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

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!

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