Pardon the play on words, but, as you’ll see, there is purpose for it.
Several years ago, around three o’clock in the morning on a warm July day in Dallas, Texas, a twin engine Aero Commander carrying freight and newspapers, crashed into my house. As we would later find out, the pilot had not only failed to file a flight plan, but had also lost his mechanics license several years before, yet went on to repair the right magneto of his plane and falsify the log book. The plane was doomed from the start; enough power to take off, but not enough to gain altitude; thus, it found my house.
Needless to say, the event measures among the more memorable in my life. Not only was the initial shock unreal, the onslaught of issues that ensued following the crash caused anxiety, fear and mistrust. It took nine long months to deal with the aftermath, including being displaced from our home for most of that time. Throughout the ordeal, emotions ran high, trust was questioned, nerves were frazzled and fortitude tested. Yet, in retrospect, there were valuable lessons learned.
How to Prepare for the Unexpected
I realize that few of you will ever experience an actual plane crashing into your home. Yet, the reality is, we all have planes in our houses. They come in a variety of ways: a health problem, the betrayal of a friend, the loss of a job, the loss of our best client or enduring the results of a devastating economy. While these are all painful and difficult to withstand, there are things to know and do to prepare for the unexpected that ease the pain and transition the time. Here are just a few of the “Plane Truths” I learned that may help you transition any difficult times you encounter:
Plane Truth #1: Fear is Natural
When unexpected adversities interrupt our lives they set into motion an element of fear. A fear that thrusts us into four fear factors: Fear of the unknown, fear of trust, fear of stability and fear of the future.
Fear of the unknown: Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. That’s the time to seek knowledge. The more questions we ask, the more insights are revealed. This is one time when playing ignorant has its advantages. Be curious, ask probing, open-ended questions and listen very intently. You will be surprised at the depth of knowledge you will gain; knowledge that your competitors haven’t even considered.
Fear of trust: Trust takes time to build. As you traverse the maze of recovering from this difficult time, it is important to quell this fear by allowing yourself to take time to determine which people you can trust to tell you the truth. Use a series of small situations to build this trust. Little by little, you will begin to build a sphere of trustworthy people whom you will be able to rely on for help. Once this trust is established, they will know and introduce you to others with whom you can enlarge your sphere of trust.
Fear of stability: When decisions delay, stability is rocked. Two things can happen. Panic sets in, or accelerated, massive action begins. It’s amazing what the latter accomplishes.
Fear of the future: If stability is knocked on its ear, what does the future hold? The reality is the future is yours to build—one way or another. It all depends on the restrictions you place on yourself. As the familiar quote says, “If you think you can’t, you can’t.” This is a time for positive thinking; a time for picturing in your mind the breakthroughs that are possible and believing they can happen. And should you be thinking this is woo-woo stuff, think again. Many successful people have espoused the amazing results that simply came from seeing a brighter future and holding onto a strong belief.
During difficult times it is understandable that these four fear factors may invade your mind. Yet with time and commitment, you can move beyond if you prepare for the unexpected.
Plane Truth #2: We Create Our Own Joy
There’s a lot of truth to the adage that life is what you make it. Christmastime fell during my displacement. One evening, I drove to my home to pick up the mail. All my neighbors’ homes were decorated with lights and I pictured them inside, gleefully enjoying the season’s joy. As I drove back to my temporary apartment I thought how my own holiday ornaments were packed in boxes in storage; there was nothing in my small apartment that even hinted of Christmas. Before long, I found myself very emotional, with tears streaming down my face. That night, I cried myself to sleep.
By the next morning my attitude had changed. I drove to the nearby Tuesday Moring store to see what holiday goodies I might find. There, I found some inexpensive holiday dishes, some red plaid napkins, and some cute Santa napkin rings. I bought them all, took them back to the apartment and set my table with this holiday cheer. That evening, my son and his wife surprised me with a tiny Christmas tree trimmed with miniature lights and ornaments. I draped a light blanket over one of the stereo speakers and placed the tree upon it, turned on some holiday music, and with this little bit of effort, created my own holiday joy. So, when you’re low, do something creative to lift your spirits and create your own special joy.
Plane Truth #3: Humor Helps
Suffice it to say that in the early hours of hearing the news of the plane incident, I can’t say I found much to laugh about. Yet, at some point early into the worry and fret, laughing is exactly what I needed to do. That opportunity came shortly I arrived back in Dallas. One of the first calls I received was from a friend who, like me, had earlier been a newspaper journalist. I guess she couldn’t contain herself when she found out that the plane had been carrying a load of New York Times newspapers.
“Well, Bette,” she said, “I guess you’ll do anything to get the New York Times delivered to your front door.” How could I not laugh? Laughter creates endorphins, which are good for your health and reduce stress. So, whatever your stress, look for the humor and give yourself an occasional good laugh.
Plane Truth #4: We All Need a Flight Plan
It’s important to have a plan for achieving your desired future – whatever that may be. Or, as one anonymous quote says, “You cannot hit a target you cannot see.”
If the pilot had filed a flight plan, as he should have, he would have had a better chance of making a contingency plan. So it is in life. If you have a plan and something unexpected comes along, at least you have the foundation from which to make contingency plans. In my case, I had a solid business plan that I followed, and while it was unrealistic to follow it as originally planned, I was able to modify the plan enough to keep my business afloat.
What about you? Do you have an end in mind? Do you have a good plan to get there? Do you have a plan for your career, your life, your retirement; a plan that could be modified and keep you afloat should something unexpected come along? If you don’t, now is the time to create one.
Life is a lot like what the old “Saturday Night Live” character Rosanne Roseanna Danna said, “It’s always something,” thus, chances are we will all encounter some difficult times. But, there are always choices. We can get sucked into the drama of life, or move beyond and take steps to do what others may not be willing to do – like prepare for the unexpected.
It’s all a choice and it’s all up to you. And, that’s the plane truth.