Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Career Change

What do you do when you find your ladder is against the wrong wall?

Here's an interesting question that popped up recently: In what do you invest a life and call it a wise investment? If we say "making money," everyone's going to boo and hiss. What about building a career? More boos? Maybe creating a business, raising good kids and leaving behind a reputation that will be fondly remembered? A few limp claps from the audience. Some quizzical looks. It's getting complicated, isn't it?

This thought process was started by an email in which the writer asked whether it made sense to change careers and get into aviation. The writer's frustration was palpable. He was tasting success where he was but, to paraphrase a quote from philosopher/mythologist Joseph Campbell, he was now in midlife and had made it to the top of the ladder only to find that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. His question: Would I be wasting my time by getting into aviation?

Interesting question,"… wasting his time by getting into aviation." Most of us would instantaneously kick out a strong, "No way would you be wasting time!" But, what if we give it a little more thought?

Deciding what to do with the one and only life we're given is a toughie. Many of us are still grappling with that decision, even though we have much more sand in the bottom of the hourglass than in the top. We're still struggling with, "What do we want to be when we grow up?" Then, we realize that we're grown up and still don't know what we want to be.

The conventional wisdom is that if you go with your passion, you'll be successful. Or at the very least, you'll be happy. However, just because you're successful doesn't necessarily mean you're happy. But, if you're happy, that often meets many folks' definition of being successful.

The answer to the email included some hard realities that we need to face about aviation (or any narrow, passion-based career for that matter): If you go with your passion and invest your life in aviation, there's the off chance that you'll be income limited—especially if you want to be a pilot. It's unfortunate, but aviation is one of many passion-driven pursuits that aren't known for kicking out huge amounts of income except in very narrow, hard-to-get-into niches (flying big iron, airlines, etc.). This is because people are willing to work for less, just to be doing something that they really love, so the pay standards are sometimes lower. This isn't always the case, but it happens often enough that someone thinking about changing directions has to realize that they may not be making enough money that they can realistically afford their own airplane. Or flying when, and how, they want. They'll be paying their bills okay (usually), but it takes more than that to afford an airplane.


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