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Let Your Dreams Take Flight! Lessons from National Service

By Theodorus Ng

Hey! Happy New Year! I’m just back from a few good months of basic pilot training in Western Australia, a part of my National Service. Being able to spend time outside the country after such a long time and having a change of scenery, certainly recalibrated my mindset. While it was immensely enjoyable having the spring breeze caress a finally unmasked face (thanks to stringent, COVID-cautious approaches in WA); cooking with organic produce from a local farmers’ market; or eating oysters on the boardwalk as the sun set, the highlight of my trip was this: Power + Attitude = Performance

A Golden Flight! (Image: Don DeBold/Flick In avionics, this relationship outlines how engine power and aircraft position in relation to the horizon which are adjusted simultaneously, to obtain the desired flight profile. The same words can be applied to daily life and it makes the perfect mantra for a fruitful year ahead! It is self-explanatory how indomitable willpower and the correct attitude enables you to perform well.

Start Strong, Stay Steady, End Well

Giving greater thought, the saying “Start Strong, Stay Steady, End Well” came to mind. In Starting Strong, the tendency is to set clear mission goals and activate full power for greatest productivity. Others who are not proponents of the energy-intensive "sprint" would prefer charting the gradual progress of their "marathon." Both can prove equally effective and I believe the choice boils down to our individual working styles. The main hurdle then, for many of us, is Staying Steady. Uncontrollable factors aside, how do we do the best we can to keep our momentum? We can’t function at full throttle power all the time. Even pilots need to manage fuel economy during flight and airplanes need layovers to refuel. Same for us – instinctive, well-deserved breaks are necessary to prevent burnout and routinization. Additionally, researchers from Stamford and Harvard seem to suggest that celebrating everything small is key to maintaining productivity. Whether that be starting out smaller, at a level and pace that is suitable for yourself, or looking at progress in terms of how much has been done instead of how much there is left to do.

In Ending Well, it is nothing more than harvesting and tasting the fruits of your concerted and consistent efforts.

Instrument board and view from the cockpit (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Field of Vision

For me, what I love about being in the cockpit is the field of vision it offers. Beyond the awe-inspiring, panoramic view of ground and sky, the experience constantly reminds me to look at the big picture. I was taught never to bury my head in the cockpit instruments, a common habit of beginners in this uncharted territory, but use them as guides while flying visually. (Instruments are primarily relied upon only when weather conditions hinder visual flying.)

I was told a good pilot knows how to utilize both visual aspects and cockpit instruments to execute precise flight controls. I figured this is analogous to how we can look far and wide into a vast horizon of possibilities and outcomes. We must remember to refer back to our own "instruments" – our compasses and our guiding purposes. Also, it won’t always be smooth flying. In fact, it was never. There were differing wind conditions every day, a stormy deluge mid-flight, aerial hazards such as birds and nearby planes. You can plan as thoroughly as possible on the ground for an ideal flight, but unforeseen factors must always be taken into consideration. Thorough planning involves preemptive buffers and allowances to accommodate shocks along the way, and that calls upon a high level of situational awareness.

These are just some takeaways from my edifying experience learning to fly. I’m sure all of us have already made some resolutions for 2022 that I know we can all achieve.

Let’s take-off. Blue skies always!

The runway ahead before take-off! (Image: Author’s own)

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