Autumn Coffee.

Ah, fall weather at last. I like this photo because you can smell the cool air. That’s an especially beautiful thing here in mostly muggy Florida.

The coffee’s good too. And somehow I need to work smarter at being able to have more morning coffees and fewer stressful work mornings. One thing in my favour is that I do have a pretty good picture of what that future looks like – coffee, newspapers, room to think. Of course the reality will always be different, but the general direction is clear.

Occupying my mind of late is the thought of how to reduce monthly outgoings forever. First is accommodation. There must be a way to get someone else to pay for my mortgage or rent AND the associated bits and bobs. You know, house maintenance if you own, utilities, cleaning, repairs, upkeep. All the stuff that no-one bothers to think about when they buy a place can cost a lot more than renting a similar place. But I’m over-detailing.

Imagine this: reducing your budget by the entire amount of your housing cost. That leaves a lot of room for morning coffee.

Fireworks or Success?

From the beginning I had the idea to be a pro. This is my past flying career I am talking about. From the get-go, my goal was clear, but so equally was the pathway. It was never, ever going to be easy.

Passion for being a jet pilot (Boeing 727 please) got me going. What motivated me was the sure knowledge that despite the drudgery, boredom, expense, uncertainty, disappointment and time spent, the only way to give myself the chance at success was to simply keep going. One has to go through the grind of all that stuff in the hope that everyone else drops out. Last man standing wins the day, or, in this case, a nice uniform and a shiny jet.

My point is that passion didn’t help me through the long nights of study or the dead-end jobs I took for the money. Passion fades when you have spent everything on getting qualified and still no-one wants to hire you.

What did get me to the end was understanding completely that it was an endurance test. I set myself up to take that test, so I damn well better finish. It’s neither sexy nor especially gratifying at the time, but at the end…well, at the end you forget about the misery.

It is as if it never happened.

Choose This For Now

I am lucky. I am lucky because early on in my education, the need for prioritization stood up as being a valuable skill. It came with the territory of becoming a pilot.

When you’re operating something as potentially dangerous as an aeroplane, you choose what’s important right now, and do that. Then you do the next thing, and so on, all the while evaluating your list as circumstances change.

That, in a sense, is the trick of prioritization: Keeping a list of stuff to do in order of importance. It’s just a list, but an actively managed list.

Key is understanding that constructing the list, the ordering if you like, determines the value of that list. Your decisions about what actions are either time-critical or not will tell you (eventually) whether you are any good at prioritizing.

The more consciously we construct our list, the more likely we are to get better at doing it. That’s the beginning of a life-skill that might change your life. Or just keep you alive, which might be the triumph you’re looking for.

Dream On

Seth Godin’s book “The Dip” nicely ties up a muddle of ideas surrounding the cult of persistence.

I use the word cult deliberately, because the idea of keeping on without stopping is often used by people who should long ago have given in. Persistence without introspection or review or even some outside criticism is just dumb plugging along. Think donkey walking in circles. Or those religious self-harmers.

The trade-off for persistence is balance. If we persist in an enterprise (with no clear and/or expected results) then something else must suffer. Money, time, relationships and our sanity can all go south when our dream spills outside the limits of reasonableness. Actually, that is the applicable skill we should apply here: that of keeping our persistence in the face of failure within limits.

Because failure is the problem, or at least we think it is. But failure is a kind of road sign to success, but success in a (perhaps slightly) different direction. Ignoring continued failure in the belief that just doing things again and again will eventually turn up the result we seek…well, there are words for that. None of them flattering.

Fail. Fail often. Then try something different. Or return with a new set of boundaries. The failure is not in the failing: the failure is in not starting again.