One of the greatest things about aviation is the opportunities it provides. New cities and cultures are just a short plane ride away. Sure, there are lots of things that make travel seem like it’s not worth the effort such as airport security, checked bag fees and ATC delays. And you’re right, sitting in a middle seat on a transcontinental flight (or worse yet, a transoceanic flight) may not be the most pleasurable experience ever, but then how much fun is driving for five days to get across the country or sailing for weeks to journey between continents?
My point is that despite all the downsides, travel—and specifically aviation—is still worth it. Travel connects people and places. It drives the global economy. Most of all, it provides opportunities—some expected and some unexpected—and it’s those unexpected opportunities I want to address today.
Take for instance one of my last trips to Los Angeles. The crew hotel is just off of Hollywood Boulevard and around the corner from the Kodak Theatre (home of the Academy Awards) and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (home to countless movie premieres).
After checking into the hotel, the concierge informed me that Jimmy Kimmel Live is filmed only two blocks away and that if I hurried I could possibly get into the show. I quickly changed out of my uniform, headed to the theatre and patiently waited in the standby tickets line.
As luck would have it, I ended up with the very last seat. It was great to see the show in person and to enjoy the behind-the-scenes peek into the world of television. But that was the expected opportunity.
The unexpected opportunity was getting to meet the man standing behind me in line. As we talked, I learned he worked as a producer for a local TV station. We talked about his job, his career flight plan that included a stint in Allentown (just down the road from where I live), and we even talked a little about aviation and this blog. He said he loved the idea behind Life’s Flight Plan and agreed to take a peek. Now, who knows where this lead will go, but it was an unexpected opportunity that started with nice conversation and could end up having an amazing impact on the success of this blog. Maybe this blog will even have an impact on him!
I can think of quite a few random experiences in my life that are much like this one. For instance, several years ago, I sent a letter to my company’s CEO. The letter made its way to the desk of a woman in human resources who has turned out to be one of my greatest and most valuable mentors. Clearly, I didn’t intend on meeting her, but I’m incredibly glad I did.
Or consider the time I was traveling to Barcelona, Spain and sat next to the head fashion designer for a major clothing company. We talked about fashion (well, he did…I mostly took a LOT of mental notes!!) as well as life and how we always need to push ourselves, never live with regrets and always chase our dreams. He talked about how he failed the first time he tried to branch out on his own but never gave up. He believed in himself and his ability. Now, he’s creating his own clothing line that is thriving in Barcelona and Milan. I wonder if he has any idea that four years later I still think about that conversation?
And then there was the statewide conference for resident advisors and assistants at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, my alma mater, for which I was invited (Thanks Gonzalo and Jason!) to give the keynote address. It was there that I met the beautiful leader of the student delegation from the University of West Florida named Jennifer, who wasn’t even supposed to attend until the last-minute, and who four and a half years later became my wife.
These unexpected opportunities are everywhere. Some are in business. Some deal with family. Some have at their heart a passion you haven’t tapped like you could. Sometimes you’re the receiver of the opportunity and sometimes you’re the giver. The hard part is recognizing these opportunities, and the even harder part is then acting on them. Sure, there may be risks, but rewards rarely come without taking a few calculated risks.
Life truly is like an hourglass, and the sand eventually stops. Every second of every day is another second you won’t get back. Are you making the most of those seconds? Are you ready to experience unexpected opportunities? Are you prepared to act on them and take off? Don’t be surprised if some people think you’re crazy. Ignore them. It’s your life! It’s your happiness! And it’s worth it!
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