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

A “Symphony of Your Life” Blog With Mark Hardcastle

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

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

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

First, Step 2. Figure out how.

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

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

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

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

Finally, Step 3. Begin.

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

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

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

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

Then what?

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

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

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

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

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

And stay in the process.

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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

The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

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

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

A “Symphony of Your Life” Blog with Mark Hardcastle

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

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

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

First, the list:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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

The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

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

 

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

A “Symphony of Your Life” Blog With Mark Hardcastle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Getting clarity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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

The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

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

 

Captain’s Log: Practicing What We Preach

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

March, 2021

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

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

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

And I feel compassion for the guy who wrote this.

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

August, 2017

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

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

We canceled.

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

Do you do that?

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

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

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

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

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

#YouCanYouJustNeedToKnowYouCan      #StayInTheProcess

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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

The 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?)

So let’s start here. 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 resplendent with red, yellow, brown, and even some still 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 it’s 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

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, then young adults wearing at the stone of their own accord. Then old. Then children. Until the tread is worn to the point that it must be turned. And turned again.

The stories that stone might tell! They might begin something like this:

“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.”*

Which sometimes gives us pause when we realize that while days can seem to drag, the years fly by.

Today at the solstice, at the point of mid-winter, enduring the bitterness of cold and the quiet of the long night, we might find ourselves thinking about the turning of the stone. Loved ones long gone and sorely missed may come to mind. And this shortest day, like our lives, is over almost before it begins.

Then what? If you’re like me, you may feel a bit unsettled by what seems in this moment to be a sort of futility of living. Today we might be asking, “why bother with living at all?”

Thankfully, as I heard at Boettcher Hall a few days ago, Holmes and Lancaster and the Children’s Chorale have a suggestion. I think they would offer this, “The People’s Peace” as a reason to bother:

“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.”

Our children named, our parents’ lives redeemed: those following in our footsteps together with those who came before us… abide. In our stories within the stone in the doorway. Written yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Remembered and retold around the table at the holidays. Because the years don’t fly into oblivion. Rather, years flow into lives. Creating plans for long increase!

This shortest day, like our lives, is over almost before it’s begun. But the stone in the doorway endures! And tomorrow will be longer, as will the day after. And our lives redeemed through the stories our children will tell.

And so, on this mid-winter day, despite the bitterness of cold, as those long gone are remembered and fondly missed, while wondering at the turning of the stone and the stories it could tell, if we simply choose, we can be warmed and comforted watching the plans for long increase come true at last. Even here, even now, if we stop to look, is peace.

We see it in the clearing of the mind’s wilderness; the stroll along main street; the naming of the children. It’s 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 that remind us why to bother with living at all: the days into years, the doorways worn at sill. The things we mean by saying, Peace.

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This sparkling winter, then, on this, the shortest day of the year, with best wishes for you heartfelt, I offer you…

Peace. You’ll find it in your stories.

Happy holidays!

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

How Big Is A Railroad Tie Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Koko Crater Trail

Here’s Part 2…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Symphony of Your Life

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

The Symphony of Your Life

The Symphony’s YouTube Channel

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

How Big Is A Railroad Tie? Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another step. Mission accomplished. Another victory.

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

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

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Part 3…

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

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization!

How Big Is A Railroad Tie? Part 1

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Today I’m in Houston, in the middle of a 6-day trip for United Airlines. It’s my second layover. The first was in Honolulu. Not bad duty, especially when there’s snow on the ground in my hometown of Centennial, CO.

I’ve had the great good “fortune” (in quotes for those who are familiar with my book) to enjoy many layovers in Hawaii over the years. As is the case with any layover city, once you’ve seen all the well-known attractions in Honolulu, you start to wander a bit farther afield. Which is how I found myself climbing the Koko Crater trail yesterday.

Koko Head is a volcanic mountain on the southeast corner of Oahu. There are a number of popular and interesting formations there. Hanauma Bay, known for its snorkeling, and the Koko Crater, a cinder cone that stands sentinel over this part of the island, are two of them. Koko Head’s strategic location provided a great radar site for the US military from 1942 until its decommissioning in 1966. There are still remnants of the site’s concrete and steel foundations at the top of the mountain. But that’s not the attraction.

Today people go to Koko Crater for the climb. It’s a fantastic cardio workout. And the view from the top of the mountain is spectacular. Diamond Head and Waikiki are in the distance. Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai are nearby.  IMG_20140123_110806

When it was an active radar site, the main base was at the foot of the crater. The operational facility at the top was accessed by a rail tram that ran directly to the top, climbing some 1,200 feet along the way. All that remains of the tramway today is the track.

Back in the day, the track’s users didn’t mind the grade. Passengers and supplies were winched up by machinery easily capable of taking passengers in a straight line – no switchbacks required.

Which brings us to yesterday. There I was in the company of a couple hundred of my closest friends climbing those railway ties. There are over 1,000 of them. IMG_20140126_092723

The climb starts gently enough. The first half is deceptively easy with a relatively shallow grade. But just after the 500th tie, the track crosses a ravine. It was constructed for rail cars – not humans, so exposure below the ties wasn’t a concern. But as one hikes across the ravine, one needs to tread carefully.

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There’s nothing between those 64 ties except the rails themselves, and a misstep looks as though it could be disastrous. This is challenge number one. And it is the end of the day for many. Those who simply cannot stomach the idea of exposure to a fall through the ties turn back here.

Then comes challenge number two. Here the trail bends upward and becomes much steeper.

IMG_20140126_091947And the crowd really begins to thin at this point. Climbers who didn’t understand what they were undertaking have a reality check and many turn back. Those who are not ready physically or psychologically, or who are not properly dressed, or who didn’t bring enough water, or who are too old or infirm to climb a steep grade stop here or shortly after. They give up. They know they can’t climb another 500 railroad ties up this massive incline. From here on, the number of climbers heading down to the parking lot is greater than the number going to the top.

None of these people get to enjoy the feeling of meeting this challenge. They don’t feel the endorphin rush that accompanies the last step as they reach the top of the mountain. They won’t know the “wow” factor of the view out over the endless Pacific Ocean in all directions from the rim of the crater.

All because they couldn’t climb to the top.

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

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

In part 2 we’ll talk about how I saw this reality applied in dramatic fashion on another hike on Oahu. More importantly, we’ll start to think about how this applies to challenges you are facing today.

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#symphonyofyourlife #wheeloffortune

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Link to Mark’s Book: They Symphony of Your Life

Mark Hardcastle 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 or call 720.840.8361

You Can. You Just Need To Know You Can, Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Here’s Part 2

I was one of those who kept running that day. Ironically, I feel like I was one of those who failed. Why would I say that?

My buddy Jeff, running right beside me, was one of those who dropped out.

Of course I failed.

Would I have been able to go another full mile? That’s something I’ll never know with certainty. What I do know is that I had enough to go another 3 or 4 steps. And hopefully another 3 or 4 beyond that. On another day, in another time or place I’d have reached out to Jeff and helped him along for those first few steps, then the next, until hopefully he got his second wind and would be able to keep going on his own. But that day I didn’t.

Why not? Two reasons. First, I was so consumed with my own burning lungs that I wasn’t looking around for anyone who might be losing steam. Second, Jeff didn’t tell me. Had either of those realities not been true I’d have reached out and grabbed him and pulled him along.

By continuing to run I got what the Jumpmasters wanted me to get that day. By watching Jeff drop out I got something else.

When Fortune starts doling out her challenges we need to think more deeply.

Are your lungs burning today? Of course they are. You’re running hard, living life, doing what you were put here to do.

If your resources are stretched, reach out. Do you have mentors a phone call away? Partners in your networking group who are more experienced? Advisers who’ve been where you are? Call them. They’ll help you keep going until you get your second wind and can go again on your own.

If, on the other hand, these are the good times for you and you’re hitting on all cylinders, take a look around. There’s somebody in your sphere who’s challenged and can use your wisdom. You have the ability to make a difference in a colleague’s life. Make it. Look up. Reach out. Bring him or her along.

In all cases mental strength rules. It’s always mind over matter. You can keep going as long as you need to. You just need to know you can. The real question, as is the case so often in life, is “how?”. Can you go it alone? Should you? Can you help somebody else? Will you?

I know you can. I hope you will.

The Symphony of Your Life

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Link to Mark’s Book: They Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark Hardcastle 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 or call 720.840.8361