The 365 Commitment

No Runway

You do not need a runway. Your life is not a 747. You may be the pilot, or perhaps just a passenger but you do not need a long runway, so I suggest that you stop waiting for someone to build you one. You are waiting for someone to clear the way for you, provide you with this nice flat and easy approach with little or no obstacles. You want everything clearly defined for you. You want nice easy to read instructions and blinking lights and warning signs that let you know where it is safe to land. You want air traffic control to inform you of when, where and how to take off. Yes, you want a runway.

Hate to break it to you, but your life is not a plane and there is no runway. No one will ever build you one. Perhaps your parents will try, or have tried but you will discover, perhaps the hard way, that they are not very good at building runways. They did not have one either, and really do not understand the requirements of your life and circumstance. You could rely on others to build you a runway, but you will be waiting a very long time because they will run out of time, budget, interest or all of the above.

No one will ever build you a runway for anything in your life. So stop asking for it and stop expecting it. Stop telling people what they need to do, what they should do, and how they should do it to make your life easier, your job easier or your circumstance easier. People are not going to do that for you, no matter how many times you ask. We are not runway builders, because there is no runway. When you complain about your circumstance to another person, what you are really doing is complaining that there is no runway. That the path is not easy, nor is it straight. When you finally get it through your head that there is no runway, you will understand how ridiculous your complaints sound.

The only thing that I discovered in life, the only option that I have learned that I really have, is to just simply take off. You are the pilot of an F-35B not a 747. These are planes with VTOL (vertical take off and landing capability). That is what you are. No runway required.

(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe/Released)

The best example that I can use to illustrate this is my current occupation. I am basically in middle management in a global technology solutions provider. As you can imagine, what we do is not exactly easy. The people that work in our organization are required to handle and manage difficult situations and respond to every increasing demands for change. There are many people that will complain to me, asking for me to remove an obstacle, clear the way, make the path to doing their jobs a straighter and smoother. Effectively, build them a runway. My first reaction, is to think, well that is why I hired these people! I need people that can handle rocky, volatile terrain. That can duck and dodge and weave their way through an ever changing landscape. However, eventually they will convince me that there needs to be some sort of a runway for them to do their job. They would be so much more successful if I could just give them a little landing strip to take off from.

So then I go and complain to my management. Their reaction is pretty much mine. I thought I hired a squadron leader of a bunch of VTOL pilots, why in the world are you asking for a landing strip? I need you to be agile and adept, and here you want an aircraft carrier! Then the cycle continues. The constant desire of everyone in the chain wanting someone to build them a runway. This all would be a whole lot easier if everyone just came to grips with the fact that there is no runway. Not any more at least. There maybe jobs out there where you can expect your employer to do most the work and pave the way and create nice clean lines for you to follow. Perhaps an assembly line job or something, I do not know. I have yet to experience a job like this. Even the jobs that you would think would have nice landing runways are all SNAFU as well. This is just normal. No runways, all jungle and rocks. Get over it.

My first major job, I met an man older than me who sort of walked me through the ropes. He would moan and complain about how management had things all screwed up, and then as he put his cigarette out on the heel of his shoe, would say, “I do not know why I am complaining, not like anyone is going to care.” Time to just go do the best I can. You see he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. I have to say there is a whole world of difference between a helicopter pilot and lets say a commercial airline pilot. The helicopter pilot would say, just give me a tank of gas, a machine gunner and a load full of jar heads and point me in the general direction. I am good to go. Yippee ki yay. The airline pilot feels out of place without a clearance to fly, a series of checks to go through, lots of blinking lights and instrument panels. The commercial airline pilot might experience one “close call” in their lifetime. The helicopter pilot experiences them daily and wears them like a badge of honor. “Oh yeah, I ditched the last bird on a hill side and walked away with only a stain on my shirt from my spilled coffee,” you might hear them say. My early mentor would teach me that risk was part of the game, might as well have some fun while you are at it.

I think we all have a commercial airline pilot concept in our minds about life and work. We think everything should run smoothly. Air traffic control should be heavily involved in our activities. There should be manifests, and clear indications. We should know and understand all variables and above all we should have a clear and visible runway. Reality is we need to be the helicopter or the VTOL pilot, more accustomed to a volatile and changing environment where there is no guidance, no teams that support and certainly no runways.

Guy Reams

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