I moved to Vegas in 1994 to be the Lighting Director on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express at the Las Vegas Hilton. I had always wanted to get my pilots license, and I thought Vegas was the perfect place to do that. Wasn’t it all nice flat desert available for landing ?
Turns out not so much. It’s all heaps of rock. And it turns out high heat makes flying harder. Damn you, density altitude.
But in learning to fly, I gained some incredible skills translatable to everything else I did.
You see, Pilots don’t spend most of their focus on the actual flying. For the most part, planes WANT to fly if you leave them alone. What I learned is that pilots spend most of their time and focus on planning for what is next, or could be next.
As a flight is navigated, a pilot is constantly evaluating where they could divert or go in case of emergency. They are tracking their regional communication hand offs. They are monitoring weather conditions in real time and adjusting flight paths. Piloting is about risk management and contingency theory.
There is a lot of risk management in any business process. Certainly in creating and producing.
So, like a pilot, as I manage a process I am working out potential next steps and contingencies. I am aggressively looking for pain points and planning ways around them.
This active watching, listening, and planning helps build a scaffold, a fulcrum for bending the process to navigate obstacles and continue toward the outcome.
I know that journey’s rarely work out to be a straight line. I am always formulating how I might bend, so I don’t break.
Like a pilot, I plan for the worst, and then deliver the best.