I sat in the aisle seat and watched as the flight attendant regurgitated the safety brief I’d heard hundreds (thousands?) of times before.
As a professional speaker, I fly quite a bit for business, and I make a point to tune in to each safety brief. You just never know if it might be necessary.
“This Boeing 737-800 is equipped with eight emergency exits, located…”
As I listened to the safety brief, I noticed the blissful ignorance of the people around me. The sporting goods sales rep from Dallas studied the sports section of USA Today. The retired couple from Sacramento had their noses buried in the public library loaners of Louis L’Amour and Daniel Steele. The college dorm mates scarfed Egg McMuffins and nodded their heads to the tunes pouring from the earbuds of their phones. A newlywed couple gazed longingly at each other, whispering playfully their plans for the honeymoon suite in Aruba that awaited them just hours away.
And all the while, not one of them had a clue where the emergency exits were relative to their seats. They had no exit strategy.
Perhaps, like most people, they were hoping for—no, counting on—someone else to guide them to safety “in the unlikely event of an emergency”. And at the conclusion of an uneventful flight, most would likely stand up, faces fixated on their smartphones, and blindly follow one another out the same door through which they entered the plane in the first place.
In that moment, it hit me; that is the default posture most people take in life.
Everyday, we hustle from one commitment to the next, oblivious to what goes on around us. We detach as often as we can, soothed by our Facebook feeds or the latest episode of reality TV, anything to distract us from the true realities of life. We operate as if tomorrow will surely come, and when it does, the exits will be clearly marked for our smooth transition to the next stage of life.
I find this alarming in many ways. How often do we consider our own exit strategies, especially from the parts of life we just kind of…tolerate? What would we do in the ‘unlikely event of a (life/career) emergency’?
Now, this is not meant as a trip down Doom and Gloom Lane, simply a wake up call to those of us who consider ourselves the architects of our own life masterpiece. And as any good architect will tell you, as important as beauty and style is to the design of an elegant building, the fire exits and egress points are just as essential.
It’s easy to wrap our heads around the necessity of sitting down with a financial planner to map out the road to retirement, or an estate planner to draft the instructions of how to allocate all our stuff after we pass on.
But what can we do if we look around at the life we are living and don’t exactly love what we see? Should we ‘hang in there’ or should we start looking for over-wing exits? To gain clarity on this, consider the following questions:
What if ‘this’ disappeared tomorrow and I had what I truly wanted? By ‘this’ I mean a career, business, relationship or habit pattern or anything else that no longer serves us or fuels our passion. All too often we fall asleep at metaphorical wheel because we take for granted the fragility of life. What would your life look like if that low-performance career suddenly got a turbo-boost? What if you fell in love with your business again? What if that nagging relationship either turned around or ended forever? What if you finally—courageously—stepped away from the habits and beliefs that hold you back from your factory-installed awesomeness? Perhaps it’s time to envision your life full of the things and people you adore, as opposed to the crap you tolerate and abhor.
What would my hero do? It is easy to look to others for inspiration, but what about being your own hero? In his recent Academy Awards acceptance speech for Best Actor, Matthew Macconaughey described how, in order to give his best each day, he needs “someone to chase”. For Macconaughey, that person is himself in 10 years. He idolizes nobody; instead, he draws inspiration from the idea that he is growing and refining into the best version of himself each day. Ask yourself what that person would do today to become the person you intend to become tomorrow.
Where do I really want to be? Ah, now this is the question of the millennium. So often, we either focus on what we don’t want or expend so much time and energy ignoring the pain of that stuff that we never get around to truly living. My intent is to illuminate for you the possibilities of living a life well-lived now, rather than “someday”. Life is way too short to tolerate anything less, my friend.
It’s rare that we consider an exit strategy from the draining parts of life that we barely turn a distracted eye to. If you are tolerating anything that doesn’t serve your higher purpose or isn’t steering you down the path you were called to walk, start orienting yourself to the emergency exits now. The Captain has turned on the ‘fasten seat belts’ sign, and you are cleared for takeoff.
Fly High, Fly Fast, Fly Far.
JT DeBolt is an international keynote speaker, executive success coach, and the award-winning author of Flight Plan To Success: Seal the Win Before You Begin And Accomplish Any Goal. A veteran of the US Navy, JT served 12 years on active duty, working his way from enlisted aircraft mechanic to combat decorated Naval Aviator. Learn more at www.FlightPlanToSuccess.com.