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Staying Motivated in Aviation

My apologies in advance if this post ends up being hard to follow, I am mostly shooting from the hip and letting my thoughts flow where they may.

Yesterday I was feeling a little down on myself and posted a tweet/Instagram post about what was on my mind:

In a prime example of what I love about the aviation community, I got three rather prompt responses from people that were exactly what I needed to hear, including one saying I should write a blog post about it, so here we are.

My first thought is that we all need to be more willing to put how we are actually feeling out there.  It is okay if you are not 100% pumped about every aspect of aviation every day.  It’s okay to be frustrated with where you are at, or the lack of progress you are making, and to share that with others.  I think it makes us all a little more human and can help others who may also be struggling to realize that it’s okay.

As I experienced yesterday, there are a lot of people out there that want to support and encourage you, me included, but it is hard to help someone when you don’t know what they need, or that they are even having a hard time.  I find my greatest joys in helping other people, and in talking through decisions that people are making.  There is just something about the act of being involved in someone else’s life, even in some small way, that speaks to the deepest parts of who I am.  I think that is why I have always loved instructing so much.

Admittedly, a lot of my frustration comes from when I look at other people on social media and see all of the fun things that they are doing, and then I get jealous and want to go and do the same things.  I have gotten to do some pretty awesome stuff, but I am always jealous of the people doing other awesome stuff that I want to do too.

I have mentioned before how much I want to get into backcountry flying when I get back to Reno, and I am not doing a good job being patient for that to happen.  I have to remind myself that it will happen someday but that it will take time.  I am in the middle of a year of pilot training, followed by 6 months of C-130 specific training, and that was all part of the plan.  Then when I get back and get settled in then I will be able to start to pursue other avenues that this year and a half of training are opening up.

But I don’t want to wait. (insert pouting child face here)

That can be one of the greatest challenges when we pursue lofty, yet attainable, dreams.  Many of them take a lot of time and effort to actually achieve.  Some people are able to get there faster based on their circumstances, and good for them, but we can’t spend our whole lives comparing ourselves to others.  One of the amazing things about aviation is that there is no one route to get to all of the amazing places it can take you.

My wife was writing a paper for school today about how we need to cultivate our talents and try to figure out what makes us special.  She warned about the dangers of spending too much time comparing ourselves to others, and how that can suck the joy right out of life.  This was not news to me, but there was an interesting article she referenced which suggested that under the right circumstances comparing ourselves to others can actually be a good thing.

If you look at the things you are jealous of, or that you wish you had in your life, you can get a better understanding of the things that matter to you, and potentially where you should set your goals.  This is a dangerous line to walk if you are constantly jealous of “stuff”, but I think it could be a powerful tool if you look at experiences, knowledge, friendships, service, or other virtuous things that you may be jealous of.  In that case you can gain a better understanding of what you value most, and in turn how you might need to change your life to achieve those things.

There is nothing wrong with reaching out to the people you are jealous of and asking how they got there.  In fact, that is exactly what you should do.  Social media allows so much more mentorship than ever existed before, and you are wasting amazing opportunities if you don’t ask.  If you go looking for a quick fix you may find yourself disappointed, but if you are willing to put in the same effort and work that they did, there is nothing stopping you from achieving the same things, and becoming your own version of that person.

I think I will close with the comment from Instagram that inspired this post.

Sarina is an amazing writer, and a fabulous person to follow if you aren’t already, and there is a ton of value in what she said.  It can be hard to find the will to do even the things we love sometimes.  Between work, family, school, and life we don’t always have a ton of time for what we love, and sometimes we just want to rest.  That’s okay.  Just keep loving the things you love, and when you get the motivation, then do it.

I have wanted to be a pilot since I was a little kid, but it took me until I was 36 to get there.  I guess I just needed to wait long enough to have the motivation to do it.  It wasn’t easy, but it has been totally worth it, and it has opened doors that I had thought were closed.  By the time I am done with all of my training I will be 39 and just starting to learn how to do my job.  That thought is both amazing and terrifying to me.

So if you are having a hard time reaching your goals, reach out, ask for help.  Maybe someone can say just the right thing to get you going.  Or maybe you just need to vent a little to someone.  Either way I am happy to listen and to help in any way that I can.

Thanks for taking the time to read my sometimes random thoughts and let me know how I can help you!

December 2, 2019 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

How I Became a Pilot: Part 2 Joining the Air Force

That’s right, I ended the previous post about becoming a pilot telling you about how I quit.  Again, it is not one of my prouder moments, but 11 years later, it is what it is and I can’t go back and change it.  I learned from the experience, and I am better for it.

A year or so after I gave up on my dream, I was visiting my old cub scout leader who was a retired pilot and former navigator in the Air Force.  We had a nice meal harassing each other about the Marine Corps and the Chair Force. All in good fun of course. On my way home that night I was talking to my wife and jokingly said, “Maybe I should just join the Air Force.”  We both had a good laugh.

The next morning when we talked on the phone she asked me if I had been joking about that comment the night before.  I told her that at the time I was, but that I had stayed up late that night and done some research and as far as I could tell I still had a chance before I would need a waiver, which is not something they were giving out at the time.  At the time you had to be into training by the time you were 30. (That limit was recently raised to 33) So we decided to look into it.

I contacted a recruiter in the area I was visiting that was incredibly helpful but he told me I should really work with one in the area I lived.  So I got in contact with her. She told me I was already too old and that it was impossible. After more research I realized she had no idea what she was talking about.  With some support from the online community at airforceots.com, and the help of the first recruiter I helped her realize that she was wrong and my package started to come together in earnest.

The first lesson here is to realize when a no is really a no, and when it is just laziness.  I could have easily taken her word for it and I would never have gotten to where I am today. At the same time I didn’t berate her or get mad, I simply kept searching and asking questions and eventually I found the right answers.  So never give up on your dream, especially if the first answer is no.

In the process of putting together my package there were a number of tests, paperwork, and various other steps that had to be accomplished.  Despite the complete ineptitude of my recruiter I was able to schedule the AFOQT and TBAS which are standardized tests that are required to apply to become a pilot in the Air Force.  All of the services have similar tests. Having already taken the Marine Corps one, and scored very well, I was confident I would do well, and I did. Not perfect, but very competitive scores.

I went into the process with the mindset that I was either going to be a pilot or I wasn’t joining.  I simply didn’t want to do anything else in the military but fly. As the deadline for the selection board approached, I was scrounging to get the last few pieces of paperwork signed and was genuinely scared it would not come in time and I would have missed my opportunity.  Fortunately for me, some of my Marine leadership took it upon themselves to help me, and it did come in time.

On the day that the application was due I made what I consider to be the best decision I have made in my career.  I called the recruiter and told him to add that I was willing to take a navigator slot. I figured that even if I wasn’t selected as a pilot, which was a very real possibility at the time, then at least I would still be flying, and more importantly I would actually be in a career that would support my family.

Then I had to wait.

From the time packages were submitted in June until the results ultimately came out in December was almost exactly six months.  They didn’t announce a release date, but based on previous boards I had determined about when to expect them.

As that time started to approach I became really anxious.  My commitment to the Marine Corps was in its last few weeks and I honestly wasn’t sure what I would do if it didn’t turn out as I had hoped.  I had even started taking classes to become a high school physics teacher because I needed something to take care of my family and the odds were not great that I would be doing that as a pilot.

At that time the selection rates for the boards had been in the 25-30% range because this was 2009.  The economy sucked and a steady paycheck from the military was pretty appealing.

I will never forget where I was when I got the call.  I had visited our local library with my daughter for story time.  As I was putting her in my truck I got a call on my cell phone from my recruiter.  Fortunately, he is not like me and didn’t tease me or keep me waiting and he told me that I had been selected as a navigator.

I really didn’t know what to say other than thank you.  I hung up the phone and screamed as loud as I could before calling my wife to tell her the good news.  I of course made her wait and teased her a little before letting her know our whole world was going to change.

I would later learn through the official press release that my board had resulted in a 17% selection rate. Of the approximately 700 applicants only about 120 had been selected to become an officer period.  Of the 120 or so selected there were only 6 pilots so it just wasn’t meant to be, yet. For reference the last board press releases I saw a couple of years ago had selection rates in the 65-75% range.  What can I say? It is all about timing.

Over the next few months I proceeded to fill out a bunch of paperwork, get a flight physical, and then wait to get a class date to attend OTS.

Shortly after learning I had been selected as a navigator, we learned that my wife was going to be laid off, and in the same month that we were going to be having another baby.  Isn’t life just grand sometimes? It was becoming even more imperative that I get a class date so that I could get going and take care of my family.

Despite some objections from my recruiter, and a relatively unhappy person in the office that scheduled class dates I was able to get a class date for September of 2010 with follow on training in Pensacola, FL.  With a little scraping by, and a lot of blessings from God, we were able to get by until I was sworn in, and three days after my son came into the world I left my growing family behind for Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

I have to laugh a little as I think back on that time.  Until that dinner with my cubmaster I don’t think I had once considered joining the Air Force, at least not seriously.  And once I had become a Marine there was absolutely no way I would lower my standards and go to what I considered a lesser service.

To be clear, I still had great respect for the Air Force and what they did, the way that I had, and still have, great respect for all of the services.  We all provide unique skill sets to accomplish our assigned objectives.  The greatest problems we create in the military are when we try to take on the roles that have already been perfected by the other services, but that is a topic for a different time.

But for a Marine to go to the Chair Force?  That is madness.  Fortunately, I had enough sense to care more about my family than my own over inflated ego.  And, even more importantly, I had a wife that loved me and supported me through it all.  Not many women would willingly send their husband away for three months only three days after giving birth, and as I would later learn, only a few days before she would have an emergency surgery.

Adding to the theme of the people who got me to where I am, I am forever indebted to my little sister Natalie who willingly came to live with my family and take care of my kids and wife which she recovered.  The real sacrifice is that she is not really a big fan of kids, but she was an angel to those kids and I will never forget it.

So if you are having trouble finding how to accomplish your dream, it may be time to look down a path that you have never considered, and hopefully there will be someone who will push you in that direction.  You may find, like I did, that something that you never considered, is it exactly the path that you needed to take.

June 24, 2019 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.