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These 5 skills I learned from getting my PILOT license are more useful than my college degree. 

These 5 skills I learned from getting my PILOT license are more useful than my college degree. 

September 17, 2020

Like many of you, I have been watching my kids doing online school as the Covid lockdown continues. I’ve also watched other families’ and friends’ kids doing online college. It’s provided me with a real good look at what is being taught, both the good and the bad.

Reading, writing, ‘rithmetic – all good. Everyone needs these to get along in life of course. And the college stuff certainly provides some culture and expanded understanding of the world.

But there is quite a lot of tedious “fluff” – along with some serious omissions. It doesn’t get better the more you study. Many MBA and advanced non-technical programs make students swallow a LOT of b.s.  These programs do not apply to the real world at all, yet they launch people like salmon into the stream with the false belief they know something.

I’m not alone in thinking that getting an MBA is bullshit, apart from the networking/social aspects. Even PayPal’s Peter Thiel famously said he won’t hire MBAs. It’s frustrating how business school keeps getting pushed onto people as some sort of requisite for success, when it really mostly produces a mob of people that all operate within the same box. This isn’t great for entrepreneurial thinking.

Like pretty much everybody else, school left me woefully unprepared for the real world. Until I went to a different kind of school:

Pilot school.

In fact, I am telling my kids to take time off school and go get pilot lessons for a number of reasons.

First, studies show that CEO pilots are more successful than their non-flying peers across key parameters, including risk management and the willingness to embrace innovation.

“They like to take risks, but they like to take risks wisely, and that makes them effective corporate leaders,” say Professors Matthew Cain of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and Stephen McKeon of the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business.

Second, I can trace most of my day-to-day work to the skills I learned at pilot school, not college. Here are 5 of the most important ones:

  1. How to plan and organize

Becoming a pilot teaches you how to plan carefully but efficiently and with the end goal in mind. Fail to plan properly, and you will end up lost or crashed in a field somewhere. Pre-flight checklists, interpreting weather reports, studying the terrain you will be flying into – there is a lot that goes into a flight. And you also need to prepare a plan B and C just in case.

Arriving at business goals is similar, but how many people do you know who take a haphazard approach and never get anywhere? Pilot school teaches you to focus on the essentials and actually DO them or you don’t even take off, let alone arrive at your destination.

  1. How to be accountable

You can’t just zip down the runway and take off whenever you like to wherever you want. You have to file a flight plan and report to flight controllers, and must respect FAA and international airspace rules. Like ocean navigation, there are hierarchies, protocols and accountability to your fellow navigators, government entities, and the safety of the general population.

Pilot school taught me to be accountable for the effects my actions create in my customers and my community.

  1. How to keep a cool head

Many things can go wrong during a flight. It’s how you react to them which makes the difference between surviving and crashing.

Pilot school taught me to better manage stress and avoid panicking when everything seems to be falling apart. Having a plan B and C as in the first point above really helps here, but also keeping things in perspective and not over-correcting with minor turbulence arises.

  1. How to practice and role play

As a culture, we don’t role play enough. We get a lot of theory, and then are left to our own devices to try to apply what we have learned in the real world. Imagine a pilot simply passing a written test and then being given the reins of a real aircraft. It would be disastrous!

Pilots do many hours in a simulator before touching real controls, and this increases familiarity and competence when they finally do get the chance to fly for real.

I ‘ve learned to practice via role play everything from sales calls and presentations to handling objections – it simply makes doing my job easier.

  1. How to handle a budget

Finally, part of being a pilot is making sure you have the right resources.

For example, you need to budget enough fuel for the conditions you are flying into. This means adjusting for things like wind resistance, cargo weight, passenger weight, etc.

You also need to cover maintenance and myriad other expenses which you never think about until you actually operate.

Getting my pilot’s license taught me not to squander and make sure I manage my resources wisely.

In summary, pilot license school prepared me to:

  1. a) set a goal or destination
  2. b) plan out how to get there
  3. c) handle adversity as it comes up
  4. d) arrive safely and responsibly

And there is one final reason I want my kids to get their pilot license: it looks really cool on a resume : )

Need a hand getting your business to fly? Let’s chat – Shaun