If you have ever flown on an airplane, then it’s likely that you have experienced a delay, extremely long layovers, quick sprint layovers, lost luggage, turbulence, gate changes, and yes, even the unfortunate flight cancelations. However, what isn’t always common is a flight attendant telling you that you have enough time to catch your plane, but your luggage wouldn’t make it until the next flight goes out, which would be five days later. At that moment you have 1 minute to decide if you board your connecting flight without luggage, or stay in transition by choice, without a plan B in your mental horizon.
What happens after you choose plan B can be very costly and stressful, but can also help you focus on your priorities because you are intentionally paying for it in many ways, both visibly and invisibly.
So there we were, stranded in Hong Kong’s Airport while our plane to Ulaanbaatar continued on without us. Hong Kong’s Airport is probably one of the best airports to be stuck at, but since we had only packed warm layers for our off-roading ger stay in Mongolia, it eliminated the option of buying a new flight for a warmer destination. After turning the Hong Kong airport hotel room into a temporary office and calling one airline company after another, we decided to rebook with another layover to reach our destination on time for the start of our off-roading adventure. The “off the beaten path” vacation started off with an adventure leading up to it, and the adventure kept getting better and better. However, to truly see the whole trip as an adventure, we had to survive the uncomfortable time in transition while we pieced together plan B.
In life we don’t always get to choose plan B, but sometimes it chooses us for reasons beyond our control. Transitions, delays, and layovers in life don’t always have to be a bad thing. Instead, you can use the time to do things that you don’t normally get to do when you are in flight from one destination to another. During the intermittent time, you have an opportunity to take the time to learn that language you’ve been talking about, spend quality time with those people that you never seem to get enough time with, or start working towards a long-term goal that you never thought would be possible.
In Jenny Blake’s book Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One, she points out the following about today’s workforce:
“People are no longer working at the same job for forty years with the safety of pension plans waiting at the end. The average employee tenure in America is now four to five years, and job roles often change dramatically within those four to five years.”
Determine What You Value
It is easy to overlook what is important to you with work or in life when you have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and a roof to put over your head. However, there is still time to dive deep into this sea of exploration if you have enough time to do a Netflix marathon session or spend countless hours scanning Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or other apps. If you’re curious about how much time you spend on these, and you have an iPhone, go to settings, battery, and then scroll down to the bottom and click the clock icon. In Laura Vanderkam TED Talk on How to Gain Control of Your Free Time, she breaks down the total amount of hours in each week, which is 168, and then subtracts 56 hours for sleeping and 40 hours for working. That means that you have 72 hours left to spend eating, taking care of your family, and spending it on your other priorities.
Awareness is the first keystone to changing anything and without it, you keep the blinders on. Without awareness, it is easy to operate automatically, through habits, without having to think about it consciously.
In the book New Rules of Work by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew, they offer helpful starting points if you are at the point of choosing another career. Under the following five headings, you are challenged to prioritize what is of most value to you.
Each heading has additional areas to consider, and I would recommend checking out the book if you want to explore this valuable exercise in a more profound depth. What motivates one individual is different than another, but without self-awareness about what it is that energizes you, it’s easy to get stuck in a role or job that you may be good at, but it doesn’t quite align with your values.
So, what if you wake up and feel stuck?
The good news is that this stuck feeling is a common phenomenon and there are plenty of books out there to help unravel the roadblock and break down the wall. Timothy Butler wrote a book titled Getting Unstuck, which is about transitioning from being stuck to getting unstuck. He frequently references an impasse, which is comparable to being on a layover while in transition. In Butler’s reference to Greek and Celtic mythology about the “Black Sun,” he paints a powerful image about allowing yourself to be comfortable in the impasse and to dive deeper into the unknown through his message below:
“Myths illuminate subtle aspects of the human condition and human development. The Black Sun tells us that there is a value in slowing down and being patient when things seem dark and unclear. Do not run from such experiences, it says. Turn toward the difficult time. By just focusing on it and sticking with it we will discover the power that radiates from it as surely as warming light radiates from the daytime sun.”
Riding Through the Turbulence
One of my favorite parts of flying are the takeoffs and landings. My new pastime is to sit at the airport and watch planes take off and land. After timing planes taking off and landing, I found that it typically takes 30 seconds for a middle-sized aircraft to lift off the ground and close to 25 seconds for it to land and come to a stop. If you look at this time in comparison to the total amount of time that the planes are typically in the air, it’s extremely short but necessary part of every journey. There is a lot of friction when the wheels are still touching the runway, but it’s immediately released when the laws of nature take its course.
In Alex Banayan’s book The Third Door, he offers some advice that was shared with him on his quest to interview some of the world’s most successful people. The advice given to him was to make a list of 25 things that you want to accomplish in 12 months. Then, choose only five things that you want to achieve in three months. Those five things now become the “Priority List,” and the rest fall under the “Avoidance List”. Everything that we do in life competes for resources. Attention is one of the most significant resources because there are so many things fighting for it and it’s limited to the amount of hours in a day.
“Success is a result of prioritizing your desires.”
Success has many definitions, and it isn’t always attributed to wealth, status, or physical items. A feeling of success stems from the results of prioritizing your goals and desires.
When I first did this exercise for myself, the following came without much thought or effort on my part.
What success means to me:
Then, I had to sit with it a while to really unpack the things hidden within the “Black Sun.”
Once you narrow down your priorities, you are better able to fine-tune your attention to what matters the most. Launching into the direction of your “Priority List” will feel natural if you invest the time and energy into doing the groundwork ahead of time.
We should never stop reinventing ourselves because if we do, we miss the opportunity to unpack a new layer of ourselves, but even more, it hinders us from the awareness that there are buried layers in others that we have yet to explore.
What would it take to reinvent yourself in your career? Physical environment? Fun and recreational activities? Hobbies and interests? In relationships? In goals and aspirations?