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Archive for the ‘Work and Career’ Category

I say “A” rather than “The” because it’s just one of many I have – all of us have – or could have.

Not all written down, although I should do that. The others remain locked away in my head. This one is about a running organization I have formed, but it’s really about the power of and the opportunity in networking.

I have more than one of these in each of the three professional and quasi-professional endeavors in my life, what I call the Three R’s in my work life: Running, Roofing, and Writing. This is the first and only one I have actually put to paper. I think if I drew them out as this one is, I would be pretty amazed, maybe shocked at the graphic depiction of just how important networking – and my network in particular – is. My mantra regarding networking is, “You just never know…”

Really – one really does not know just where any one connection, meeting, introduction, acquaintance might eventually lead. Pretty amazing sometimes.

A [Networking] Circle of Life

“Can Elijah come over?”

Jace the 2nd Grader is my son, now 14 and a high school freshman and a mean golfer who is still in the process of deciding he may just actually want to become a serious student. But with this Circle of [Networking] Life, I begin a few years ago, and trace – build, actually – this adventure over the course of six years. And Jace was a 2nd grader at our neighborhood school.

Jace met Elijah, also a 2nd grader and in Jace’s class (and who now goes by Eli. How we change . . .), and they became fast friends. So, as things naturally go, we parents became friends as well.

“Hi Gregg, I’m Jace’s Dad.”

Elijah’s father and I became friends, and as things went, we had a few things in common. In spring 2009 I became “available” (you like that?), as I and 20-some others were laid-off at our comfy corporate digs. Turns out Elijah’s father, Gregg, had also become “available” on the employee open market. So we talked. A lot and often.

“You need to meet my brother, David.”

Based on everything we talked about, he said, “You need to meet my brother, David”, and gave me David’s cell number. Oh yea, Gregg and I connected on LinkedIn somewhere along the way. I called David and connected with him on LI, then we met at the neighborhood coffee shop – yes, for an actual face-to-face get-to-know-ya. I know – weird. We talked about a number of companies, including his employer, and job openings, and traded referrals. Not one of the personal contacts or specific jobs listed worked out; not even one interview resulted. But we stayed in touch.

Fast forward, I eventually landed a new job, and after five-and-a-half years as a contractor with a small, local IT/engineering firm assigned to a very cool US government defense agency, my portion of the contract was “cancelled” (I’m pretty sure I was fired, is how that goes in plain language), I became “available” again, so I called David to reconnect.

tom NEAR FINAL

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Around this same time I had fulfilled a longtime ambition to create and direct a 1-mile running event, The Oberlin Mile, and in that process, formed an umbrella organization – still to this day in ongoing development – called Mile With A Mission. So while looking for a so-called “real job”, I was deep in the midst of building out and putting flesh on the bones of my real passion. That thing that any of us wants to do for a living if money were no object.

PAUSE:

Passion. That thing that any of us wants to do for a living if money were no object. The thing we BELIEVE in. The thing that we cannot get out of our system; that thing that we feel a burning desire to pursue and accomplish. Something we would say we love to do; that we cannot imagine not doing.

Purpose: Your paid vocation – work, career, job, daily efforts that lead to getting paid – that purpose: It’s at the intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you’re great at, and what you get paid to do.

This is where you stop reading and think. Get your notebook out and write it –or them – down. What would it be for you? It’s not about just financial survival. It’s not just about having a responsible job that would make your mom or your in-laws stop worrying. Its’ the thing you believe – the thing you know – it’s worth committing yourself to: Your PURPOSE.

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It is important to note here that I am referring to purpose from a vocation / avocation standpoint; not your ultimate purpose “IN life”. My personal (and very biased belief) is that that is really, ultimately a spiritual issue: “What is my purpose IN LIFE?” Different than what is my purpose in the world of work and career – paid vocation. The discussion of “my purpose IN life” is a very important bunny trail, but for the point of this discussion, it is a bunny trail, so will not go down it any further today. Let’s save it for a one-on-one coffee meeting. I’ll buy.

“You need to meet Bob.”

David and I sat down at the other local coffee shop, and lo and behold, he had just become “available” as well. So we talked. He recommended a book to me (which I bought), and based on all that we talked about, he said, “You need to meet a guy from my church, Bob.” So he called Bob, and sent me his LI profile, and Bob offered that he would be glad to meet with me. Based on everything we talked about.

“You need to meet John.”

So I contacted Bob, and we met. Wonderful guy. Showed a deep and sincere interest combined with a constructive critical eye and ear. Turns out Bob is a retired vice president of a telecommunications company, and now has several of his own gigs, including providing funding for and advice to businesses and “activities” he truly believes in, one of which overlapped into my passion wheelhouse.

Some of the initial stuff and people, and actually the primary reason David wanted to introduce me to Bob – some developed, some did not. I have made some connections. And Bob granted me a second meeting and encouraged and challenged me further. Based on everything we talked about, he said, “You need to meet John.” And with that, he opened the door with John for me, and I made an appointment which he was expecting (important).

Turns out John is CEO of a relatively new but extremely well assembled IT company. He has a long and distinguished and high profile professional track record. He is former VP of a couple of well-known companies I was interested in applying to and knows every top-shelf executive I could never otherwise have access to. He is also deeply involved in an organization which serves to introduce under-privileged students to the world and advantages of technology.

“You need to meet Brad.”

John is a most gracious, interested, interesting and thoughtful guy, and very down-to-earth, as the saying goes. He met me in his office, then invited me downstairs to have a coffee in the ground floor shop. We talked for an hour. He asked me questions, and I asked him some. We talked about the several companies I was researching for professional opportunities, and he shared the names and positions of several executives he recommended I meet. Out of each of those companies and specific job openings I mentioned, and the ideas for a new career at any of them, I never met any of those guys; never connected in the slightest. Not even one of the personal contacts or specific jobs listed worked out; not even one interview resulted. But something else happened during that hour.

I ventured into MWAM (even yet while recalling the cautions Bob gave me to stay focused and specific (“John’s a very busy guy . . .”). I shared my vision with him, and the great success of the first event completed just a month before. He seemed impressed with its uniqueness, asked questions and was very encouraging, saying, “Don’t give up on that idea.” And with that, based on our conversation about MWAM, he said, “You need to meet Brad.” He proceeded then to tell me about him.

“TBD”

I say To Be Determined because I am still in this stage, this part is not finished. John described Brad as a leading edge, high tech entrepreneur-business creator, venture capitalist, a musician, and the real hook: a runner.

I took my notes as John spoke, as I had in my previous meetings described in this string, and after leaving that day and taking more than a couple of hours to read as much as I could about Brad, I was compelled to go back to my notes to make sure I had the right guy. What I learned about Brad, in a nutshell (no kidding, a nutshell) is this:

Among many other things, he is the consummate entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. He is founder, funder, board member, advisor and even owner of MANY leading edge technology companies. He is one of four principals (and a founder) of a venture capital group that is also a rock band. He is in Boulder, Colorado, which apparently has its own gravitational pull for these kinds of start-up businesses. He is known literally all over the country and around the world. He is board member or chairman with upwards toward 20 companies or more. He has long hair and does not tuck in his shirt. He’s younger than me, and I am pretty sure he is smarter than me. He has two degrees from MIT. Look it up. He is a founder of TechStars. Look it up. One of his more recent and high profile ventures – a company that his group has provided double-digit millions to in their earliest stages – is FitBit. Heard of ‘em? Somehow, I think Brad and his partners are going to get their investment back umpteen fold and then some. And I can promise this is not the only startup he is involved in that you have probably heard of. AND . . . he is a runner. According to his website, one if his [many] goals is to run a marathon in every state.

As it turns out, John did not, as far as I know, contact Brad on my behalf. He may have, but I was not made aware of it. But because he mentioned Brad to me, I decided to take that step; perhaps with some trepidation, as it felt very much like a cold call. But, I just stayed focused on the fact the John had said what he did; he must have done so for a reason. So I looked him up on LinkedIn, sent him an email, and boldly (and nervously) asked him if we could have a coffee in Boulder and talk about MWAM. He accepted my LinkedIn invitation, and answered my email. He said, “Michael – Nice to meet you. Let’s start by going back and forth via email – what’s on your mind?”

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Eventually, when I conjured up a truly useful question I believed he could help me with, which took several weeks, I asked his guidance regarding Boards of Directors, and specifically the how-to’s of recruiting a board. His answer? “I wrote a book.” So I thanked him and bought it on audio CD. After a year and as I continue to make decisions and develop Mile With A Mission, his book remains a staple for me. In and of itself it is not the end-all to how-to, but it is an enlightening and practical resource.

Beyond all this, the “what next” of it all, I do not know where or to whom this connection might or could lead. I don’t know if it will. I don’t know if it needs to. But it serves as a powerful reminder and encouragement about the opportunity in networking, and personal connections, and the willingness to take appropriate if [sometimes] uncomfortable risks. So following Brad’s name, you see I placed a question mark. After all, you just never know . . .

The Challenge

And if you do nothing else with this, draw your own Networking Circle of Life, and observe just how valuable your connections can be – and just how valuable you can be to those around you.

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The Habit of Return

This first image is entitled The Habit of Return. It is a family tree of sorts. The book in which it is found in fact describes it just that way. Its origin is with a single person, and in this example, with a case number assigned. It is almost 70 years old. Today, we describe this in terms of how a business can grow through referrals.

I believe the single most important aspect of referrals – the thing that defines the word referral – is relationship. Personal relationships.

It literally blooms with one connection – or most importantly for the point – a single referral. A single relationship. If we are honest and sincere, provide a desired and quality product, work with integrity, dedication and commitment, and place the needs of others – including our clients – before our own personal goals, focusing on our mission, we will likely be highly successful. And happy in what we do and more importantly – why we do it.

And sure, success may be defined in part to include financial success, but there is more to life than just money. Lord sakes, I don’t want to talk about money. If that’s all you want, go read somebody else’s jibber-jabber. This is about life.

This image, and the one below are from How to Succeed in Optometry, by Ralph Barstow, Illinois College of Optometry Press, 1948, a book once owned by my father and grandfather, both optometrists in private practice – and so, independent businessmen.

I continue to consider how this might translate to the efforts, trials and rewards associated with the risks that small business creators and owners face even today. Yes, I am happy to be self-employed, like my father and grandfather before me.

Private Practice vs Commercial Mockery

I recently heard a radio ad from a local home repair and improvement provider, a business that bears a family name, but which now advertises that (paraphrased] “we don’t use subcontractors; we hire employees.” This was apparently designed to not only instill confidence in potential customers – a good thing, but also to effectively denigrate subcontractors – a bad thing; to disqualify the “farming out” or subcontracting of particular jobs dependent upon specific areas of expertise.

I take issue with this tactic, especially in light if the fact this very business themselves began small. Just like the many millions of small, independent contractors – subcontractors – that make up the vast majority of businesses in the United States. This is the very thing – the very ambitious activity that made and still makes our country great, even exceptional.

The truth is, contractors, subcontractors – very small businesses – are what make it all work. They are the ones who make it happen and get it done. Every day.

Sure, it’s just a marketing scheme on their part. But what a poorly executed, hurtful and selfish – and FORGETFUL – and so, shameful act of betrayal to all they really know. Small business – which that company still is, after all – is what makes our economy go, and what makes the world go round.

I will never apologize for being or using a small, independent business or contractor. If anyone asks what really makes our economy work, and what makes our families and towns and our individual pride and expertise and productivity soar, you can tell them: Small Business. And yes, that means independent contractors. The Little Guy.

Go Little Guy, go. Stretch. Take a risk. Grow, build and become.

And as for the rest of us, let’s hire them.

– – –

I know a Guy …

Here’s a brief list of just a handful of people I know – Hoosiers – who took a risk, stretched out on their own, chose to become independent business creators and owners, and in the process, have made important contributions to their hometowns and the world.

* …who tried college, found it wasn’t a good fit, went into construction building swimming pools, then eventually created his own custom building business as a carpenter. Is now a well-known, respected and sought-after contractor-builder.

* …who started college far from home; even had a golf scholarship, but wasn’t ready. Went back home to try his hand in several businesses, eventually went back to college when he was really ready, and now owns a very successful business meeting needs and solving problems for his clients and taking care of his family – everyday.

* …who worked at my grandparent’s farm as a laborer, alongside me, cutting grass, raking, painting, cleaning, well into adulthood when he was struggling with health and financial issues and trying to find his place in life (and always with a wonderfully positive and thankful attitude and great smile). Finally found his niche as a bar and restaurant manager, and then a restaurant owner. He became one of the best known and highly respected restaurateurs with multiple successful ventures, and more importantly – loved and respected by thousands. He is gone now, but his businesses from hard work, dedication and many other virtues, remain.

* …who was the brother of the previous guy. He went off to college and went away to the “big city” where he created a great career in the financial industry. Like another, above, he could have taken his talent, money and experience and gone anywhere. Instead, he went home. He picked up where his brother left off, invested, even bought an historic property and brought it back to usefulness and prominence. He has made a huge impact in his community.

* …Actually several women and men who have struck out on their own to become specialty bakery owners, specialty clothing shop owners, bookshop owners, apartment building owners and property managers. I know a gentleman who chose to leave a private medical practice and purchase a farm implement business.

* … who either could not or chose not to go to college; perhaps never even considered it. Started his own trucking business. He now has a fleet of trucks and employees. But more importantly, remains married to his high school sweetheart, has a solid family, and enjoys the security and confidence a strong business can bring.

* … who started out by working as a dental technician – making dentures. (Apologies… no doubt I have terminology wrong). Eventually struck out to start his own practice. Enjoyed it – very important – and worked hard enough and smart enough for long enough that he could sell it and retire early. He spends most of his time now close to his two grown daughters and his grandchildren.

* … who could have chosen to teach English like his father. Could have moved away like his siblings. Was – is – bright enough to be surgeon if he had wanted that. But chose law school, then to heap stress to challenge, returned to his home town to start his own practice. He is successful, practicing with his wife, and spends more time talking about enjoying family and the outdoors life and running – things he has loved since a boy, and I have been privileged and blessed to enjoy those latter two indulgences with him for nearly forty years.

* …several guys who have really stuck their necks out and headed for Nashville. They write music, play, tour and record, and have done it professionally for many years, and have found real success. Maybe most importantly, they have found their own personal niche in life.

… And these are just a very few – all Hoosiers, by the way – I happen to know personally. And I haven’t even mentioned so many we all know in farming – the independent businesses owner-operators who feed us.

Look around everywhere and see personal names on businesses. Notice the small building that has housed a machine shop or repair service or service provider. That means something both extraordinary and common. It’s a huge thing to make the choice to go out on one’s own, but it’s what people do. It’s a huge risk in many ways, but rewarding as well. They are worthy of our support.

To see more small businesses AAH is impressed with and likes to support, check out the We Like page.

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“How Much $$$ Would Make You Move For A Job?”

That question is not mine. It’s from a discussion on LinkedIn. One which got me thinking and to which I offered my two cents-worth.

– – –

I spend a significant part of my professional time on LinkedIn (absolutely confidently, that’s what I call it: my professional time). LinkedIn is one of the greatest e-tools on the planet as far as I am concerned. It is my primary search and research tool. It’s for my networking and specifically, developing and nurturing and exercising my personal-professional network. I am, in short, a believer.

I know – there’s some guy, some CEO somewhere in this country who recently said that he doesn’t need LinkedIn. He operates beyond all that; on another level, a different level. Ok, fine. Whatever. So he’s not human like most of us are; he is apparently another type of human, living and operating on a wholly separate kind of plane. Sort of like Donald Trump or Barak Obama. Or Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, George Clinton, George Bush, George Clooney, Rosemary Clooney, Mickey Rooney, Andy Rooney, Andy Card, Andy McCarthy, Cormac McCarthy. Fine – we all get it. They don’t need it. We understand that. Some people do not operate as we – most of us – do. I guess this CEO guy thinks he is one of them. And maybe he is. So what.

(Sorry – I do know some of these people are dead.)

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In my sour grapes about it all (his attitude about it, I mean) I say Fine. Good. I just hope he never finds himself in a position that destroys all that. Like he is invulnerable. As if. AS IF. Well, I hope for his sake, he’s right. But my guess is he wears pants, just like I do. And I’ll bet he puts them on just the same, too.

So speaking for the rest of us, I don’t mind being human – the kind that most of us recognize and can relate to. To him, I guess I say, “Good luck” and leave it at that.

That other thing is the profession-orientated (and sometimes not-so-profession-orientated) conversations that LI members engage in. Rarely I do, too, and on this particular occasion, I saw that question that really resonated with me. And on this occasion my response received enough comments that I thought it was worth sharing a bit more and spreading a bit further. So here it is, reconstructed from LinkedIn. and for you LI-types who actually do put your pants on one leg at a time, click here for the original discussion.

– – –

Q: “How Much $$$ Would Make You Move For A Job?”

My Answer:
“Well, I know a guy who moved 1,500 miles for a high-visibility CEO job, presumably for millions. He was the top performer in everything he did in life. But instead of retiring a bit early after a few years of great success and going home to enjoy his family and home, he abused a short-lived market-tech-financial boom and went to jail.

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I know another guy, very highly paid, in a family business who was miserable due to the inner-workings of the place, and could not got out into the competitive world and find a comparable salary, so retired instead.

It’s not enough to be the smartest guy in the room, or the tops in everything, or the richest, financially; it’s not enough to be the end-all and everything guy. You’ve got to be happy. You’ve got to be decent. You’ve got to be nice.”

– – –

Magnet image and inspiration credit to J.T. O’Donnell, who writes at and runs CAREEREALISM Media and CareerHMO.

– – –

And there is that additional thing I mentioned – that happens with LinkedIn that draws it closer in similarity to Facebook (which I keep completely separate. For me, LinkedIn is a tool a great tool. It is serious and work and professional and productive and actionable. Facebook is for lots of other stuff.)

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I apply one caveat to this: My developing running organization and projects, Mile With A Mission, or MWAM, to include The Oberlin Mile, which has a fantastic and vital FB presence is promoted heavily through Facebook.

FB is, in fact, my primary marketing tool for T O M. And Ask A Hoosier, too, where we have a page and a group. But all that for another discussion, or a divergent click on the link.

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I know. Another numbered list. It seems to be the [latest] eye-catcher on LinkedIn. But please don’t hang up just yet. I don’t think you’ve heard this one quite this way.

As you read, consider your situations – yes, all of them. This will apply not only to your career, or perhaps lack-of career situation, but also to your family and friends and home situation or your most private inside yourself-nobody else–really-knows-what’s-really-going-on-inside situation. All of these overlap in some way, to some extent. We are human, after all. But even corporations behave this way, as inanimate and impersonal as they can be.

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Aviators have a way of making and keeping things, like explanations, short and simple. This is one of those. Here they are – the things you really need to do to live through whatever is happening – from a high altitude perspective; what every aviator is taught. How to survive – and make it back, or out, or through – alive.

And by the way, it is vital – the key to everything, actually – that they are taken and applied in exactly and only in the order presented. DO NOT get them out of order.

1. Aviate.

The first thing above all else in flying? Keep flying. Keep going. Nothing else matters if you crash. So keep flying – survive – and keep going. Such is the case with our basic survival.

Apply it to work. Or lack of work.

For those of us who are or have been between careers, for whatever the reason – fired, laid off, “RIF”ed, contract lost, whatever – it is critical to keep going. Self-doubt, blame, anger, confusion, guilt – all self-destructive – are a crash. You don’t want it, don’t need it, don’t deserve it and can’t afford a crash. Especially if days turn to weeks which turn to too many months. We all have a place in this life. So the point is first – survive, thrive and find that place.

Keep flying means to get up and go to work every day anyway. Even if only in your home office or workspace. That means groom well, dress for work, eat a good breakfast, plan your day.

– – –

Effective and Efficient

– – –

Think in terms of effective and efficient. Handle your domestic or family responsibilities – like a leader, like a parent, like a spouse, like a homeowner or a biller payer. Decide you will make it through. “Decide” is the key word. Then act. Every day.

Remind yourself of the focus you need to have, too. Work health (effort, for one), family or home health, physical health, mental and emotional health. Each area of your life is vital. Attend to each one. In short, you must take care of yourself to function.

Just today I attended networking meeting at the end of which the moderator said, “Now get busy, don’t sit around and watch TV; you’ll get depressed. And lose five pounds. You’ll feel better and look better.” How right she is. Get your life in balance. I won’t restate it all here, but I have written a similar piece, Four things you can do if you get lost , discussing The Balanced Life. Check it out for more detail.

First things first: Aviate. Keep flying – above all else. Keep going. If you don’t do this, nothing else [good] can happen.

2. Navigate.

You’re flying – surviving. Good, you keep going and you are now able to take the next action. You are able to navigate – figure out where to go – because you are aviating – surviving. So there is the next fundamental question:

Where are you going? Where do you want to go? Where can you go? Where should you go? Sort out your direction and go that way. Meeting with, being with people takes us a long way toward this end. Networking – and getting out – and amongst people, reaching out, seeking – these are part of our personal life navigation.

Make a plan every day. In fact, make a plan for every day– a written plan – for the week – before the new week arrives. This is your flight plan.

Work to fill your calendar with no-kidding important stuff that must be done. Again, think in terms of effective and efficient. And ask your self – test your plan – along the way: What I am doing – Is this effective? Is this an efficient way to do it? In other words, much of successful navigation is using your time well. Effectively and efficiently.

Networking, appointment requests, groups, applications on-line. Emails, LinkedIn invitations and follow-up notes and thank you’s and phone calls to people in your network. Schedule networking meetings – find groups through MeetUp, even look to a local church or other religious group (yes, start on-online with that, too) for a career transition group or similar. Ask your family, friends and other contacts for information about networking groups.

When you choose to plan your navigation and choose to go through the necessary motions of navigation, only then do you have the very best chance to arrive at your planned destination. There are no promises or absolutes as to what you will find enroute or when you arrive. Only your promise to yourself that you will get going and keep going.

You’re still going, you’re figuring out your direction. Now it’s time to talk.

3. Communicate.

Now, the truth is, this works best as last only in aviation. You see clearly that in this illustration, communication is vital to your survival in every step of your process.

Communication with those closest to you, people you’re meeting and trying to meet, and utilizing the tools, like LinkedIn, that you have readily available – is vital to your well-being and success. And remember that your communication should not be all about your work situation or career, or the struggle to find it. You’re more than that. Talk – deal with – your life as a whole. Do not neglect the other areas of your life. There’s that balance thing again.

Even still, you do need to prioritize so that you do not neglect the first two. When you’re up and able to operate, you can communicate. When you have a plan ready to execute, a calendar ready to live out, you are better prepared to communicate effectively and efficiently.

Write thank you notes. Write any kind of note to those you meet with or want to meet with. Yes – hand-written, and put them in the actual snail-mail. Yes, weird – I know. But it is critical communication. Be thankful and thoughtful and say so. Say what you want and say what you can offer. And by the way, as simple as it sounds, it’s [nowadays] a way to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. In that order. And you will make it.

– – –

BONUS

Finally, through all this, trust your instruments.

Spin Recovery

Most pilots, at some point in their flying careers, have experienced an uncontrolled spin. It may have been induced – initiated – on purpose, say, during a student training scenario. I have known enough fighter pilots who have described a loss of control they did not welcome but where able by whatever means available, to recover their situation and land safely. Many in aviation history have not. And such is life.

A fighter pilot usually has the unique visual experience provided by a bubble canopy; a clear Plexiglas-like bubble surrounding the cockpit that affords a nearly unobstructed view of the world outside. Imagine if it was you, and you had that view at 30 thousand feet above earth, except that suddenly, your view flipped upside down, and when you would look up, you would be staring at the rapidly approaching ground. And not only that, but the view is spinning fast, chaotically, violently. And your body is sensing all this very acutely and unhappily. Confusion, noise, buffeting and g-forces, alarms; the world outside is a mess of a high-speed smear of colors that you cannot make sense of.

And it all means Failure. Death.

Still, inside, the cockpit is stationary. Nothing has moved (relatively speaking), nothing has changed. But the instruments are spinning or moving wildly, confirming the reality outside.

But they are also functioning as they should and they are accurate. They are telling you the truth.

You have an Attitude indicator (artificial horizon), a compass, Vertical speed indicator (for climb or descent), a turn and bank indicator, Course deviation indicator, a slip indicator, an altimeter and airspeed indicator. Even fuel and power information. Even communication equipment. And probably more.

Too many people have become statistics because they did not believe what their instruments were telling them. They looked to the chaotic and out-of-control world outside themselves – outside their cockpit – for guidance.

If you act on your training, and respond appropriately to the information your instruments are giving you, it may be possible to recover your situation.

In life, your instruments are your moral compass – your belief system, your values, the support of trusted family and friends. It is also everything in your sphere of experience, training and know-how. This includes your self-imposed and externally-imposed boundaries you have accepted as good and right and appropriate. As for me, I am hung up on family, friends, effort, and spiritual guidance. I am hung up on a New Testament passage – Luke 2: 52. I keep writing about it. Look it up.

Whatever it is for you, or whatever you’re exploring that is truly good for you, trust these things, and regularly seek out both the exercise of these, to hone and strengthen them, and to reinforce them through connection with people you know and trust; people who will be part of a positive and encouraging circle in your life.

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No matter what it may look like outside, no matter how chaotic – aviate, navigate and communicate. And trust your instruments.

If you do these things, you will survive, and you have preserved, perhaps created, your opportunity to thrive.

~

If you find this perspective useful, even helpful, you might like to check out some of my other pieces, all posted at Ask A Hoosier.com. I write on a number subjects, virtually all facets of life. These are from AAH’s Work and Career section:

3 Challenges I have yet to overcome

Some Things I have Learned from People . . .

Wrestling with Picasso’s Bull

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Here they are up-front.

If you want to know the details, keep going.

Work

Run

Write

Pray

– – –

First, a lesson in what not to do

Camping-MB

I grew up in Boy Scouting. I learned the art and skills and how-to details of camping, building a fire, building a shelter, staying warm and dry, making a snare and a trap to catch game, how to purify water, how to distinguish edible from non-edible, and how to navigate a route even without a map and compass. (Another thing I learned was how use a compass and how valuable it is, and how to read a map and how valuable that is.)

To add to this incredible useful experience growing up, as an early-career company-grade Air Force officer I attended Air Force Combat Aircrew Survival Training at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington. In short, it was a three week, sometimes grueling course in all-things-required to make it. This was not the Boy Scouts any more. BUT, I was prepared, as it turned out, in many ways perhaps, that others with me in that course were not.

I was familiar with virtually everything we were instructed in and most everything we did. Of course, in Scouting you do not learn “E&E” – Escape and Evasion – in case you’re shot down over enemy territory and the BSA doesn’t directly teach boys the best ways to survive being a prisoner of war. But the other things – the fundamentals and beyond the fundamentals of basic wilderness survival – I had been exposed to long before. And I was pretty comfortable, all things considered. I enjoyed the course, learned immensely from my instructors and found a renewed and reinforced sense of confidence.

Then, in the early 1990’s I traveled to Alaska with my friend, Matt, to explore. We did plenty of non-wilderness stuff, and all fascinating and adventurous, but it also included three days spent in Denali National Park.

Notice Matt has HIS backpack...

Notice Matt has HIS backpack…

We backpacked. We attended a required half-hour how-to-not (maybe) get-eaten-by-a-bear safety course immediately prior to setting out. We had all the gear we needed, including compasses and maps, water, shelter, rain gear, food and confidence. Notice what I left out – what we did not have: cell phones. No such animal. (Or if there were, we apparently didn’t know about them.) And we went almost entirely off-trail. And the entire three days we were good. Except . . .

On Day 2, hiking across a high open ridge, with a view of a thousand miles sweeping in mountain peaks and the vast forest surrounding us, we heard a creek rushing far below, down a steep slope sparsely covered in rough vegetation, boulders and small pines. It was obscured by the great stand of immensely tall pines that marked the beginning of the deep woods.

We needed water, so we headed down.

Except that we took off our backpacks before heading down. It was a very steep slope, and traversing it with the packs would make it additionally difficult and anyway, we’d go straight down, fill our water bottles, and returned the way we came – straight back up.

Except that’s not what happened.

Apparently we did not realize the angle that we moved down the hill; the jogging around our natural obstacles to get to the creek. And we certainly didn’t following the exact route back up. But we thought we had. We assumed it.

It didn’t take but a minute to realize our backpacks somewhere else. And in this brief moment of lapse in judgment, we were lost.

Here we were – middle of nowhere, all the gear we needed, map, compass, hiking partner, beautiful scenery – and no trails. We just went. And we were fine.

But the moment we were without our stuff – we were lost. And it got serious. Uncomfortable doesn’t quite describe it. We were stressed to a near breaking point, half with fear and half with frustration and feeling stupid. We knew better. Especially me. Inexplicable and unexplainable. And stupid.

We searched for about 30 minutes before we found them. It would be hard to describe the feeling we felt at that moment; the sense that this is what it must feel like to be saved somehow. How lucky we were, someone might say. We sure felt that way.

When you’ve got your stuff, you can go anywhere and be ok. When you’re without your stuff – your resources, you’re lost. It’s that simple.

– – –

There is another kind of lost, a more serious one, I think. And it takes a few key things to get back to where you need to be safe and secure.

In recent weeks I have been working full-time networking. The meeting people for coffee and exploring new possibilities for my life’s paid work-kind of networking. I have started my own LLC’s. Two of them. I am exploring my options to strike out on my own and head off in a new direction with a new profession or with a new organization. But it’s hard work of course. The unemployment rate has been recently celebrated as dropping as low as 5 point something, but when you’re one of that number, it doesn’t matter if it’s 5 percent or 85 percent. Your experience is the same no matter. You’re out and you want back in. You need to get back in.

And in that crucial time, for many, life can get to be quite a struggle.

The statistics always describe a portion of the unemployed as those who have stopped looking. If the of unemployment claims filed in any given week is one indicator, the number of those who are no longer looking is another to focus on. That’s where this comes in.

Consider that group. What must it be like for many? I mean really – the human condition, the family-psychological-social-financial-emotional impact of it – especially over time. LinkedIn is not directly a counseling group or forum for those who are hurting. It’s a stay on or get on or improve on or find your game place for professionals. It’s all business. It’s not a place where you’d necessarily look to find counsel of the religious institution kind.

LI does provide a get down and get busy, no-nonsense vehicle for the seeker-networker. It’s my primary business tool for all that is new career seeking-related (and it‘s a great tool). But as I read articles every day, I am reminded just how human LI is.

With the crux of this piece, I am expanding a bit further to address the whole person perspective – realizing the internal difficulties people may and do often experience.

I know, obviously, there are days when any of us are dragging pretty badly; perhaps especially on a Monday when the energetic inspiration to get going once again is nowhere to be found and discouragement is overwhelming; perhaps on the Friday of a not-so-productive week when you’re glad it’s finally over and maybe you can try to have a “normal weekend” like “normal” people do – even employed people don’t knock themselves out working on Saturday – you can fake it ‘til you make it to Monday, then try again.

And the inside scoop is – these are things I believe in and am doing. I am not always great at them, and I don’t always get all of them done every day, but I believe they are valid and important and they make a meaningful difference.

These four things may not fit everyone, but they will fit a lot. Whether they fit you exactly is not so important. You get the message. Find a way to figure out your own version of these. And yes, I’ll proselytize here. My basis for this guidance – this structure – this whatever you might call it – is New Testament Biblical. Luke 2:52. It’s the Balanced Life model – the four parts to a balanced life. Mental, Physical, Social, Spiritual.

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This is my Stuff. I need this stuff.

In his book, Choose Yourself, James Altucher effectively calls this The Daily Practice. He does not equate it with Luke. He doesn’t use the exact terminology. He might even say that he doesn’t mean it the same way. (That’s what I took from it, but you may take something entirely different.) I am guessing he didn’t use the New Testament as one of his references for the book. I dunno for sure, but I don’t think so.

The point is – it’s a nearly universal idea – the Balanced Life. I’ll even go further out on the limb and say it’s needed universally. You may not call it Biblical. You may call it something entirely different and get it from an entirely different source. You may not believe or accept that it’s legitimate. That’s fine. That’s just where I get it. But the idea – the concept – of getting one’s life in balance, with regard to our time and efforts, thoughts and plans, hopes and desires, energy spent, relationships and reasons and so on – the idea of Balance – of moderation; not too much or too little of anything – I am convinced is good and important.

– – –

So here is my list. It’s not the only list, and I don’t claim it’s the best list for everyone. I do think it’s a good list. Use it as you see fit.

– – –

Work

This sounds simple and obvious.

Get up. Early. Take a shower, get dressed, eat. Healthy. All this sounds like pretty fundamental stuff, but you know who you are – the guy who has decided it’s no big deal to slip into casual dress mode for a whole week, and maybe not even shave. Instead, fake it. Be the guy going to the office. Do these things and get yourself going right away.

Dress for work. Treat your home office or the coffee shop like your work place and there’s actually an office dress code. Dress the way your grandmother would expect you to dress.

Set weekly and daily goals. Write them down – make a list. This includes a daily to-do list. And don’t feel bad about bumping unfinished items to the next day. Just prioritize with the mind of an adult, not a certain 13 year-old I know. Fill out your calendar, whether paper or electronic. If you plan you can execute – at least in theory.

I begin with two-hour increments to my day. Two for requesting, setting, scheduling appointments; two for applications on-line (including researching companies, people, locations, etc. on LinkedIn); two for writing; and two for physical work (home stuff). I don’t always stick to it, and one often overlaps or absorbs another; often times outside appointments – the greatest preference by far – replace any, all or portions of these, but a daily plan is better than chaos and couch.

Decide you’re going to operate on thinking – not feeling. Decide based on judgment and thoughts – not emotions. If I were decide what I am doing today based on how I feel, I would put on my jeans and sweatshirt and a ratty ball cap, eat a half-box of Cap’n Crunch with whole milk, go straight to the Land Rover dealer, leave my beater in the parking lot, buy the newest, most gee-whiz Rover they’ve got, and head for the cabin in Canada. For a year. But that’s what I feel like doing. What I will do instead is what I should do. (And not entirely unhappily, by the way.)

(And leave the Rover and Cap’n Crunch for a time when I have really worked and earned it. This includes dressing down on Friday. Knock yourself out all week then relax and know you’ve done well.)

Aim for appointments – several each week. Get out and go. Sure, it’s cheaper – especially on a tight budget – to stay home and work, but nobody is coming to your house to see what you can do for their business. Something happens when you’re out and working amongst other people – talking, meeting, brain-churning and strategizing – at a local coffee shop, even public library. You might just meet that recruiter or hiring manager or small business owner who needs what you are good at. Especially if you make a plan and ask them to meet you there to talk about it.

Generally communicate. Reach out to people. Emails. Requests. Phone calls. Thank you’s. Repeat.

If you actively and proactively do these, they will [eventually] generate more activity – and get you up and out and back “in”. Do this as you do: Constantly think in terms of offering – offer what you can do for someone. You are on a mission to help – help solve problems, help a person or an organization. Think not in terms of asking, but in terms of offering. Speak the language and have the attitude of offering help as you communicate.

Physical work. This is a variation on the Run theme. Take a break to get sweaty. Your home, in whatever form it is, probably needs maintenance. You probably have laundry to do. Take a break to get things done. It will make all of your work go better.

Run

I love to run. I love the mile. That’s a whole nuther discussion, but running does something for me. Two things, actually; maybe more. One is exercise, of course – self-defining. Another is stress relief. Rather than me going into the long and obvious, I’ll just encourage you to do three things:

1) Start running. (And get a running partner.)

2) Subscribe to Runner’s World magazine.

3) Or do something Physically Vigorous.

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Running may not be your thing. Or it may not be possible. If that’s the case, then ride or swim. If you can’t do those things, then walk. The point is obvious: Move. Daily. Do something physical and do it regularly. And do it vigorously if possible. Vigorous physical activity. Golf is wonderful and it can even be therapeutic in some ways. Just don’t think it will give you the same benefit as sustained vigorous exercise. Get out, move, breathe, even sweat. What’s the worst that can happen? You die. Well, at least you die trying. A lot nobler than being found on the couch half-covered with an old blanket and your cold, stiff hand deep in a nearly-empty bag of chips.

Many days – too many days, I don’t run. But when I do, I feel better for it. Even my mind works better (I think). Actually, I do think. I think lots when I run; like my mind spins and zips with creative and positive stuff. I need a notebook and pencil with me when I run.

Running burns off stress. If I only run two days in a week, that’s not really enough to save my life physically; it would take real training with a regimen and maybe only one day off a week to do that, but it is enough to get the stress out and relax my heart from the worries of the day and my body of the tension of all that I am dealing with. If I eat lots of salmon and salad and celery, lot’s more than steak, and exercise – say, run – three days a week, I’m gonna get healthier.

Rush Limbaugh occasionally talks about exercise this way: If it makes you feel better, then you should do it. But if you really want to “get in shape”, it’s not exercise; it’s diet. Eat less, and eat healthy. Period.

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Actually, a lot of people say this. I think I agree with them. A seriously healthy diet, low in fat and carbs and starches and red meat (which I love) and cholesterol and high in green stuff and fruits and vegetables and salmon (which I love) and piles of water and whatever recipes are in Runner’s World – all coupled with MODERATE exercise (maybe all this running or riding or swimming or a combination of these – at least walking regularly, say, a few days a week for at least 20 minutes – THIS is what will get you in “good shape”. At least it will get you going in that direction.

(Having said all this, don’t do what I say, do what your doctor says.)

Write

I blog. And the more I look at what other people do blogging, I think I am not that good at it. But so what? One thing it does do for me – from a self-serving perspective – it provides an outlet for me. Call it an emotional outlet, or a creative outlet. It’s mental and emotional exercise. In a word – cathartic. Look it up.

I have written in another (recent) piece that if you don’t tell your story, it will never be told. Yours – your perspective – the way you see things and the way you say things – is unique. No one else can duplicate you or your work. You are unique, so your story is unique. Tell it.

Aside of the therapeutic effects, you may actually have something. Start a blog. Mine is at WordPress, but there are many. Many people write to make money; many even do it professionally, full-time. But plenty do it just because they have something to say. In the process their writing may even benefit others. At a minimum it will [probably] make you feel better and the exercise of getting it out will be good for you – your brain, your heart, your plan moving forward.

Pray

I had better say up front that I am not always so good at this, either. Just read some of my pieces at AskAHoosier.com. I can be pretty grouchy and profane sometimes. But on an even more personal note, I have a perspective on my place, spiritually speaking. My intent is not to generate a spiritual discussion, but rather a broader one surrounding “what I can do to improve my situation and move forward.”

My personal choice is to attend a men’s Bible study on Tuesday mornings. It also includes reading and silently praying. (I admit I am not so comfortable praying out loud.) For me it is not just an exercise in well-rounded discipline. I happen to suspect all “this” may be true. So I am motivated. If it is true, then surely there is something – a mission – a purpose – far beyond my present struggles and worries. If it is true, then I know (I buy into the prospect) there is a specific plan for me and my family and the world around me. I may not understand it or feel it or even believe it on occasion, but if it’s true, it doesn’t exist or not exist just because of what I think or feel. That’s certainty and security. The prospect and hope – the “what if . . . ” – are enough for me to play ball. And ultimately, with regard to this present discussion, it gives me the hutzpah to press on.

You may have a similar view, or you may have one antithetical to any or all of this. That’s ok, of course. You may have no four-part Balanced Life concept to be interested in. You may have a three part approach that is otherwise entirely secular, I dunno.

– – –

As I stated early on, these are not the only or the best Four Things for everyone, but I am convinced they are a very good start. If I weren’t, I would press them like I do. For me, this is my Stuff. Without this stuff, I am lost. I suspect most people need this, and desire it; are searching for it in some way, whether they realize it or not. Your list may look or sound different.

You may fill in the details differently. Good. But fill them in. We all need our stuff. We’d be lost without it.

– – –

BONUS ITEM:

. . . In case you think running cannot possibly be for you . . .

going the distance

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Blogging101

 

I love my blog. Maybe more than anyone else. Probably. No. In all likelihood. No. It’s beyond that – it’s definitely more than anyone else. aah_rb_logo-whiteleaf

AskAHoosier.com. That’s my blog. You’re reading it right now.

https://askahoosier.wordpress.com/

BLUF. Bottom Line Up Front. If you don’t read anything else, fine. Maybe you’ll get this much, at least, and answer me, help me out on my troubles, and move on. All within about three minutes. On the other hand, maybe you or someone will read the rest of this and identify, even contribute to a longer discussion and we’ll all get more help and encouragement than we expected.

Here they are, up front (almost, anyway…), at the risk of losing everybody reading; at the risk of answering my own challenges – my concerns for my blogging life and my questions – too soon and giving the bottom line too quickly. Frankly, I don’t care. You may have something you need to do. So get it over with right now.

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My challenges (today) are these:

  1. I am not sure re-posting is cool.
  2. Too many words in a blogpost.
  3. Making money with my blog.

 

 

Alright, now – for those who have decided – for the moment – to stay with me a bit longer, here is the expansion on . . . well . . . everything conjured in your mind; or at least my mind, on each of these.

  1. Is re-posting cool?

What if I published something two years ago, or last year, but think it’s worthy all over again? Is it cheap? Too easy? Boring? And worse, irrelevant? And ultimately, so what? It’s my blog, right? If my first intent is selfish, say, to at a minimum practice my writing, then so what. That’s much of what I do at Ask A Hoosier. Let the real professional writers do it better; do it the right way. Let the rest of us do it for ourselves and for the practice. We might even get better at it; maybe even good at it someday. Maybe someday we (and when I say ‘we” I mean “I”) will not even think of re-posting; we’ll develop prolific-ness and write every day and without end. Maybe even be good at it. Maybe.

  1. How much is enough?

I am a wordy guy. It’s miserable. I’m miserable when I think about it. I swear (which I think I should not do), I can’t even get a personal email or LinkedIn response out to somebody in one sentence. I’d swear I can’t do it. You’d swear, “The guy can’t shut up, trim it down and be concise.” If they say a good blog ought to be no more than 700 words, I’m shot. A zillion words minimum is it for me. Usually.

 

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  1. How can I monetize my blog?

I know, I should know this by now. No, I should have been doing this by now. I know. But I haven’t. But take a look: My site address still has “WordPress” in it. I am totally clueless, and admittedly, probably from a basic lack of research on this. I have seen some pretty fancy blogs, and mine (apparently) isn’t one of them. I knocked myself out paying for a logo and that has seemed to be all I could handle. There are several reasons for this. One, I am not [really] a computer guy; I am not e- or IT-savvy; not really. But I kind of wonder if the Peter Principle has come into play: I may have reached the pinnacle of my IT-incompetence. Maybe so. I suspect so. No matter, not really. I still get it done.

But the one thing I haven’t gotten done is make money – selling ads, selling T-shirts, getting set up to accept donations through PayPal. Lazy, maybe, but I don’t think so. Uncertain maybe. But anyway, I haven’t done it yet. I am about to, now that I am 1) a little more experienced, 2) a little braver, and 3) a little poorer, and hence 4) a little bit bolder and don’t care what happens, i.e., what the response is. What are they going to do, after all? Stop reading? Stop buying?

Well, anyway, T-shirts is where I am headed. I have two designs I am sold on, so I am developing those. Watch for them. Then buy one. Please. And yes, I’ve got my head mostly out of the sand: I know I’m not going to get rich selling two different T-shirts. I just have a hankering for this; it’s my thing. You might even say “passion”, so it’s what I am going with. We’ll see where it goes from there. Keep watching. It’s all a work in progress – a live, real-time experiment.

I think this must be the crux of “blogging your passion”.

Of course, it has all to do with what you want to accomplish in the first place; what you’re doing it for in the first place.

Me? I wanted to put something unique in writing. My belief is a fundamental one:

If you don’t tell your story, it will never be told.

That’s it. That’s how I was finally convinced to get started. Sure. I had lots of other thoughts and gurglings inside churning, seemingly burning to get out. I swear, it was biblical. Check out Luke 19:40. With a little bit of inappropriate twist and misinterpretation, I can apply it to my situation. It’s as if the stories I have inside must be told, or at least recorded in some way, documented and made permanent. Paraphrased, “….if you silence us, even the rocks will cry out.”

Terribly paraphrased.

 

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My intent is not to draw you into a biblical discussion (although I do depend on that personally for my grounding and direction). My intent is not to abuse scripture or offend anyone (most anyone) who may be better schooled in the subject than me. My intent – from a selfish view – is to relate to the idea; to identify just where I come from, how and why.

My intent is to say this to my readers:

Your story is unique. It will not be told unless you tell it. Every life, every experience within is uniquely individual and by definition, special. And worthy.

Worthy to be told? To anyone and everyone? Well, from the perspective of public consumption, I don’t care.

I understand the First Rule in Writing is to write every day. I also understand a rule of life is that if one writes – that is, gets it out – it is, at least in theory, therapeutic. That’s where the idea of a diary came from, I suppose. Get it down and get it out. Same for exercise. Get out and move. So what if – this is worst case now – I write for myself, my own sake, and I re-post once in a while. So what? I say do it. Enjoy it. And practice. Then practice and practice some more.

If you want to see what I’m talking about, really, in the flesh, check out AskaHoosier.com. And remember – I have already told you this is a live experiment. And it’s just practice. By the time you’re finished reading this, I will have three more challenges I am wrestling with. I‘ll try not to be afraid to confess them to you. Maybe it will help a little.

– – –

Image credits, top to bottom:

“Blogging 101”: adamweitner.com

My AAH logo: Mark King at Mark King Creative, Muncie, Indiana

“Blog”: Influence Expansion

“How do I make money…?”” Cherry Cross

“Blogging”: Writings on the Wall

 

 

 

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Beginning in early August 2001, I started a month-long conversation with a pilot of Middle Eastern origin flying a business jet out of Nashville, Tennessee.

Man-Silhouette

I was assisting him with plans for a Nashville-to-Saudi Arabia trip to be made sometime in September. He required what I considered to be standard materials – a trip kit – a one-time purchase – guaranteed to be current (legal) for a relatively short period of time, say, 14 days. He needed this because he was not a regular subscriber to “Jepps”, Jeppesen instrument flight charts, in simplest terms. He would also require electronic NavData for his GPS – Global Positioning System. The trip kit would be in paper, and would be quite a stack.

I’ll call him “Faruq”.

Every “plate” – essentially overhead views and profile views, technical “drawings” – somewhat akin to architectural blueprints – of how to fly an approach into an airport, how to depart from one, and how to fly in between, all with the intent of not hitting or even getting close to anybody else. When printed, they are on what I would call “Bible paper”; a half sheet and of the same type and feel. Electronically, they are displayed through a device on the cockpit instrument panel. Any ten-year-old kid would these days recognize it.

JeppsKBHM122_Not For Nav

Faruq would need the charts for the Eastern United States, Eastern Canada, HI and LO altitude, crossing the Atlantic, Western Europe, and finally the Middle East. His “NavData” would consist of two separate data cards each of which looked like a super-thick plain, black credit card with gold contacts on one end. Then add in the flight planning software. Pretty expensive package, all told; say, four-to-five figures, in the low-several thousands of dollars. As much as it costs, it’s pretty routine for private and business jet operators.

Now, it’s done in a much more integrated, even higher-tech fashion, with more electronics and less paper and other objects to worry about, but the costs are still about the same – high.

– – –

Private Jets: A Guy I Know

A brief interlude, and a bit lighter view of the subject for a moment.

– – –

Guys (they are usually guys…) who own the jets they fly, as many do, or at least fly on, may be  different than most of us, but in many ways, are not so different. It’s that thing about putting your pants on one leg at a time.

I know a guy in Casey, Illinois (about 30 minutes west of my hometown in Indiana) who owns a manufacturing business with a few locations around the country, so, for many reasons, he chooses to own a jet. It’s a Lear 25-something-or-other (I can’t remember exactly now, it’s been too many years) that he keeps in Bloomington, up-state. First, he can afford it. Second, it’s a practical matter for him.

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Who wouldathunk, right there in Casey, of all places, where my aunt Mildred was nurse at the high school for 50 gazillion years. Well, you gotta be from somewhere, and you gotta live somewhere. Might as well be there. I appreciate that he chooses to remain living in his hometown (something I have not done).

I know another guy, I’ll call him “Viktor.” He is a Russian art collector (ancient religious iconography is one of his keenest interests), investor, and philanthropist. He lives in a few places, to include London. So, he also has a jet – A Gulfstream V, if I recall correctly. Huge, expensive, beautiful, yaduh, yaduh, yaduh.

He (and quite a few others) reminds me that immense personal wealth is (or at least can be) a very good thing.

Statistics demonstrate that such people, their trusts and foundations, their direct personal giving and so on contribute with enormous impact. Viktor does. By-and-large, it seems to be their nature. While they can certainly live the way they want (which is by the way, what most people aspire to achieve), they tend to be the financial drivers of positive change in most communities, and they do it freely. I am surely glad for what they are able to do and choose to do.

Viktor once called me to continue working on arrangments for a ’round the world trip.

It was to be partly with his wife and the plan was to mix business and pleasure: Donations and lending of art to various galleries and other philanthropic engagements and some sightseeing, some aircraft business and so on.

It would start in London and on to the heart of Europe then east to Moscow, down to the Persian Gulf, back to several cities in Africa (charitable foundation and art world stuff there), then Brazil, then Dallas or Savannah (again foggy memory) for some extended refresher training in a G5 simulator and an A&P course (Airframe and Powerplant mechanic certification stuff), then New York and finally home to London.

Gulfstream_Aerospace_G-V-SP_Gulfstream_G550_MEL_Vabre

Partly with his wife because he did not want to put her through the solo time while he was getting trained and recertified. That would be sorta like asking your wife to stand in the back yard and watch while you try to assemble then try to use a new weed-whacker. She’s got better stuff to do.

So when he called, he was in Africa – for pure personal fun this time.

He was on safari somewhere, but he was feeling nervous about getting prepared for the Big Trip. So he briefly interrupted his adventure to call and confirm a few details with me. In his thick but (like the British) very intelligent-sounding English, sort of yelling because he didn’t trust his cellphone, he said, “Michael, I am sitting in a jeep looking at an elephant!”

I swear, I pictured nutty old uncle Ernest Hemingway, phone in one hand, Winchester .458 in the other, multitasking with life itself, oblivious to what could happen next – to himself or anyone near him – and having a good time doing it. If I had heard a huge KaBoom! right then and there and a bunch of panicked yelling I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised.

I liked his Russian English, but he was often frustrated by it. Many times he put his very proper English wife on the phone with me to sort out what he really wanted to say. She replaced his heavily accented and numerous “I’m sorry Michael”‘s with that intoxicating and wonderfully flowing Queen’s English. I truly didn’t care what the words actually were; they could have been made up for all I cared. I just listened in a sort of trance. At that point it was just 8-year-old me lying in bed and Mary Poppins singing something about about tuppens and cough syrup, lulling me to baby-sleep. I could have had her translate Viktor for me for the rest of my life and been pretty happy about it.

Anyway, during that global trip, he ended up calling me from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. He was in the midst of his wealthy, luxuriant frustration, agonizing over a very expensive broken gadget-thingy, and needing another trip kit because now his jaunt was going to be extended by a week or so… IF he could get the very expensive gadget-thingy fixed. He would say his immense wealth was rapidly depleting with his questionable decision to some wear some of his multiple hats.

I asked a simple but rotten question: “How is it?”

His response was pretty down-to-earth and relatable.

“Michael, I am the mechanic, the pilot, the janitor, the caterer, the electronics technician, and sadly, the owner.”

I guess crap feels the same for everyone, regardless of where it comes from.

– – –

That “Faruq” was in need of a Jeppesen Trip Kit was in itself somewhat odd in that virtually every business jet on the planet that regularly flies internationally – which this one did – requires Jeppesen procedures, whether paper or electronic, and Jeppesen electronic NavData for their on-board navigation systems.

Jeppesen is (or at least was at that time) the only producer of such information and electronic data on a worldwide scale. (Other businesses, such as SwissAir, and some governments produce regional information for internal consumption, but nothing on the scale of Jepp). If someone is to fly globally, they have to use Jeppesen.

My memory of all the fine details of this event is not as clear as it was ten years ago; I think my conclusion must have been that this was a newly acquired aircraft and perhaps flying “home” so did not yet require any subscriptions. A trip kit would suffice. So our conversations continued. We spoke regularly – two to three times each week. Eventually, what became the most outstanding aspect of those conversations was the thing that led to a standstill: money.

Normally – routinely – Jepp takes this type call all day long, every day. These people pay right now. If they can afford this aircraft, or if their company deems it necessary to have it, they can pay, and they do. The people who fly on a company aircraft from Seattle to a meeting in Minneapolis or from Teterboro to London, or the guy who flies a family-owned G-4 to the Kamchatka Peninsula to go salmon fishing, or the small but very hard-working, very successful factory owner – say, a foundry or electronic components, or wiring harnesses, or industrial hydraulic pumps – and he’s the guy from Casey.

He owns his Lear because it’s what’s needed and not because it’s fun – and flies from Bloomington to Columbus to Little Rock to Dayton and back home all in two days – they all have established themselves and their businesses financially enough to pay for their flying.

– – –

But not my guy, Faruq.

What first stood out about him was how exceptionally polite and articulate he was. Not that he got the Queen’s English exactly right. Lord knows that we Hoosiers (or maybe just we Hoosiers south of I-70) rarely do that. He had his grammatical foibles, but he handled his english a lot better than I would have handled my Arabic.

It was his presentation that stood out more than anything. And it developed into an upward spiral. The more polite and appreciative he was, the more I enjoyed speaking with him and helping, then, in return, the more pleasant he continued to be. And so it went. But somewhere after our second or third conversation, the calls began to end with projections and anticipations of when and precisely how payment would be wired or a company credit card would be provided.

The plans were clearly stalling for want of “show me the money.”

– – –

By early September the calls were coming almost daily.

He became very apologetic and began searching me for alternative ways to get the materials shipped on time; he had a hard deadline he had to meet. He would say, “We’ve got to go by . . .” or “The boss needs to depart no later than . . ” and he became more and more animated in his expressions over the phone, making it clear this was extremely important and he was becoming desperate, caught in the middle.

But invariably we would end up rehashing the fact that I could not ship anything without full payment. It had arrived at a place that was entirely uncharacteristic of business jet operators.

It was then that again he would apologize profusely and assure me he was doing everything he could to arrange payment but it was difficult. It was clear to me that moving payment from “Saudi to here” would continue to be fraught with snags. For whatever reasons, a credit card couldn’t do it. Cash converted to a cashier’s check couldn’t either. Neither could a wire. So the order never went.

– – –

Our last phone conversation was sometime during the week of September 3-7; I do not recall exactly which day. Faruq expressed the slightest bit of hope that a wire transfer could be made, but he also spoke with what stood out to me as an undertone of resignation, as if he knew the trip he needed to take so badly – or the trip he was under such pressure to complete – would not take place. He was friendly and polite all the while. He thanked me and I thanked him and wished him the best.

Over the weekend, as he occurred to me only as an after-thought, I expected to hear from him Monday, September 10th, but didn’t.

Then of course, it was Tuesday.

– – –

Next week: Part V – Gone and Forever

Logo-Boeing-Company

– – –

Jeppesen “plate” image credit Jeppesen and courtesy The Professional Pilots Rumour Network

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