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.
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.
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.”
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.
Unless you break a pattern.
The more decisions you have taken in either direction, the more tempting it is to keep that momentum.
That’s what I experienced in my life.
Being skinny, it was difficult to stay motivated to pack on muscle.
Easier to blame my anatomy.
As a shy guy, it was challenging to express myself in large groups.
Safer to stay quiet.
But over the years, by making the right decision consistently, the train started rolling.
Now I enjoy giving big presentations.
And a set of push-ups feels like brushing my teeth.
It has become a habit.
I don’t need to take the decision in the moment anymore, because I have already decided proactively.
It’s party of my philosophy.
My auto-pilot is fixed.
Of course there are many times I choose the ‘easy’ option.
And that’s okay.
I’m not perfect.
But I am careful.
Not to pick up momentum and spiral down…
Let’s avoid an emergency landing.
New year, new direction?
Improving yourself 1% every day means you grow 3700% every year.
If you find this unrealistic, set the bar at improving 0.1% every day.
That would yield 44% annual personal growth.
Better return than Bitcoin.
Unfortunately, only 1 out of 12 people achieve their New Years’ resolutions.
The main reason?
People want it all at once.
Instead, choose one area that is important to you.
Focus on making the right decisions each day, however small.
Because these determine where you will end up.