Captain’s Log: Desert Storm Day Zero

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

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

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 They have been replaced by senior staff from their squadron, and are asking for my help in getting back onto the crew.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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

The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

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

Posted in Inspiration, Motivation, UncategorizedTagged BeingUnited, CaptainsLog, determination, how, inspiration, NewWorld, perseverance, PostCovid, purpose, StayInTheProcess, StepOverTheBar, symphonyofyourlife, TheSymphonyofYourLife, United, WeAreUnited

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!

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

You Can – You Just Need To Know You Can, Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it…

As we walked back to join our friends who’d given up only a few yards short of the end, the instructors said nothing, allowing the lesson to become self-evident: It’s always mind over matter.

Mind over matter…”  Sounds impressive. We’ve all heard it over and over again since we were small. But what does it look like? What does “mind over matter” actually mean?

In this particular case, it meant that most of the platoon continued to run. So what was the difference between us and those who dropped out? Were we in better physical shape? I don’t think so. Other dynamics were at work. Several of us were young bucks from service academies, driven to show our mettle. Others were older service members—enlisted and officers—who had waited years to take this training course and were hell-bent not to blow their chance. The one commonality among all of us was this: a simple, undeniable determination not to be defeated.

Here’s the bottom line: If you believe you can keep going as long as you need to, you’re probably right. If you believe you can’t go on, you’re probably right about that, too.

Situations like this are classically self-fulfilling. We conclude that we can continue toward our goal, or that we can’t. How we come to that conclusion is critical. We can convince ourselves either way! Which means that our success is up to us. It’s all about what we believe. In other words, it’s always mind over matter!

What are you believing today? Are you good enough to do what you need to do? Do you have the resources within you to go as long as you need to go?

But what if you get tired? Not just tired… What if you get ‘I can’t go another step much less another mile’ tired. Then what?

I was one of those who kept running that day. Ironically, I feel like I was one of those who failed. In Part 3 (coming soon!) I’ll tell you why…

The Symphony of Your Life

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Link to Mark’s book: The 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

I Had A Paintbox – Redux, Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

303 ReMinders

In case you missed it, here’s Part 2…

Video: What I Told the Kids That Night

I enjoyed their ideas and the insights they came up with to explain why they thought that Randall had placed the notes the way he did around those words. But I left my own thoughts out of it for the time being.

At the concert in November I took a moment after we finished The Pasture to tell the audience about our interaction with Randall Stroope. I told them how fun it was to watch, and how gratified I was that they had come well prepared with intelligent questions for the composer. And this was when I finally shared my thoughts about Tali Shurek’s The Paint Box. I chose this moment because it was my last with the 303 Choir for the foreseeable future, and I wanted them to understand not only what choral music can convey, but what I hoped they were learning from us on this night, in this setting, through this musical experience. Here’s what I told them.

“My grandmother was a painter. And I can imagine a situation where (had I been a little smarter!) I might have sat down with her and asked, ‘Grandma, How did you decide to live your life? What caused you to make the decisions that you made?’”

“And I think in her wisdom she might have said, ‘Son, you know I’m a painter. And I have this paint box. And I had the opportunity to choose the colors that went into that paint box – the colors that I wanted to use to paint my life. There were certain colors that I rejected. I didn’t want to have anything to do with colors that represented discord and pain and hardship. I chose colors to put into my paint box that would allow me to paint beautiful paintings and create a beautiful life.’”

“That idea is what I hope you guys will take with you – the idea that you have the opportunity now to put the colors into your paint box that you are going to use to paint the painting of your life. And I hope that you will do as the song says. That you will use that opportunity to create something beautiful. Let’s make beautiful things with that paint box, shall we?”

With that I turned back to the choir, gave the accompanist the downbeat, and we were into the music.

So what really happened that night? At least, what do I hope happened?

Here was a group of young people whose entire lives lay before them. Middle schoolers. High schoolers. Only starting to have inklings of who they are as unique individuals. I wanted to have an influence on who they will become. I don’t care what they become. I care that they become their truest, most perfect selves, whatever that might look like. So I planted a seed – the idea that they are the captains of their own souls. They will be the ultimate arbiters of what their life-paintings look like when they finally put their brushes away.

And here’s a thought. You are older than them. In fact, if you’re like me you’re approaching the end of middle-age. What does this idea have to do with you?

How about this? Just like those singers, your entire life, however long it may be, is before you. The reality is that some of those kids will have more time to create paintings than others. Some of us adults will have relatively more time to work on our canvases as well. There is no difference. Those of us with more time in our past have just that – a history. We cannot change it. We have no control over it. It will enrich our memories forever.

What we can change is tomorrow. What will your tomorrow look like? What colors do you need for your paint box? Will you reject colors that represent wounds, orphaned children, the face of the dead, burning sands? Will you choose colors warm, cool and bright? Colors that evoke joy and life? Buds and bloom? Clear bright skies? Dreams and rest?

Are you today living the life you were meant to live? Do you already have the paints you need? Then paint! If you are not today doing the things you were put on this earth to do, take out a new, clean canvas. Go get your paints. And paint the masterpiece of your life.

The Symphony of Your Life

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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!

Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com or call 720.840.8361

 

I Had A Paintbox – Redux, Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

303 Local Artist            Stroope and Lauridsen

Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it…

Ya gotta love the internet! We found a date when Randall would be in his home office and we’d be in rehearsal. It was all set.

On the appointed evening, we gathered in Travis’s basement and ate pizza while he set up the Skype connection. Before we knew it, Randall came on the screen, sitting at his desk in Stillwater, devoting his full attention to these 25 eager young people in Arvada, Colorado. Now what?

I had a list of questions prepared in case the conversation dragged, but it wasn’t needed. Right out of the chute one of the kids asked, “Why do you write music the way you do?” Not bad.

Randall 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.

Next question: “What inspired you to compose The Pasture?”

“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.”

And so it went. Randall graciously gave us a huge chunk of his time. The kids asked several more questions. Then we sang “The Pasture” for him through the magic of the internet, us in Arvada, him over in Stillwater. Then it was over and he was gone. And the kids will never forget the night that they “met” a famous composer and actually got to speak with, and then sing for, him.

That was in late September. Our concert was scheduled for early November. So we had several weeks to introduce concepts of traditional choral music that were new to members of the 303 Choir. We would have been remiss had we not frequently referred back to their time with Randall, whose music they were now learning in earnest. As part of that process, sometime in mid-October I asked the singers what they thought Randall might have been thinking when he set the notes around the text in The Paint Box. I enjoyed their ideas and the insights they came up with to explain why they thought that Randall had placed the notes the way he did around those words. But I left my own thoughts out of it for the time being.

In Part 3 I’ll share what I learned from this experience, and what I hope the kids took away…

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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!
Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com  or call 720.840.8361

I Had A Paint Box – Redux, Part 1

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

 

This is a re-imagined version of a blog post from a few years ago. Hope you like it! – M

I Had A Paint Box

February 5th, 2014
The Paint-Box

I had a paint-box
Each color glowing with delight;
I had a paint-box with colors
Warm and cool and bright.
I had no red for wounds and blood,
I had no black for an orphaned child,
I had no white for the face of the dead.
I had no yellow for the burning sands.
I had orange for joy and life,
I had green for buds and blooms,
I had blue for clear bright skies.
I had pink for dreams and rest.
I sat down and painted
Peace

– Tali Shurek, Age 13, Beersheba

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of conducting the 303 Choir from Arvada. They’re a non-auditioned group of young people who spend the majority of their time together learning music in the style of their culture, that is rap and hip-hop. All with a tie to the Denver area. Hence, the name.

This is their third season since the group was founded by my friend and colleague from the Colorado Children’s Chorale, Maestro Travis Branam. And this year Travis decided that it was time for them to be exposed to a set of more traditional pieces of choral music. But how to tie traditional choral music to the 303?

This is how I came to be part of the 303 Choir.

Years ago I lived in Omaha where I sang with the Nebraska Choral Arts Society, conducted by #RandallStroope. Randall’s family and mine became friends through that and other musical organizations in Omaha. As our friendship developed I came to understand that Randall had spent quite a bit of time in the Denver area. In fact, he ultimately earned his Master’s Degree from C.U. in Boulder.

As way led on to way, I moved to Colorado. Now more than two decades later I work with the Colorado Children’s Chorale. Travis had organized 303 Choir as an affiliate of CCC, so I was well aware of how they were thriving. It was fun to hear Travis talk about their growth and his vision for expanding their musical world. He had brought them to the point where they needed some choral repertoire with a 303 connection. And Randall had become an internationally known composer.

Was there an opportunity here?

It was Travis’s idea to look into the Stroope connection. We started digging, hoping we might find three of his compositions that would be suitable to this choir. They would need to be accessible to singers who, though entirely enthusiastic, hadn’t had much formal training. And sure enough, that’s what we found. We decided to program Randall’s settings of Robert Frost’s “The Pasture,” Tali Shurek’s “The Paint Box,” and “The Inscription Of Hope,” from the walls of a cellar in Cologne, Germany, circa WWII.

Now, here’s something really cool about 303 Choir. Travis makes it a point to connect the choir with the artists whose music they are singing. He sets up regular workshops and invites in the performers. And they come. And the kids learn.

So how to get Randall together with the choir? He’s a full-time professor living in Oklahoma, and he travels almost weekly to musical events all over the country. Having him attend rehearsals was a low-probability outcome. So we went for the next best thing. Skype. Ya gotta love the internet! We found a date when Randall would be in his home office and we’d be in rehearsal. It was all set.

On the appointed evening, we gathered in Travis’s basement and ate pizza while he set up the Skype connection…

In Part 2 I’ll tell you about what happened when Randall came on the screen. Thanks for reading so far.

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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!

You Can – You Just Need to Know You Can, Part 1

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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During my third summer at the USAF Academy, I had the opportunity to attend the U.S. Army’s Parachute Training Jump School at Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia. It was a challenging three-week course. Ground Week taught us to properly put on our 50 pounds of equipment and how to do a tumbling roll to absorb the impact of hitting the ground. During Tower Week we were hoisted up on towers high enough to allow us to experience descending underneath an actual open parachute. Then came week three: Jump Week. During Jump Week we would jump five times out of perfectly good airplanes.

Three different weeks, three different skill sets to master, on our way to earning our Parachutist Badge, or “Jump Wings.”

It would be an important omission though, if any description of Jump School did not emphasize that the syllabus consisted more than anything else of physical conditioning. It’s certainly true that when descending beneath an open parachute one comes down more slowly than if one didn’t have a parachute. Even so, one can still hit the ground pretty hard, and injuries are not uncommon. The best way to keep from getting hurt is to be in the best possible shape. So a large part of the training involved getting us in good enough condition to endure a parachute landing without injury. We did a lot of push ups under that Georgia sun. And more than a few sit ups in the wet heat.

No surprise, then, when we showed up for training in the middle of the second week and were told that we were going on a one-mile run. We formed up in a platoon and off we went. And the Jumpmasters set what we might call a “brisk” pace. And then they got faster. And faster again. As we approached the end of the course we were at a lung-searing sprint.

We came down to the final hundred yards. At that point the Jumpmasters began taunting us, telling us that we’d be going another full mile before being allowed to stop!

Soon as they said that a bunch of trainees dropped out of the platoon. They felt like they couldn’t go another step, much less another mile. So they gave up on the spot.

Then came the lesson of the day. Those of us who stayed in formation ran maybe another hundred yards before the Jumpmasters called us to a halt and let us rest. As we walked back to join our friends who’d given up only a few yards short of the end, the instructors said nothing, allowing the lesson to become self-evident…

Part 2: The lesson of the day…

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Link to Mark’s book, The 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