Some life hacks to reignite your fire.
I should have been a dentist, but I love being a helicopter pilot. At times I do think about other career options I could have taken. For example, as a dentist, I could use my manual dexterity and precision within the tight confines of a patient’s mouth. I would just need to practice my one-way conversations, where I keep asking questions while jamming patients’ mouths with instruments.
Like many of you reading this, I fell in love with aviation in my youth. I remember being distracted from my high school job of cleaning a dental office by the sound of a helicopter air ambulance landing at the hospital pad just across the street. I would rush out to look up and admire the beauty and simplicity of the approach. The helicopter was magnificent, gorgeous, yet powerful and loud—I loved it. Even now, as I watch a helicopter simply hover, it blows my mind.
That passion has never left me. Being a helicopter pilot is amazing, challenging, technical, and rewarding in so many ways—whether the mission involves dousing a fast-moving vegetation fire, executing a nighttime cliff rescue, or using a longline all day to help build a power line.
As assistant chief pilot for Southern California Edison, I spend more time flying a desk than an aircraft. But making this change was a conscious decision. My priorities have shifted, and different career challenges, goals, and opportunities have arisen. What gave me the confidence to make the change? I used a few life hacks to avoid falling into the trap of career complacency.
To keep your career vibrant, first see if you need to redefine your passion. Don’t rely on what motivated you earlier in your career to motivate you now. I’m no longer that high school kid—I have different perspectives, skill sets, and values. Many people experience a shift in values over time, from the accumulation of money, titles, and promotions to the contribution of time, energy, and effort to others. Shift your focus from getting to giving, and your passion may follow.
Second, remember why you chose this career in the first place. I have three children, and watching them grow physically and mentally is an incredible gift. The awe and wonder children possess can be contagious if you let it. Helping aspiring aviators can have a similar effect. Your efforts may not only feed their passion; they may reignite your own.
Third, hang out with passionate people. I’m fortunate to have a few folks in my life who are genuine firecrackers. If I’m feeling less than 100% before seeing them, afterward I’m reinvigorated, encouraged to achieve my goals. If you’re feeling down, talk to someone who can get you excited about the future.
Finally, take action. Evaluate where you need to make changes. Are you feeling unbalanced or unequal? Identify the necessary steps for action. Just keep in mind that it’s important to differentiate between impulsive actions and well-thought-out, strategic maneuvers. This is especially important because our feelings follow our actions.
If you don’t feel like exercising, go for a run anyway and you’ll feel better afterward. If you don’t feel like writing, just start with one paragraph and that may get you through writer’s block. If you don’t want to brush your teeth, don’t go to the dentist—wait, that doesn’t make any sense. Enough with the advice—for now, I’ll stick to being a helicopter pilot.