Our life is like an airplane flight, isn’t it? We take off, we climb, we cruise, and then we land, so to speak. Some people have remarkably smooth flights while others encounter turbulence along the way. Some cruise at a very high altitude while others never get far off the ground. Some crash early. Most obey crewmember instructions. Others stand up and resist and wind up making a positive difference. Others wind up being strapped to their chair.
Life As An Airplane Flight
Too often, I think we tend to look at progress in a one-dimensional rather than a two-dimensional (or multi-dimensional) manner. As I look back on 2021 and look ahead on 2022, my goal is not just to move forward, but to move up. Yes, I want to reach that cruising altitude, even as on-the-job training continues for how to handle turbulence on the way.
Life moves in a linear direction and we cannot turn back the clock. Sometimes we can prolong the clock, but it’s not like we can move backwards and relive moments or mistakes we have made. But beyond that unstoppable forward momentum of life comes the ability to move up or to move down.
Moving up can mean so many different things to so many people, so it is proper to define it beyond the airplane analogy. I don’t mean material wealth, though that is an inescapable component of life. Nor do I mean status, though our position in the hierarchy certainly impacts the way we live our lives. Privilege is real and it goes so much further beyond racial constructs. Don’t believe me? Travel to developing nations and flash your U.S. passport. And, at least in this context of moving up, I’m not sermonizing today as I did on Christmas.
Move Up By Moving Lower
When I say I want to move up in 2022, I paradoxically mean by lowering myself. Life can be pretty rough sometimes. Brutal, actually. People can be cruel, nasty, and sometimes just vindictively stupid (just check out some of the comments on Live and Let’s Fly).
As I fly around the world and review first class cabins and five-star hotels, I share space with the financially rich and the socially elite. I’m not such a member; I’m an imposter who uses miles and points to fake it. And I’m okay with that: many fake it till they make it.
But my goal this year and in life is first and foremost to serve others. This isn’t a pat on the back or a trite cliche: It’s one of the most liberating things you can ever do. As self-control bestows freedom, giving of yourself to others gives you so much more satisfaction than being on the receiving end.
Those rich and famous I fly with tend to be fairly demanding…and often very prideful. Not all of them to be sure, but I see the same scenario over and over: this idea of superiority based upon what they have. Their net worth. Their titles. Who can deny that what you have opens so many doors in life? I’m certainly not.
But it does not bring happiness for most people: I’ve certainly lived long enough to see that. Yet when you look at those who serve others with their time, money, and talents, you see a fuller, happier, and more meaningful life.
A Good Year
I looked back on all my pictures over the last year, as I do every year. Oh, there were a lot of fine trips that brought back happy memories. But there were even more pictures of my wife and children, which really made me re-evaluate the way I look back at 2021. Many seeds were planted. Some are already starting to grow. Life is not about those few fleeting moments of extreme jubilation or excess, but about the mundane moments of life that capture most of our time.
In some senses it was a lost year. There was all sorts of drama in closing the chapter on my other business. That chapter lingers painfully on. But ultimately, I had a wonderful year working from home, building priceless relationships with my family and my friends. While I don’t have a lot to show for the year in a financial sense, somehow I think I’ll ultimately look back on this year as one of my most fulfilling. Sometimes progress can only be measured over a greater time than a calendar year.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that is that money is fleeting. Status is fleeting. Your “toys’ will rust and waste away (and if not, you certainly will). As you look ahead to the new year, I invite you to make this a year of service.
When we serve others, we move not just forward in life, but we move up and we move in three space toward others as well, with that human emotion of affection being one of the most potent of all.
You are on the flight of your life and unlike a commercial flight, you have an option beyond remaining seated with your seat belt fastened. As you make your new year’s resolutions, look beyond self-improvement as a tool to better yourself and instead start by plotting out how you can better others. That will lead to something far more valuable than frequent flyer status.