Time to Recover

Tonight I was taking a walk around the winding sidewalk in my neighborhood. Occasionally, my ears will perk to the familiar sound of a Cessna 172 flying overhead. We’re about ten miles away from a popular training airport, but our development butts up against the Everglades, so pilots often use it as a practice area.

I always look up, remembering my days behind the yoke, wishing I was in that seat at that exact moment.

Leonardo Da Vinci said, “For once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward for there you have been and there you will long to return.” So accurate.

Today was a little out of the ordinary. I heard a pause -- a long pause. The white noise buzz of the propeller was gone. This wasn't some "pilot's ear" thing where I noticed some kind of subtlety. It was abrupt. Had I been surrounded by people, nine out of ten would have gazed up.

Nine out of ten would have also panicked as they watched the little plane falling to the earth. That tell-tale tilt and sudden halt of sound was a textbook stall. I couldn't fight a smile as I remembered practicing stalls during my training.


When a plane's nose is pointed too high upward for the speed it's going -- it stalls. It's similar to how cars work on hills. The engine abruptly stops and the plane starts to "float" downward. If you like rollercoasters, it's a familiar stomach-in-throat feeling. But also there's no track under you.

When you practice stalls, you're not learning how to give people below you a heart attack. Your trainer walks you through the steps to recover from a stall. While a typical ‘in the pattern’ practice ride has you at around 1,000 feet, stalls and spins are practiced at a much higher altitude. That gives you time to practice recovery. Stalling too low might result in a very sudden dismissal from the practice run, if you catch my drift.

Time to recover is the most important element of surviving a stall. It's the one you can't really control. When planes stall on the takeoff, things can get pretty rough. You're just not high enough to recover. With a few hundred feet to spare, even ace pilots would find it difficult to recapture control, restart, and stop your spiral.


Every time I think about this ‘time to recover’ concept I learned during flight school, I think about my goals. I set yearly goals. I hope you do too.

Some of them are checked off, some of the bleed into the following year, if they're important enough, and others make way to better ones. Generally, I’d reevaluate at the end of the year as I’m creating my ‘new’ list. This went on year after year up until 2018. I figured I should change things up.

I made my list of goals and reverse engineered everything I needed to do into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. I set metrics to help me measure and stay on track.

That daily check-in made things a lot clearer. Let's say I had a slower week in week two of the month. Well, no problem. I'd readjust and "roll over" those numbers into week three. If I was off on month 2 or the metrics I’d set weren’t getting me where I needed to be, I’d readjust.

I've tweaked things here and there. Some metrics I thought were important in January aren't so important now. I replaced them with a different metric that will have more impact on my results. It’s a constant process of adjusting and honing. Like a flight, we course correct so it doesn't require as much energy to recover when we inevitably need to.

Not only did I do this with my own goals, but have followed the same pattern with my accountability coaching clients and the results have been astounding.

Like Dan Pena says: “If you can measure it, you can achieve it.”

If you keep track and stay on track, you’ll always have time to recover. Do you have a good plan in place with metrics that will lead your goals? If you don’t already have that, now would be a great time to start. We’re nearly at the half-way point of 2019, but take it from a pilot -- you've got time to recover.

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