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Tiny Choices. Immense Impact.


No sound comes out of my mouth, but this is what my lips are saying.

My pupils grow.

All those lights. Switches. Handles.

The majestic view.

I uncover my teeth and feel goosebumps on my arm.

A high-five with my 7-year-old cousin follows.

It was May 2001, and we were invited in the cockpit on a flight to Kenya.

Four months before 9/11.

Compounding choices

Fast-forward 12 years and I’m reading a book that reminds me of the experience in the cockpit.

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy.

Core message?

Every day, you make tons of small decisions that seem insignificant.

However, all these choices, no matter how tiny, will lead to significant change over time.

Why did this remind me of the airplane?

Snowballing off course

A pilot that flies one degree off course, will miss his target by 17 meters after one km of flying.

After 57 km, the airplane will be off target by a whole km.

That means if you board in Amsterdam for a flight to Kenya, you will end up in the middle of Somalia.

Our broken autopilot

There is one difference between planes and people.

Airplanes have an autopilot that steer the aircraft in the right direction.

In contrast, people’s internal autopilot is broken by default and will guide us to the wrong side.

That’s how our brain is wired.

“Don’t take risks.”
“Save your energy for the moment you face a lion.”

Blame evolution.

What path to follow

We are usually aware what is the best route to take, to get results that we are longing for.

But at the same time we crave the easy path…

  • Couch > Gym

  • Regular date night > Surprise girlfriend

  • Go with the flow > Make a solid career plan

  • Snickers > Kiwi

  • Call mother later > Call now

  • Wait for manager to give a raise > Proactively ask for it

  • Netflix > Take guitar lessons that you wanted to start for ages

  • Zoom out of conversation > Listen with intent

  • Elevator > Stairs

  • Stay quiet > Raise hand and propose ‘weird’ idea

How to fix my autopilot?

Your brain pushes for the comfortable option.