Lessons Learned in the Air

I was lucky enough to be traveling on a flight and my unassuming seat mate was off-duty Westjet Captain Rhea MacKay. Striking up a casual conversation led to an incredible chain of events that you can hear about on the weekly Your Life, Unlimited podcast (courtesy of CJOB radio)….Your Life, Unlimited with Stephanie Staples and Rhea MacKay.

This great encounter leads me to encourage you to talk to someone different this week. Invite someone new to have lunch with you. Enjoy your coffee break at a different table.   We get so stuck in what we know, it’s familiar and comfortable. Same thing goes for who we hang out with, it’s generally people with similar interests, hobbies, socio-economic status.  There is much to be learned from stepping away from the known, the familiar, the same-ness and connecting with someone who has stories that are very different from your own.

Creating these relationships doesn’t just happen, it takes intention and a conscious decision. You don’t have to be best friends forever, just strike up a conversation, ask some thoughtful questions and be a good listener – you might be surprised what you learn – both about the other person and yourself.

This week’s Your Life, Unlimited challenge – strike up a conversation with someone you wouldn’t normally spend time with – and let me know how it goes!

 Meanwhile enjoy Captain Rhea’s insights here…

Lessons I Learned in the Air

So, there I was, promoted to Boeing 737 Captain, 1 month after my 30th birthday, after having successfully completed the required training and line indoctrination.  I thought I was expected to be all knowing, and I remember wondering how that was even possible. My first valuable piece of advice came from a training Captain, who explained that there was a lot of support, (from dispatchers to maintenance engineers to on-call standards pilots) and to not hesitate to ask questions or ask for help. That was lesson number 1: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I sometimes still struggle with this in my personal life, but it’s a work in progress.

You see, being an airline pilot (any kind of pilot actually), takes so much more than the hands and feet/technical ability that many people presume are the principal abilities a pilot must possess. In fact, those skills comprise a very small part of what actually makes a good pilot, in my most humble opinion.

When we start our careers, most of us spend some time as co-pilots (also known as First Officers), before being promoted to the role of Captain. The First Officer is sometimes referred to as a “Captain in Training.” It’s a very pivotal role in an airline environment. They are second in command of the aircraft, and to be effective, must learn adaptability and diplomacy. Pretty important life skills, I’m sure you would agree.

I’ve done my best to translate some of the best lessons I’ve learned, and skill sets that I’ve developed, to my day-to-day life as a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and business partner. Here are a few:

Pick your battles. Sometimes, difficult conversations have to happen. On those occasions, be honest, but come from a place of kindness. Don’t engage in so many of these conversations however, that you lose your focus, your efficacy, or your energy. If you are always the person engaging in these “conversations,” I believe people stop listening.

Have trust and confidence that your team knows how to do their job. From my experience, human beings don’t perform well when they feel judged or criticized. Be a source of support, and foster an environment of trust and open communication

Lead by example. Don’t ask your team to do something that you aren’t willing to do yourself Be accountable.

Most of the above I learned by observing those who came before me, and those I still work with on a daily basis. Those who exhibit traits that I hope to emulate. In some cases, I learned the old fashioned way- by screwing up the first time around. The fantastic thing about making a mistake is that it affords us the opportunity to reevaluate and reassess, and if we proceed intentionally moving forward, our performance is likely to improve.

This year marks my 40th birthday. What is become clearer to me is how much I have yet to learn. But if we are open to continue learning and growing everyday, the sky is the limit 😉


Again – you can hear the whole show here…Your Life, Unlimited with Stephanie Staples and Rhea MacKay

Enjoy!  Steph  🙂

Stephanie Staples, CSP* is the author of When Enlightening Strikes – Creating a Mindset for Uncommon Success and an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker. She empowers audiences & clients across North America to bring their ‘A’ game to work and to life. Stephanie has a special interest in working with and empowering nurses and healthcare providers. She happily calls Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada home. You can get loads of complimentary resources to help with issues such as work/life balance, wellness, stress management and happiness in general, as well as find out more information about her coaching and speaking services at http://www.YourLifeUnlimited.ca.

* Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), conferred by the National Speakers Association is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform proficiency. Less than 10 percent of speakers have earned this credential and are recognized as some of the best in their fields. Stephanie was one of only five professional speakers in Canada (and the only woman) to attain this designation in 2013.



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