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Flight School for Entrepreneurs

By Adva Amir, Airline Pilot & Entrepreneur

When you look at aviation and entrepreneurship, they seem like polar opposites at first glance. In aviation, pilots meticulously follow checklists and procedures to ensure safety, while in entrepreneurship, success often comes from thinking outside the box and breaking away from conventional norms. But beneath the surface, there are lessons from flying a plane that can be incredibly beneficial in navigating the entrepreneurship world.

Resilience is a perfect example. Picture this:  You are flying a routine flight while all of a sudden you experience an emergency at 32,000 feet above the ground. A catastrophic engine failure occurs, leading to the disintegration of one of the engines. Debris from the engine damaged a window, causing a rapid depressurization of the cabin.

Well, this is exactly what happened to Tammy Jo Shults in 2018, while she was the captain of southwest flight 1380. Tammy remained calm and made a swift decision to initiate an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport. Her actions and the efforts of the crew were widely praised for their professionalism and the successful handling of the emergency, despite the tragic loss of one passenger's life.

Similarly, in entrepreneurship, resilience is the armor that shields you during turbulent times. Whether it's a financial setback or a failed product launch, setbacks are inevitable. The ability to bounce back, refocus on the mission, and learn from the experience is what sets successful entrepreneurs apart.

There's a running joke about pilots and their habit of planning ahead. This meticulous planning is a cornerstone of aviation, and it holds tremendous value in the realm of entrepreneurship as well. In the cockpit, pilots always consider an array of factors before takeoff, from weather conditions and fuel calculations to alternative routes and potential contingencies. The attention to detail extends to every phase of the flight until the aircraft safely reaches its destination and parked safely at the gate.

In aviation, there's a constant assessment of potential threats. Pilots routinely undergo briefings discussing these "potential threats" to preemptively address and mitigate risks. Likewise, in entrepreneurship, anticipating potential challenges and threats is crucial. It's easy to make decisions in the moment that seemingly solve immediate issues without considering the long-term consequences. This "deal with it later" mindset can lead to pitfalls down the road.

Taking a page from the pilot's playbook, considering these threats ahead of time in the entrepreneurial world can be a game-changer. By adopting this approach, entrepreneurs can navigate uncertainties more effectively and make decisions that align with their long-term vision.

And what about growth? whether soaring through the skies or navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship. As pilots, the culture of giving and receiving feedback is ingrained in our routine. After every single flight, we engage in a debrief, discussing what went well, what could have been improved, and how we can enhance our performance. I vividly recall my early days, feeling uneasy during these sessions, sometimes defensively responding to criticism. It took time to realize that feedback isn't a weapon; it's a catalyst for improvement.

Embracing feedback can transform your approach. You'll realize its value in shaping you into a better pilot or a more effective leader. Once you shed the defensiveness, you'll delve into feedback, analyzing it objectively and using it as a tool for self-improvement. It's not about shielding yourself, it's about learning from perspectives different from your own

Similarly, in the realm of entrepreneurship, the CEO's journey often comes with the illusion of knowing everything. However, learning from others who've traversed similar paths or faced analogous challenges can be invaluable. When you let go of the belief that you have all the answers and truly listen, previously insurmountable problems suddenly appear surmountable.

Certainly, not all feedback will be constructive. There will be naysayers and doubters casting doubts on your abilities or pointing out past failures. Yet, it's crucial to sift through these voices, separating the constructive criticism from baseless skepticism. 

Navigating these topics and taking action isn't simple, it's a journey that demands time and patience. However, it's important to acknowledge that we all face hurdles, and each step forward, even after a setback, marks a success. Be the pilot of your career and embrace every challenge that comes your way.


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