A plane must gain 50 feet of altitude by the end of the runway or face potentially devastating consequences. If for whatever reason takeoff does not occur, it doesn’t matter to the passengers why it hasn’t happened, blame is hopefully for tomorrow, only that impending tragedy has arrived. And now, as the margin for error has vanished and life and death decisions play out in an instant, the pilot holds the key to the future path of many lives.

This metaphor has room to run. The pilot could be any one of us. As a young man, I can readily recall the instances where my ignorance and arrogance caused me close calls. The speed of my car, the level of my blood-alcohol, and the Grace of circumstances allows me to type these words today. Or another time, the depth of the water that separated me from the concrete slabs below the murky surface and the arrival of the police to shoo us kids away to live another day can only be given to God. Or how about the Providential timing of the parenting class that captured my motivations which saved my marriage. Yes, the pilot holds the throttle whereby man, machine, and environment come to the moment of risk where liftoff occurs or impactfully not.

Trying to find a metaphor that really does justice to the risks of life and welfare is difficult. My goal here would be to penetrate your current state of thinking and motivate you young men 1) towards introspection, 2) to reassess the risk of being wrong, 3) to strategically widen the field of inputs which increases the margin for error, and 4) to energize your daily action away from ineffectual momentum where the plane’s trajectory is blindly heading towards a fast approaching obstruction. The plane metaphor works because pilot error is the number one cause of crashes in the air and in life.

Every   single   young   man   must overcome the shortcomings of his mind in order to navigate his life properly. Ego, conviction, naivete, misperception, misplaced loyalties, untested skills, misunderstandings, underappreciation of risk, fear of risk, excessive humility, arrogance, and ignorance are qualities that every man has in some measure. Maturity often comes through pain and adversity- if it comes at all. The motivation, then, is to avoid big pain that will thwart your upward trajectory towards well-being. What I’m talking about is figuring yourself out – in time – to ensure a long life of happiness.

Many guys have been programmed by their past so as to be indifferent to the formula of happiness. On the surface you’d ask them if they wanted happiness, satisfaction, health, wealth, and marital bliss and the answer would be “Of course”. But their actions would speak more clearly than their words. Daily activities demonstrate the true path whereas mental justifications are just immature rationalizations. Again, this is commonplace. Everyone does this to one degree or another. Everyone. Those men that become wise to this self sabotage make a course correction and lift their noses to sail above the danger. Close-minded inaction causes pain. Hey, but on the bright side, you’ll grow…maybe.

Marriage is a great environment to clear up self delusion. A wife and children are passengers to the pilot’s maturity. A great marriage is one of the top reasons for a man’s success, and that’s not even scoring the impact he has on his children and generations down the line. The fun-seriousness a man brings to the marriage helps him see in the mirror his own mental shortcomings. Nothing is more health and wealth inducing than a good marriage; nothing more destructive and expensive than a divorce.

Another great vehicle for introspection and feedback is an Ironmen group. Two other guys you can set goals with, encourage, hold each other accountable, inspire, practice your articulations, and gain perspectives that strategically widens the field of inputs to help you assess your circumstances. This is the path of wisdom – being open to inputs before they’re necessary. And how old are you before you age-out of this Ironmen idea? I’d say early 40’s. Until then, you should widen your field continuously.

Gentlemen, if you’re at 45 feet AGL and you don’t know it, you have a true dilemma that only you can solve.

To gaining altitude,

Dave Marr

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