This week I was reintroduced to a simply amazing piece of literature. That’s right, a children’s book. I have this belief that most of our issues come from overthinking. We need to go back to real resources. So ditch the 500 page novels of how to work through your problem all why not trying to go insane because it’s just too much information.

What’s the name of the book you ask?  “What do you do with a problem” by Kobi Yamada

I’ve read this book to my kids many times. Love it. It wasn’t until this week at a workshop; where this book was read to me. My brain typically translates topics to aviation.  So bear with me through some aviation jargon fused ideas while I walk through assessing some common problems that we may face in life and what that looks like in the aviation world.

Many of those reading have felt the pains of having an airplane divert. Weather and maintenance issues are the most common for these occurrences. Anyone travel during the holidays? Ground holds, snow, de-ice… the list is long and oh so convenient.

So let’s jump into some examples in flying and replace them with everyday issues we may face.

The situations below are imaging that you are the pilot of an aircraft flying passengers that need to get to their destination.

Adventure  #1

Flying along you check the current weather at your intended destination and you realize the weather is deteriorating. It’s deteriorated so much, that it’s below landing minimums. The alternate airport you planned is clear skies. You can continue on and try to fly the instrument approach for the airport or divert to the alternate that was planned before you departed.  The radar shows the storm will clear up shortly.

There are a few options.

Continue to fly to your destination and shoot the approach.


Slow down the plane to give yourself more time for the storm to pass.

Divert to your plan B.

These situations I personally feel like are ever present in my life. They can take the form of something as simple as your child forgetting their homework to traffic on the freeway. This is the wonderful cliche of keep your plans loose. These can be minor sidesteps in the day you planned but when all is said and done, were able to accomplish the goals set out.

Adventure #2

Just after takeoff you go to retract the gear and there is no response. The gear will not retract. Can you proceed? Yes, actually, you could but it would not be wise. This is a bit more serious as it will effect the fuel burn and may need to add more fuel.  You can proceed on your route with your gear down just at slower air speeds. Great, nothing like staying in your life problem twice as long to really practice that patience and gratitude.

These situations come up in my life in the form of get there-itis. Getting too task oriented especially carting my kids around town to practices and scouts. Typically this involves me running myself ragged and volunteering or taking on more than I can tackle. Sometimes I’ll end up getting sick and that’s an abrupt reminder to take it easy.

Adventure #3

You took off, great weather at your destination, the sky is blue, and thud thud thud! Multiple bird strike and dual flame out.Congratulations you have just lost your engines and are rapidly becoming the next Sully.

This scenario can play out in many different ways.

Do you have an airport nearby you can land at?

Are you close to the Hudson?

Depending on the type of landing can also determine if the airplane can even be used again. If on a paved runway and a textbook beautiful landing there will still be a lot of time before that metal bird will be put back in the skies. The plane will be AOG (aircraft on ground). These situations derail your plans and take shape in some pretty serious life events. When the plane is airworthy again, you may not even want to carry on to that destination.

Ever have any of those situations come up? Sometimes it’s a quick fix, other times it’s a deviation to the course of flight. Other times a diversion that can lead up to a cancellation of your flight to make way for something new. Those times when life sidetracks the plan and it wasn’t a planned alternate, it was a diversion to a land where you are out of your element. You have no ground crew, no maintenance available and hungry, angry passengers. You have to become Macgyver to fix it and each moment your sanity is tested.

For me, this last lesson was the result of structural failure of a marriage, or severe turbulence (again this would be directly caused by a lack of financial security and compacted by the relationship problems). So I diverted to an airport I was sooo not familiar with and assess where to go from there. I was an AOG for about four years.  Clearly, though this wasn’t my alternate, it was not just a diversion with a simple fix. My life became AOG and eventual return to service.

What I learned though, is Even when I was AOG and unable to physically fly, I didn’t let it stop me from living a good life. When your life becomes stripped from what you once knew, it becomes an opportunity to start building a life that you need not based off wants. The need for a healthy life filled with healthy supportive people became a foundation. Repairs were slowly starting to be made. It was not an overnight process for some of these circumstances.

While the above has been light hearted there are some diversions that go beyond the realm of tolerances even for severe situations. These situations go beyond the emergencies most train for. We are a nation that is being tested with catastrophic weather phenomena that hundreds of thousands of people will and have felt the effect. I write this also on the eve of the September 11, 2001 attacks. May we never forget how to help, may we never forget how to love and may we never forget how to carry on.

A problem, regardless of the size, is an opportunity for something good… you just have to look for it.

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