness – even with rotating crews in various compartments – it isn’t hard to recognize the benefit of working with crews you know.

I, along with my flight deck crew, had rotated in and out of the theater multiple times during the Shield. By simple coincidence, my crew of Ravens on all but one of those deployments had been the same crew who were now standing before me in our 12-person tent on the Riyadh airfield. We had flown dozens of sorties together over those months, had learned that we all had similar operating philosophies, and had become a well-oiled, highly effective reconnaissance machine. It was a good team.

And now, the night before the Super Bowl, their head coach had benched my starters.

Because they were from an entirely different squadron, I had zero control over the situation. Their leadership had complete freedom to staff any mission however they saw fit. As we brainstormed together that night, we had to begin from the reality that our hand was weak. But while acknowledging the lack of power we looked for possibilities to influence.

Possibility of influence. That’s all we had, so we resolved to make the best of it. I left the tent and made my way to the operations center where I found their squadron commander and his second-in-command finalizing staffing for all of the next day’s missions. There would be several of those flights as Desert Storm was unleashed.

It’s worth noting at this point that two of the Ravens who were to replace “my own” were the two gentlemen now standing before me, the commander and his operations officer, both senior officers, each with double my time in service. They were engrossed in their task. I was scared spitless.

I didn’t see it this way at the time, but my friend Captain Bob Zimmerman says there are high-stakes moments in our lives in which we need to find just 20 seconds of courage. This was one of those moments. I could see their plan was flawed. I had no authority to fix it on my own. And I owed it to myself, my crew of Ravens, and indeed the impending war effort, to do something.

So I took a deep breath, introduced myself, and began by acknowledging that I really had no business being there. It was not my place – it was theirs – to lead their squadron. But I was coming to them for help.

I explained that I had learned that my Ravens had been replaced. And I was aware that this in and of itself was not a big deal, or even at all unusual. The difference this night was the remarkable good fortune we’d had to fly together – to train together – during the entirety of the Shield. We had become the team that makes it to the Super Bowl. And, as a crew, we were asking in all humility if we might be re-crewed together so we could take the field as the team we had become.

I thanked these leaders for their time, saluted smartly, and left the ops center, not knowing what the outcome would be. It didn’t take long. Before I made it back to the tent, my Ravens had been called into the ops center. Moments later they came back with the news. It was done. We would be going into battle as the combat-ready crew we had created together.

There was a time I would have approached this challenge differently. Arrogance and cockiness are hallmarks of young pilots (you’ve seen the movie, “Top Gun,” right?). Although I knew better than to bulldoze my way into meetings with senior officers, my overconfidence got in my way more times than I care to admit. Life, though, has a way of rounding off hard corners. The process can be painful. I have my share of scars to prove it.

That night in Riyadh on the eve of Desert Storm, I had not yet learned all the humility that would be forced upon me over the course of my 62 years on the planet. But I had learned enough. And the experience of humbling myself after gathering 20 seconds of courage locked in the lesson. Somehow finding the courage to make the effort, clothed in recognition of one’s place, can be powerful.

I hope that you are not looking at flying into actual combat tomorrow with actual bullets. But I know that you will be fighting a hard battle. I hope you have a good crew. And a good plan. If not, a little humility, a good idea, and maybe 20 seconds of courage can go a long way toward fixing everything.

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

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, 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

IMG_20151209_182818

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

IMG_20151209_182818

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

IMG_20151209_182818

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

Captain’s Log: 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!

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