When babies in the cabin are silent but adults are screaming, then you know your airplane is going through some serious turbulence.
This year I’ve been flying around a lot — most of the pictures in this post were taken over various parts of North America — and the text of this post is being written on an overnight flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, a little while after experiencing intense, gut-wrenching air turbulence.
Since I’m not going back to sleep anytime soon, I might as well capture the moment, or rather, series of moments… this one of those scenarios where things got progressively and measurably worse and worse. The following is a reconstruction of what was going through my head at every stage of the progression… Level 1 is just your average “wake up sleeping passengers” variety of turbulence…
Level 1) Ugh..what…I need to sleep… this sucks
Level 2) This really sucks, because I’m totally awake now. How am I going to get into the Sydney timezone and get work done if I don’t sleep?
Level 3) The side-to-side movement of the plane is making the fluid in my stomach and internal organs slosh around, as if someone is stirring a pot inside me.
Level 4) Dude.
Level 5) I’m noticing that I only have a lap belt, not an over-the-shoulder restraint like the flight attendants do. My body is moving fully separately from the seat underneath me.
Level 6) Now reconsidering whether I should go back and start making appeals to a Higher Power… it’s been a while… wait, which form of Higher Power would I be appealing to? ..and what’s the format and strategy for my appeal? Thoughts of loved ones.
Level 7) People are screaming. Yup, tihs just got real.
Level 8) Focus. Doing a quick review of how exactly I’m bracing my arms and legs, getting into a better position. This fancy wearable neck-pillow thing may be useful as protective gear. Mentally rehearsing the full set of safety procedures.
Level 9) Detaching. Relaxing my mind. These are matters beyond my control. A soothing voice suddenly start singing a familiar tune over and over in my head…
“Plant Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do…”
This video of rock climber Dan Osman, speed climbing the Bear’s Reach route on Lover’s Leap with no ropes, hooks, or any other equipment, is energizing and inspiring:
(source: Masters of Stone IV, Eric Perlman Productions)
This performance seems simultaneously natural and unnatural… not impossible, but at the very edge of possible… the product of careful planning, practice and training, including some serious physical and mental conditioning. Watching this makes me proud to be a human being.
It’s great to see Dan Osman attack this challenge with confidence and resolve (“go, go, go..!”). He’s motivated to set a personal best with record timing, and he’s also having some fun and showmanship along the way. To be able to leap upwards on that rock face… it’s about having a passion for living life to the fullest… with no hesitation. As a colleague of mine noted, one gets the sense that if Dan Osman had ropes, they would only hold him back.
Well, as I was putting this together I discovered that this was only too true… tragically, Dan Osman died fifteen years ago due to a rope failing during an unplanned jump:
Depending on how the story is told, there are different messages. On one level, there is the simple acknowledgement of luck and statistical inevitability. Sooner or later, we all must go, and “DanO” kept pushing until his number came up. Some might tell this story as a late-1990′s heavy metal extreme sports version of Icarus — the hero who flew too high. There might also be a story about a momentary lapse in discipline and process (don’t leave ropes out for a month… test your jump angles… hindsight… hindsight…)… certainly Osman’s strict traditional Japanese father would have felt that way. On the other hand, there is also the message of quality of years and quantity of inspiration — he lived life to the fullest and helped many others do the same. Perhaps we must we admit that it’s a package deal, that the person who lives true to an ideal of facing into their fears is the same person who will continue to do so for as long as possible?
Fifteen years is a long time, and Dan Osman’s legacy has been carried forward by his daughter Emma, through this Facebook page…
..and this website: http://www.danosman.co/
Thank you DanO (and Emma) for sharing your story. I look forward to following it well into the future.
As a part of a presentation skills training program segment about how to organize (structure) a talk, I used to illustrate how to use a particular structure using a standard, pre-written presentation. After a while, though, a part of me would die every time I did that same old canned demonstration.
So I decided to have some fun and took a leap of faith: ”From now on,” I told myself, “It’s entirely up to the program participants.”
During the session, I ask participants to give me a random subject to do… the more difficult the better. By “difficult,” I mean a subject that I’d likely know very little about… although some participants like to go with topics that they think I’ll find disagreeable or uncomfortable.
In this way, I can (attempt to) demonstrate how useful having a good structure can be, especially when dealing with impromptu situations. Having a good structure is like having a nice firm handrail — by having something to hold onto with one hand, the rest of you can move more boldly and playfully. Bonus: Participants get some good ‘ol fashioned entertainment value in watching me squirm a bit… and I do love a challenge.
Over the years, participants have suggested all kinds of whack topics… some more outlandish than others… and now I’ve decided to keep a running list.
Here are some of the improvised presentation topics that I’ve been given. This is a partial list of topics to date, and going forward my goal is to keep updating this list:
- Miley Cyrus
- Cloud Computing
- Football (any kind)
- Fighting in Professional Ice Hockey and Why It Should Not Be Banned
- Why the Boston Red Sox Suck
- Women’s Clothing
- Women’s Lingerie
- Occupy Wall Street
- Magical Unicorn Deer
- Pet Rodent Dental Care
- The Effects of Global Warming on Cockroaches in Guam
Recommendation for other presentation skills trainers: For best results, plant the seed of the idea of “stump the chump” early on in the lesson… give them the time to come up with a really good doozy of a topic… but be clear that they shouldn’t tell you topic until the very last moment. This adds some excitement and anticipation into the learning experience, plus increases the chances that you’ll mess up a bit… or least crack up laughing.
After all, if we’re going to stand on the shoulders of giants, we might as well dance around and do some back flips, too.
There are people who dislike doing time sheets — filling out little grids of numbers which quantify the amount of time one has spent on given tasks, projects, activity types, client accounts, etc. I am one of those people who dislikes doing time sheets — intensely — though I have been known to use them very exactingly when (a) starting on a new job / type of project, as a way to calibrate my own sense of how long things take to do; or (b) when absolutely required by contract.
The act of completing a time sheet can feel tedious, especially if one is not set up with a convenient real-time tracker such as a mobile app, a paper (yes, paper!) notepad, or even a set of Lego bricks. Using your Sent Mail box in Outlook as an audit trail for how long you worked on a series of documents? Yeah, been there, done that. It’s both wearisome and worrying to be in a position of needing to reconstruct and quantify fleeting memories of hours spent working… or not really working… all the while having to discern the distorted temporal effects of hours spent with intense, productive Flow versus those dilated hours of torpid, lackadaisical sloth.
..and that’s a big part of the problem with time sheets: Some time (and some efforts) are better spent than others! Simply “logging your hours” doesn’t say anything about performance or results.
On the one hand, there’s a good reason many organizations use a system of salary-and-minimum-required-hours (paycheck and punch clock). It simplifies planning, scales well, and is (sometimes, even) effective. The trouble is, an organization’s time sheet is often not as simple to use as a punch clock, and so that time sheet process creates friction and inefficiency.
My proposition: If your organization uses time sheets as a way of measuring productivity, either get rid of them completely, or up the ante and do them really, really well:
- Make the time sheet process incredibly easy to use, with a state of the art user interface
- Set the system up so that people receive automated/instant feedback on their own productivity metrics
In other words, if the person is going to make the effort of both quantifying and qualifying how they spend their time, don’t add insult to injury of making the process feel unproductive and pointless.
On the second point, above: By analyzing and synthesizing their input into a relevant statistics (E.g., % hours spent client facing, # hours spent on average to move a project from stage A to stage B, etc.) — these can be done for the person themselves and/or with a a group benchmark to compare against… although be careful with the latter as it may lead to dysfunctional hyper competitive team dynamics if done without the right level of nuance and foresight. Ultimately, this needs to be about instilling a sense of continuous improvement for the individual — people are deeply motivated by a sense of growth and mastery in their work — as opposed to merely “scoring” or “grading” them.
There are literally thousands of time tracking systems out there…. and here’s my idea for a next generation user interface:
Imagine if something like that was your time sheet software. You wouldn’t just be logging hours… you’d be seeing your progress as you logged them and have a sense of both purpose and accomplishment.
(Yup, that’s right, it’s just a snapshot of the screen from a piece of gym equipment. I’ve got a future blog post planned which will analyze the motivational differences between various visualization graphics used on LifeFitness™ cardio equipment… but for now, let’s just roll with this, okay?)
For a lot of companies, time sheets are here to stay… so let’s at least make those time sheets less annoying and more meaningful.