Category Archives: Transitions

Flying in a Navy Jet: How Disappointed Dreams Can Help You

When I got to Carrier Air Wing 14, one of the first things I asked my CAG (Commander Air Group) was when I could ride a jet. (I have longed to do so since I was a sophomore in high school.) Sixteen months later I was being strapped into the rear seat of a F/A-18E Super Hornet.

Flying in a Navy Jet: How Disappointed Dreams Can Help You

Seven months before I took a two-day training where I was taught how to "hick" in order to be able to take the g-forces at slightly subsonic speed turns, was launched in the ejection seat trainer, and required to swim the length and back of a pool in flight suit and boots. By the time I was done I felt prepared to meet the challenge ahead - actually not.

The day before the "hop" I was oriented to the aircraft by a PR3 (Aircrew Survival Equipmentman Third Class) less than half my age whose knowledge of the jet put master degreed me to shame. After answering almost everyone of his questions incorrectly he gave me some advise, "Sir, don't touch anything and enjoy your flight!"

At the appointed time I walked out on the flight deck with my pilot. If I tell you his call sign was Job do you get a sense of where this is going? (Real Navy Aviation call signs are not cool like in Top Gun, they are insulting. Being a chaplain I was spared.)

The Plane Captain, who looked younger than the PR3 (she turned out to be slightly more than a third of my age) greeted us. While I sat in the back she completed the final inspection with Job, prepped the jet to launch, and headed toward the “cat.”

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You may not be aware but when a jet leaves an aircraft carrier it is flung off by a catapult at about 165 mph. The process happens in seconds and once you are off the deck you slow down so dramatically it feels as if you stop.

We were flying a tanker hop, which means we had extra fuel tanks mounted on our jet from which other planes could refuel mid-air. As such, we flew "lazy" circles to 14,000 feet where we could perform our task when called.

Have you ever read the poem High Flight? Surrounded by a clear canopy with a 270-degree view I felt like I could put out my hand and touch the face of G-d.

Then the comms crackled. I did not understand what the operator said but Job told me to hold on since we had to go check out a ship that was not responding to the carrier's call. We made an inverted dive from 14,000 to 1000 feet in seconds, hitting about seven Gs. Unfortunately, despite massive hicking on my part my stomach stayed at 14,000 feet.

I would like to tell you we identified a spy ship and radioed to another jet to dust it. No, it was just a research vessel that could not be troubled to worry about being run down by an aircraft carrier.

Back up top we went. I was ready to land, but we had to be the last plane down in case another needed fuel. Around and around we flew waiting for the other planes to finish their missions and enter the flight path for recovery on the carrier. Sick as a dog, the only thing I could think of was maintaining my dignity by not giving back the breakfast I had not eaten.

My torture would have ended sooner but one plane was missing from the group so around we kept going. On the fourth or fifth diversion from landing (do you expect I would remember as sick as I was?) the bag came out. This, despite Job's Herculean effort to fly smoothly.

Fortunately my CAG had warned me that when you line up to land you look like you are going to overshoot the flight deck because at the last minute the wind sweeping over the rear of the deck pulls you down. When the tailhook caught the arresting wire, dropping our speed from 100+ mph to 0, I had never been so happy to be on that ship.

I crawled out of the cockpit and down the ladder to the deck, falling to my knees in relief. That was when the young Plane Captain called to me, "Sir, sir, I am required to salute you and you must salute me back." Discipline uber alles.

On rubbery legs I made my way down to the ready room for debriefing. Then, using the bulkhead (wall) for support made my way down the passageway to my stateroom. On the way there my DCAG (Deputy CAG) saw me and asked how the flight went. I am sure he knew by the pallor of my face but ever the former Blue Angels CO he handed me a bottle of water and told me to hit my rack (go to bed).

A few hours later I had the opportunity to thank G-d I survived when I led Sabbath evening services. Why do these things always seem to happen on Friday?

I took away so many lessons from this adventure, among them: the amazing skill and youth of the sailors that ensure flights happen safely; how far you can go, even to the point of sickness, to help others; although disappointed by a dream coming true, the result may propel greater personal growth than if it had gone well.

Question – What have you learned from a dream coming true?

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Why You’re Not Changing Like You Want

Are you getting everything out of life that you want? Probably not or you would not be reading this blog. At the same time are you tired of being told that you can have everything in life you want? Me too. The fact is the more you strive to have everything the less likely you are to get it. But do not give up. Even if you cannot have everything, you can have a lot more than you do now.

Why You’re Not Changing Like You Want

My entire life I have wanted to be a better person. Every year I vowed to do so. Within a month or two I became inundated with opportunities to positively alter my behavior. I could not keep up with them. Reflecting back at year-end I could see I had not changed. I was the living definition of insanity: I kept trying the same thing while expecting a different result. About a year ago I gave up on being a better person toward everyone.

Instead, I decided to focus on three people. Then for each one, I decided on two or three behaviors that I was going to do or stop doing. I could remember the three people and when with one of them could keep in mind the two or three changes I was determined to make.

Looking back on the past year I was about 50% successful in implementing the changes. Coming from 0% all those previous years this seems like good progress.

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For all it was touted, you cannot multitask. Keeping more than a few things in mind is very difficult. Why set yourself up for failure? If you want to change:

Limit Your Subjects to Three

Do you want to make more money? Decide on the three abilities you need to improve and two or three specific actions to take for each one. Practice every day. You will make progress.

Want to improve your health? Choose three aspects on which to work and plan two or three changes for each one. Will you be physically fit a year later? Maybe not, but you will have gained substantial headway. Do this for a few years then reflect back. The change will astonish you.

Concrete, incremental change built into the way you live your life will take you farther than any other plan.

While not exciting or swift, this method is effective. No matter your age, if you begin now you can profoundly improve. Further, the control you will gain over your life will demonstrate to you that you can live intentionally, spurring you on to conquer greater challenges.

Question – What have you been challenged to change that you could break down into smaller tasks?

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The Secret to Facing Up to Adversity

“And Noah built an altar to G-d and he took from every tahor animal and every tahor bird and he brought up burnt offerings on the altar.” (Bereshis/Genesis 8:20). Noah and his family leave the ark at G-d’s command and the first thing he does is bring offerings. Surely the Creator does not expect us to do such a thing. So what does He expect?

The Secret to Facing Up to Adversity

The parsha for this Sabbath is Noach. In it, we read about G-d choosing Noah to save humans, animals, birds, and creeping things from total destruction in the flood He is bringing on account of the tremendous corruption among people. Rain falls for 40 days and nights and the waters churn for another 150 days. After they recede he brings an offering to G-d.

But then Noah defiles himself when he plants a vineyard and gets drunk on wine. One of his sons, Ham, reveals his base character when he sees his father naked and inebriated in his tent then goes and tells his other brothers who handle the incident properly and are blessed for it. The parsha concludes with a listing of the descendants from Noah that formed the 70 nations, the story of the tower of Babel and dispersions of the nations, and finally the ten generations from Noah to Abraham.

Whenever I think about the story of Noah I am reminded of Bill Cosby’s routine. If you have not heard it I highly recommend it. Much of Cosby’s interpretation of how Noah behaved rings true with our commentators. For example, after G-d gives Noah instructions for building the ark Cosby’s Noah replies, “Right . . . what’s a cubit?” Would we have been any less bemused if we were in Noah’s place?

Noah is one of the best-known personalities in the Tanach. Yet rarely is he discussed in the context of his greatest contribution. Many commentators have written extensively about the backhanded compliment given to Noah at the beginning of the parsha, that he was a righteous man, in his times. His memory has been preserved in religious as well as popular lore for building the ark. One commentary I read called him the first conservationist because he saw to it that all of the species of animals survived the flood. At this point, his list of accomplishments ends.

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But his most significant service to the world did not begin until after the flood was over. G-d orders Noah out of the ark. And Noah begins rebuilding the world. Imagine what kind of perseverance it took to do this after having lived in a world so depraved G-d destroyed it, then through years of insults while he built the ark, and then months in the ark mucking out stalls. He gets out of the ark to a decimated world and has to start all over again. Noah was a survivor.

Have you had to muster such indefatigability? Will you be able to when you need it? No matter how exhausted you are by adversity and no matter how hopeless rebuilding your decimated life and the world may seem, the message of Noah is that to be one of G-d’s children you must pick up that first brick and start all over again.

But before you heft it, you would be wise to remember the first thing Noah did when he set foot on dry land. He built an altar and brought offerings thanking G-d. When faced with destruction and despair, remember Noah and his legacy, choose that moment to thank the Almighty for saving you, and for giving you the chance to keep going.

Question – How do you find the strength to be thankful amidst anguish?

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Could Envy Be Blocking Your Success?

Have you met someone who has an extraordinary quality? Perhaps he is dedicated to exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. Maybe she can sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Do people like that make you angry or envious? Me too, or at least they used to. Has jealousy gotten you anywhere?

Could Envy Be Blocking Your Success?

Many years ago my lawyer invited me to a Lakers game. He had senate seats so we got to see and feel Shaquille O’Neal as he loped onto the court for one of his first games in Los Angeles. His athleticism was phenomenal. Yet I felt neither jealous nor inspired. Having always played “left out” when it came to basketball, it was unfathomable to me that I could ever reach one-millionth of his level. That his brilliance did not inspire me to excel in an arena at which I could shine demonstrated my shortsightedness.

So here are your choices when you encounter someone with a rare talent:

  1. Be envious. No doubt a natural response, just the same consider that you are only hurting yourself. Jealousy saps your ability to strive for excellence.
  2. Indifference. Such a response will not impede your pursuit of accomplishment. But, like when I saw Shaquille O’Neal play, you are missing a tremendous opportunity.
  3. Be inspired. You have the seed of greatness within you. While you may never reach the pinnacle that others have attained with their unique mix of talents, surely they can be your catalyst to triumph.
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Living intentionally means making maximum use of the resources provided to you. Train yourself to be inspired by the great qualities of others.

  1. Think positively about them in relation to the values or talents at which they excel.
  2. Study what makes them preeminent. Even if you some of your values conflict, what parts of the things they do can you adopt while staying true to your moral code?
  3. Practice those attributes at which they reign supreme.

If you choose, these paragons you meet can motivate you to reach your peak.

Question – Why are you challenged to emulate someone who is an exemplar?

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2 Key Traits for Social & Professional Success

Weighing the traits that will lead to success presents a contradiction. Common belief is that in order to succeed you need to have solid self-esteem. Yet, research shows essentially the opposite. Which qualities should you groom in yourself and loved ones?Most Effective Level of Confidence

While attending a chaplain training several years ago, a brand new chaplain was asked to open the event with a prayer. Evidently not having been informed that praying according to a specific faith tradition is a no-no, he ended his prayer with the phrase, “and in Jesus’s name we pray.” Virtually every chaplain quickly swiveled his head to look at me. The tension was palpable. Did they think my head would explode? I defused the strain by reminding all that he was one of ours first.

Useful Self-Esteem Must Be Earned

In truth, it did not bother me in the least. I know who I am and wish to be tolerant of people speaking or acting in ways that I do not. To me, being disturbed by such an incident would have demonstrated a lack of self-esteem.

Do you have strong self-esteem? Would you like to increase it? A surprising Ohio State University study indicates that if you are 18 to 27 years old you can increase your feeling of self-esteem by borrowing money. Apparently, it does not matter whether the debt is educational loans or credit cards.

While the study was not definitive on this point, researchers surmise that the reason credit card debt has as positive an impact as educational debt is that young people can gratify themselves without delay. The lower their income, the larger boost to their self-esteem. Do you see the problem? The fewer resources you have to repay it, the greater incentive you have to boost your self-esteem by borrowing money.

When people enter the 28 to 34-year-old range they start to show some stress about debt.

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There is significant evidence that the Self-Esteem Movement has created at least as many problems as it has solved. Dr. David Sack has researched this issue and concludes that in order to be effective self-esteem must be earned.

Low Self-Confidence Supports Professional Success

Here’s the rub: according to the Harvard Business Review, low, but not extremely low, self-confidence makes you more successful. You are more likely to pay attention to negative feedback, to be self-critical, to be motivated and work harder, to prepare more, and are less likely to be perceived as arrogant.

So which is better: high self-esteem or low self-confidence. The above data show that in social interaction having high enough self-esteem to let others express themselves without your being gravely offended will allow you to reduce stress in your life. Of course your self-esteem needs to be built on concrete achievements otherwise it is mere narcissism.

In your professional life, a healthy lack of confidence is likely to be most effective. How can you balance this against your self-esteem? Humility is the key. In business, there is always more to know and the right answer is rarely clear-cut. Knowing this should help you be humble as you navigate your professional life while avoiding being unduly strained by other people.

Question – How do you cultivate self-esteem without becoming arrogant?

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