Michael Bryant, VP Public Sector Strategy: Three Life Lessons from Flight School

More than 25 years ago, I completed flight school. For me, it was something I had no model for—I didn’t know any pilots, and had never seen how an airplane worked. It’s not nearly as easy as driving. The first time I was in a plane, I had no idea what I was doing, but I continued gaining experience and knowledge, and now can take these learnings and apply them to the air. My personal favorite flight route is from Northern Virginia down to the tip of southern Florida, exploring the Keys (and of course, grabbing a slice of key lime pie). 

Regardless of the time that has passed since I graduated flight school, the memories and experiences endure. I’m always remembering the lessons it taught me throughout my daily life and in my role at Effectual, and I’ve arrived at three great ones that are worth sharing. 

Never Let the Plane Take You Where You Don’t Want to Be

You could fill an entire room with motivational posters containing life lessons from flight school, and my favorite is never letting the plane take you where you don’t want to be.

Think of the last time you were at an airport and it was raining outside. The flight was delayed because of inclement weather, and people were grumbling about how “the pilot doesn’t want to fly” because of the rain.

Well, that’s true; flying into a thunderstorm or a blizzard can be tricky. And if you can wait a few minutes—or, if you’re already in the air, navigate to a different altitude—to avoid those difficult situations, you’ll make that decision every time. Not only will it lead to a smoother ride for you, but it will also provide a safer experience for the whole airplane.  

This is also applicable to business. When you’re interacting with a customer, you can direct the conversation to where it needs to be. Once you understand their goals and objectives, being able to steer the discussion in a way that addresses those goals is an important skill to learn.

The Day You Decide to Land on the Center Line, You’ll Never Miss Again

Very early in my flight school experience, I’d always land to the left of the center line by 10 feet. My instructor called it out and remarked that I would “always land in the same spot every time.”

I thought about it, and he was right. I still landed the plane safely but it was just always a little left of center.

Then my instructor told me something that’s stuck with me: “The day you decide to land on the center line, you’ll never miss it again.”

Once that was called to my attention, I realized I could put the airplane on the center line every time—I just had to decide I wanted to.

How do you hold yourself accountable? If you adopt a mindset of “well, I’m here, so I guess I’ll do this,” it can lead to sloppy mistakes and oversight of a factor critical to getting the job done well. But if you decide you’re going to focus on the task at hand and truly give it the attention it deserves, you may be surprised by what you can accomplish.

Slow Down to Go Down

When I was learning to fly a multi-engine airplane, a major reminder they drilled into our heads was that the first action in an emergency will be the thing you have to work on the longest to undo. 

Let’s say you have an engine out emergency. When there’s a failure, flight instructors teach you to put both feet on the floor, both hands in your lap and evaluate the situation until you know everything that’s going on. It may not sound like it, but an engine going out is a deferred emergency, not a crisis. 

The National Transportation Safety Board has research revealing that when people react quickly—even when they’re trained—they make a significant mistake that has a dramatic impact on the outcome. Instead, just sit there and evaluate the situation and identify the actual problem. Then, when you’re sure, take an action. There’s even an acronym for it: IVFR, which stands for Identify, Verify, Fix, Recover.

In my work with the public sector at Effectual I always ensure that I thoroughly understand what’s going on, either internally or with a customer, and assess the situation before jumping to a conclusion or decision. 

Serving Effectual’s Public Sector Customers

This has come up for me in business situations countless times throughout my career and in my work with the public sector at Effectual. I always ensure that I thoroughly understand what’s going on, either internally or with a customer, and assess the situation before jumping to a conclusion or decision. 

This approach is how we help customers map their path to modernization. Taking time to assess your on-premises and cloud-based workloads allows us to identify existing risks and potential roadblocks. Once we’ve got a clear view of the issues, we can start figuring out how to land safely at our destination in the cloud.

Regardless of the situation, slowing down a moment to evaluate the actual issue in front of you, and then taking your first action has much better results in the long run.

If you don’t, you may never take flight — and you’ll miss out on seeing a lot of great things.