Captain’s Log: Enhance the Text

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

I love flying jets. I’m so grateful to have the privilege of connecting my passengers with their moments that matter most. But that’s not all I do. In another life I am a musical conductor. And in that arena several years ago I had the great privilege of working with Maestro Travis Branam on a project he called “The 303 Choir.” (I wrote about that here.)

The choir was made up of enthusiastic middle and high school kids who have had very little choral training, but who love to sing. As part of that experience we organized an opportunity for them to “meet” internationally acclaimed composer and conductor, Randall Stroope, via Skype. We encouraged the kids to show up with questions, and right out of the chute one of the kids asked, “Why do you write music the way you do?” Not bad. Not bad at all.

Dr. Stroope didn’t miss a beat. He explained that it’s always about enhancing the text. The text always dictates how the music is written. Every aspect of the music – notes, rhythm, meter, harmonies – should be about bringing out the message that the poet is trying to convey. The music should always bring the words to life.

Which brings me to the question of the day: Why do you do what you do?

The art of writing music can certainly stand on its own. Choral music on the other hand, at least as imagined by Randall Stroope, is an endeavor that exists to support others. For example, one of Stroope’s pieces that 303 was learning was his setting of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Pasture.” And the second question they asked that day was, “What inspired you to set that piece to music?

Randall said, “I wanted the music to convey the reality that Frost wasn’t talking literally about cleaning out a pasture spring. He was talking about building a relationship. So I built the notes around that idea.”

As Randall worked to bring that piece to life, his efforts were in complete service to the prior efforts of Robert Frost. He was determined to bring additional clarity and deeper meaning to the poem. In being “of service” over time Stroope was able to create an entire catalogue of music that would be heard and loved by millions and would become a remarkable legacy in its own right.

Can you do that?

Everyone around us is writing a text, a story – the story of his or her life. What are we, you and I, doing about it? How are we supporting those around us? How are we “enhancing the text” of their stories? Are we working to help them bring their words to life? Are we being “of service?”

Or are you so busy writing your own story that you don’t see those around you writing theirs? Yes, creating our own legacy is a worthy objective. We should all be about it. But should it be all about us? Or could you weave their stories into yours? What might that look like?

How about this: Is there something you can do today, tomorrow, next week, next month to enhance the self-esteem of a colleague? Can you add tangible value to a friend’s life? Is there a way for you to ease someone else’s burden? What notes, rhythm, meter and harmonies can you bring to their stories?

Think of someone around you who is facing a challenge right now. Is there something you can do to make it easier for him or her to win that hard battle?

Randall Stroope is able to make powerful poems even more impactful by adding a musical dimension to the text. You, as a composer of life can do it, too. Let’s pick a text today and write a composition that will magnify the writer’s meaning for the world.

Thanks for reading!

The  Symphony of Your Life

IMG_20151209_182818

#stayintheprocess #symphonyofyourlife

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-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: info@mvpseminars.com for information.

Captain’s Log: Esse Quam Videri, Conclusion

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

In case you missed it, here’s Part 3.

For now, can we move the focus away from being “authentic” according to how others see us and on to being the best version of ourselves in the moment, based on the situation and the role that we are engaged in right now?

At networking, for instance, when they ask what you do, why not say, “I’d be happy to tell you, but tell me about you first,” to create context for your answer.. so you’ll know which hat to take out to be of greatest service?

It’s an undeniable reality of being human that we all have different and legitimate roles we assume in different situations. We wear uniforms, white coats, robes and vestments.  Different hats at different times. Does this mean we’re being inauthentic? I don’t think so.

What are some of your “roles?” I act in turns as an airline captain, a father, an author, a musical conductor, a husband, a public speaker, and a real estate investor. All different roles I’ve created for myself over the years. When I’m acting in my capacity as a captain am I somehow being disloyal to my duties as a father or to my love of music?

Of course not. My “audience” needs a captain, so that’s how I show up. I’m being the best me I can be for that audience in that moment. It would be silly for me to show up as a real estate agent.

Maybe we can put this whole idea of feeling like an imposter to bed with this idea from Harvard researcher, Amy Cuddy. She tells us that her research has revealed that our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behaviors, and our behaviors change our outcomes. We can do some specific exercises that will start the chain reaction toward our best outcomes as a result of presenting as our best selves. She calls these exercises “power poses,” and they take only two minutes. We can apply them every time we approach a high stakes moment in our lives.

And she tells a powerful story of a high stakes moment in her own life when she was challenged to step into the best version of herself despite feeling desperately inadequate and deeply afraid of being “found.” And succeeding. Of fighting her hard battle. And winning.

How did she manage to do that? She created a role for herself, stepped into it, and behaved as if it was who she really was. Until that became true. That is, she faked it until she became it.

Finally, as we continue to struggle with “being” rather than “seeming,” we might take comfort from this: “4 Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work…” Mark 6:4-5 (KJV) Which was a shame, and a loss for his home town. But if even he was considered a fake by those who knew him, maybe we shouldn’t feel so bad.

So, Authentic Performer, how are you going to show up today? Maybe more clearly, who will you be when you show up? Will you show up as… You? Which you?

Before you answer, watch this video: Amy Cuddy’s Amazing Story.

Then go find yourself an audience. Like Jesus, you may have to go some distance. Go there. Show up. Do your work. Be you – the best you that you can be in the most appropriate form for that audience on that day. And if you need to, feel free to fake it. It’ll be just fine.

Esse Quam Videri.

Thanks for reading!

The Symphony of Your Life

#stayintheprocess

IMG_20151209_182818

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

Captain’s Log: Esse Quam Videri, Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

In case you missed it, here’s Part 2.

…Does the idea that we’re not yet fully what we aspire to be mean that we’re being inauthentic or even insincere if we show up to the world as if we are fully formed?

Not if you listen to Joe Sabah, founder of NSA* Colorado. Joe is famous for saying, “You don’t have to be good to start, but you have to start to be good.”

And then there’s this from Toastmasters World Champion Humorist Darren LaCroix. LaCroix speaks of being a fledgling comedian and fighting the fact that those around him compared him to Jerry Seinfeld. Not fair. Not in any world. True, he wasn’t yet as funny as Seinfeld. Did it mean he wasn’t authentically a comic? Not at all. His conclusion is that if its not right for others to compare us while we’re new at something to far more experienced performers, maybe we shouldn’t do that to ourselves.

So what should we do about this desire to be authentic when we “know” we’re imposters?

Back to the article from Psychology Today. It suggests that one solution might be to wait it out.  There’s good evidence of an inverse relationship between age and Imposter Syndrome. One contributor’s observation is that, “I think that’s one of the benefits of getting older. Your amygdala is less sensitive, and you have fewer negative emotions.”

That makes sense to me. My experience has been that as I get older I’m less likely to be uncomfortable with the opinions of others, and I am more able to believe that things I have accomplished are real. Could that work for you?

And if we’re willing to accept what LaCroix and Sabah teach, the fact that we aren’t yet at the level we aspire to in any given area doesn’t mean we shouldn’t see our future selves as precisely that aspiration fully formed.  Or that we shouldn’t behave in the present as if who we want to be is who we are today: a version of our true selves that’s different from what our present circumstances seem to convey.

Maybe it will help to think of it this way. We’re all performers all the time. Let that sink in for a minute.

Think about the reality that actors take on “fake” or “inauthentic” personas  and “perform” those roles on stage to convey the point of the play. By definition, that actor is being “inauthentic.” Most of us are not dramatic actors, so we don’t “perform” in that way.

But there’s this other sense of “performance.” High achievers are spoken of as people who “perform” by getting the job done. Nothing inauthentic about that.  That’s who we are and how we want to be seen.

What if we could combine these two very different concepts of performance. Is it possible for non-actors to use acting techniques to create lives they desire? How would it work for us to define dramatic roles that look like the lives we want to lead, and then step into those roles and live them out? Professional actors and life coaches Michael and Amy Port say it would work very well! They think it’s not only possible – it’s smart, and we should absolutely do it. (How To Perform During Life’s High Stakes Moments, TEDx Cambridge, #Michael Port, #Amy Port, #Heroic Public Speaking)

But it still feels… fake. At least a little bit. Michael and Amy deal with that in their TED talk. And we’ll address it in another way in just a minute.

For now, can we move the focus away from being “authentic” according to how others see us and on to being the best version of ourselves in the moment, based on the situation and the role that we are engaged in right now?

We’ll bring it all together in Part 4. Authentic authenticity. Esse Quam Videri. Even if that means we have to fake it!

Thanks for reading!

The Symphony of Your Life

#stayintheprocess

IMG_20151209_182818

*National Speakers Association

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

Captain’s Log: Esse Quam Videri, Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

In case you missed it, here’s Part 1.

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

I felt like that for 4 straight years at the US Air Force Academy. I felt like a great big fake and that any day I would be “found” and shown the door. These days, in the presence of “real” authors, I feel inadequate, despite having won awards for my book and having sold out the first printing. Further, in the presence of “real” speakers I feel like I do not belong in that world. Only recently have I started to get comfortable in front of an audience. And trust me… “comfortable” is a relative term!

So here’s the question. Does that sound like you? Even in the midst of all the “authenticity” that surrounds us, or maybe particularly because of it, how do you feel? Are you afraid of being “found?” Probably so – if you’re normal.

According to Psychology Today Magazine, Imposter Syndrome affects well over half the population (November 2016, “The Fraud Who Isn’t”). And it gives us some insight about why we have it.

Maybe it has something to do with the folks we hang out with. According to the PT article several of the causes speak to our “tribe,” how we interact with them, and the environment where we spend our time.

For instance, the article says that smart folk tend to hang out with other smart folk, particularly at work, which might make one think that everybody is smart, which intellectually we know to be nonsense. But that fact doesn’t make it any more comfortable to see everyone around us as very smart. On the contrary it’s a constant challenge.

The article goes on to say that for many of us compliments have a short half-life, achievements feel unearned, criticism cuts deeply and failures linger. So we feel like imposters. All the time. Regardless of what we actually achieve.

So do you feel like an imposter? Do you find yourself working to be seen as authentic? To actually be authentic? Is the fear rooted in the possibility that we don’t seem to be the person we present? Esse Quam Videri.  Yup, my hand’s up. I know, I know. Still…

On a deeper level, could that fear come from an aspiration to be a certain person and a “knowledge” that we are not yet that person, so we shouldn’t present ourselves as such?

Now maybe we’re getting somewhere…

We’ll get to the validity of that thinking in just a sec. But let me offer a little grace right here. Does the idea that we’re not yet fully what we aspire to be mean that we’re being inauthentic or even insincere if we show up to the world as if we were fully formed?

Not if you listen to Joe Sabah, founder of NSA* Colorado. Joe is famous for saying, “You don’t have to be good to start, but you have to start to be good.”

Part 3 will give us some suggestions for getting past this sometimes-crippling fear.

Thanks for reading!

The Symphony of Your Life

#stayintheprocess

IMG_20151209_182818

*National Speakers Association

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

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

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

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

Stopped me in my tracks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

The Symphony of Your Life

#stayintheprocess

IMG_20151209_182818

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

 

Leadership Lessons From the Captain’s Log: Do the Right Thing

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

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

But how do you know what’s right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

The Symphony of Your Life

#stayintheprocess

IMG_20151209_182818

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 its likely that every member of his congregation this Sunday will have greater luxuries than that medieval king. I’m thankful because of my good fortune.

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays!

The Symphony of Your Life
#stayintheprocess

IMG_20151209_182818

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

Leadership Lessons From the Captain’s Log: To Houston After Harvey

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Symphony of Your Life

#stayintheprocess

IMG_20151209_182818

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

Captain’s Log: You Just Never Know

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey Captain!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Rich!

The Symphony of Your Life
#stayintheprocess #stepoverthebar #leadership #teambuilding #employeedevelopment

IMG_20151209_182818

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

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

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

camino-heart-attack-screenshot

Here’s Part 3, in case you missed it…

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Symphony of Your Life

 

IMG_20151209_182818
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