Why You Shouldn’t Hope for the Best

“Misfortune weighs most heavily on those who expect nothing but good fortune.”

– SENECA

Have you ever noticed how we’re taught that our wants and desires have everything to do with our suffering, yet we’re also taught to “live in hope”? Have you ever stopped to consider how these messages might muddy the waters?

You see it all over the blogosphere, of course. “Don’t give up,” “Hang in there,” “Never lose hope”… 

But what, exactly, are we supposed to never lose hope for? A perfect body? A million dollars? For becoming a celebrity so we may be adored forever? For politicians to do as they promised – to do what’s right for our children?!

Hah! 

So many talk as if hope is the panacea to life’s problems. As if hope will set us free. I wonder how many people have stopped to ask themselves whether hoping is the problem? That maybe it’s because they’re hoping that they’re suffering? I wonder how many people miss their own lives because they’re constantly hoping for something different? 

I’m guessing it’s a lot.

What if you shouldn’t be hoping for something different? What if, when your survival isn’t at stake – when, at this moment, there is nothing wrong – what if hoping is the last thing you should be doing? 

What if accepting life as it stands is more important than hoping?

We cannot hope the pandemic will disappear tomorrow after all, or that evil will vanquish without a fight. Of course, we must believe in our ability to prevail, but to hope for things out of our control? 

Well, hello, psychological torture my old friend!

Maybe we can work towards improving our lives without feeling it needs to be? Maybe we can work in recognition that we already have everything we need? Maybe our work can be dedicated to helping others for that reason? For those who really do need to “live in hope” because their survival depends on it?

What Hope Is For

This is where I believe we need to be clear: Hope isn’t for external reality, it’s for your ability to deal with it. It’s for survivalIt’s designed to lift you from the brink of destruction. When your back is against the wall and you ingest birds in both of your engines, hope gives you the fortitude to land that fucker in the Hudson.

Talking of which, when Sully Sullenberger ingested a flock of geese in both engines, the most remarkable thing about that day wasn’t that he successfully managed to ditch an aeroplane on the Hudson. (Although that was pretty damn remarkable.) 

No, the most remarkable thing was his ability to rapidly come to terms with his predicament. The most remarkable thing was his ability to take stock of his situation and find the clarity needed to do his job under the most extreme circumstances. 

In a TV interview where he describes the events of that day, he said he remembers the first three conscious thoughts he had vividly. The first was, “This can’t be happening.” Followed by, “This doesn’t happen to me.” Then, he said, this was followed by a dawning realisation that this flight, unlike any other flight during his 40 + career in aviation, wouldn’t end on a runway with the aircraft undamaged. He said, “I was ok with that, as long as I could solve the problem.”

Talk about radical acceptance! I don’t know about you, but it takes me more time to accept life when the alarm goes off in the morning.

A Counterintuitive Approach

Here’s the funny thing about acceptance – it provides a counterintuitive approach to hope. If you have the fortitude to do so, it prevents you from hoping for something different. To be saved by some knight in shining armour. 

It means you’re left hoping for one thing and one thing alone: yourself. Your ability to deal with life as it stands. Even if that’s means you’ve just ingested birds in both of your engines!

Of course, that’s scary. Having to come to terms with the brutal facts of your reality. To understand that you and you alone are responsible for it. 

That’s why most people don’t. They’re too scared to own that level of responsibility. So they distract themselves through addiction and false hope, convincing themselves that their life circumstances are not their fault and, therefore, not their responsibility. 

Of course, that’s wrong. We are always responsible for things that aren’t our fault. In fact, that’s life. Life isn’t your fault, but here you are anyway. What do you want to do about it? Hope for something else?

Preparing for the Worst

Bruce Lee once said, “Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Of course, building the strength to deal with adversity when it happens is something you can control. Whether you have an easy life or not isn’t. What hand the universe deals you is beyond your control. What he’s really saying is you should hope for your best, not the best. 

How do you that?

By actively preparing yourself for the worst. By challenging yourself. By putting yourself in the dragon’s den and proving that you can. By defining yourself by your pain. There’s a reason why the proverbial kitchen sink is thrown at pilots every 3 months in the simulator. We are thrown in at the deep end and told to sink or swim. Deal with it or have your license invalidated.

In that same TV interview Sully said, that although they had never practiced a water landing in the simulator before, “Because I had learned my craft so well and because I knew my plane and my profession so intimately, I could set clear priorities. And so I chose to do only the highest priority items, and then I had the discipline to ignore everything I did not have time to do.”

What a legend.

I’ll finish with one more thought.

Acting in hope for your survival and those you love is easy. It’s necessary, so it’s easy. When you have no other choice but to act against all odds, of course, you act. It might not be easy to do, but the decision is. 

The real measure of a person is how they respond to events outside of their control. When they cannot act, despite their hopes. The real measure of a person is in their ability to accept. To accept the reality of their past – to accept and embrace the demons in their closet. To accept, ultimately, their own mortality. And that of those who they love most dearly. That is true courage. That is true strength.

And it isn’t hope that will bring you peace – although it may save you. It’s acceptance that does that. That’s why, I suggest you start with radical acceptance for what is long before you start hoping. Then, and only then, if you still have the audacity to hope, you better be prepared to take action.

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You can find more of AP2’s writing at the following: 

https://pointlessoverthinking.com

https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Also on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot


Regaining Lift

Most of us experience stalling at some stage in our lives. In our attempts to be all we can. In our attempts to climb as high as we can, as fast as we can.

The problem is, like an aeroplane, we can only climb so fast. If we pitch the nose up too high, or carry too much weight, we run the risk of stalling. And if we do, then we’re only left with one choice. 

Just like an aeroplane, the only way to recover – the only way – is to point the nose back towards the ground. You have to sacrifice height in order to regain lift. 

For many of us this is the last thing we want. 

When we’ve had our eyes on that optimum crushing level – that perfect enviable position we wish we were at in life – we find it hard to let go. We become so fixated on that place we lose all sense of what’s actually going on, what actually needs to be done in the here and now. 

Of course if you keep pitching up in desperation – if you refuse to accept your situation – well, then, the results can be catastrophic. 

Towards the end of 2019 I found myself in such a stall. I was mentally and physically exhausted. The relentlessly busy rosters and regular night flying had taken its toll. I also needed help navigating depression. 

I’d known for some time I needed help, I just didn’t want to admit it. So in desperation I kept trying to pitch the nose up. Of course it only made things worse. I only found myself in a deeper stall. 

Eventually I conceded. I acknowledged the stall and pointed the nose down. I asked for the professional help I’d ignored getting for years. 

It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Shortly afterwards the pandemic gripped the world and I suddenly found myself with an abundance of time at home. All of which gave me the perfect opportunity to keep the nose down. To utilise my support systems. As a result I spent the first half of 2020 at home, resting, writing, reading and being with the people I love.

It was exactly what I needed to regain lift. 

By June, when I finally went back to work I felt ready, like the heavy fog that had shrouded my mind had lifted and I could fly once more. It’s just that, this time, the whole world had stalled. Little did I know just how long that stall would last. A year on I still don’t. 

What followed were a series of professional setbacks. The biggest of which came when my company consigned our sister airline to the history books. A fifth of our workforce went jobless overnight. Those of us lucky enough to still cling to our jobs in aviation, were forced onto a new contract in very friendly sign-or-be-sacked kinda manner.

Fast forward to the present day and my coworkers are still fearing for their livelihoods. Many of them have family who live abroad they haven’t seen for well over a year. I’m one of the lucky ones with my family here in Hong Kong. On top this the lack of flying means many of us are rusty. The added stress isn’t helped by quarantine or the ever changing medical/testing requirements. I haven’t even mentioned the fear of contracting the virus itself.

This week I actually got to fly. To give you an idea of the times, the Captain and I flew an empty passenger jet to Hanoi and back. We carried nothing but a bit of cargo in the belly. On arrival into Hong Kong we were made to test for COVID, then wait 3 hours for the results before they let us go home. We were the lucky ones. Many of our other colleagues flying to higher risk destinations and/or with passengers on board are made to quarantine for 3 weeks in a hotel room before being allowed home. 

All the above has made the job more demanding that it has ever been. 

Yet, despite this, flying to Hanoi and back was some of the most fun I’ve had in an aeroplane for a number of years. I believe that’s because this pandemic has given me something from being forced to point the nose down for the past year and a half. What I believe it really takes to recover from any stall in life: perspective

I became a pilot to fly aeroplanes and travel the world, but that’s not why I get in an aeroplane anymore. I’ve come to realise those motives alone aren’t enough anymore. They don’t generate enough lift. 

Now I fly, above all else, to help the world. To make sure the few passengers who need to travel get home to their families safely. To help transport critical cargo where it needs to go. To keep my company afloat. I fly not just for me and my family, but for the man or women sitting next to me and their families. I fly for all those who lost their jobs. I fly as part of a rich and proud aviation heritage during what is arguably its most difficult hour. 

It’s like that story about three bricklayers who were asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” And the third says, “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.

I’ve transitioned from the second bricklayer to the third. I fly with a far greater passion derived from a deeper meaning that’s been given to this profession – to all things – during this time. Ultimately that’s what I believe pointing the nose down allows you to see. It reminds you what it’s all about. Why you even get up in the morning. 

And call me crazy, but for the first time in a while I feel a glimmer of hope. Now that I’m fully vaccinated, with a slight uptick in the amount of flying rostered this month, with genuine talks of opening up travel bubbles… 

Of course I’m aware you have to be very careful with hope. Often the light at the end of the tunnel is simply another train coming at you. And if it is, so be it. I’m ready.

Still, I do believe this time we might actually be at the bottom of this stall. That we might finally have the energy – the perspective – to start the slow ascent towards bluer skies. Back towards a new, more sustainable, cruising level. I, for one, can’t wait for the day I look back down the cabin and see the plane full of happy travellers once more.

I, for one, am more than ready to do my part, to help make that happen.  


(Thanks for reading everyone. I’m curious to know what stories you have of stalling in life? How did you deal with it? What helped you recover? Let us know below. Wishing you well.)

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You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

The Hopeless Nature Of Hoping

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”

– Vietnam War. Admiral James Stockdale 

Do you want to know the one reason you’re not happy right now? 

It’s because you’re hoping for something different. 

It’s as simple as that. 

By wishing for something different your perception of what reality should be crashes against what is. This friction is the source of all your suffering. 

You cannot alter reality. Only your perception of it, your acceptance of it.

Reality is perfectly happy being the fucked up place it is because it can’t be anything else.

It was just as fucked before you were born as it will be the day after you die. 

Stop hoping for something different. 

Either Act Or Accept.

These are far better choices than hoping.

Do you want to know why you’re in the mess that you are?

It’s because you were sold a dummy by a society that has glorified hope. With the movies and TV shows you watch. The super hero who swoops in to save the day at the final hour. You cling to that, waiting for your knight in shining armour to save you.

It’s true to say hope can serve as temporary relief from your current pain, but that’s about all one can say. 

Do you know what else achieves the same? 

Taking drugs. Drinking alcohol. Binge watching NETFLIX. 

How have those things worked out for you in the past?

What has hope really done for you?

It’s another form of avoidance, of distraction. 

What happened to your hope when coronavirus fucked up all your plans last year? What happened to your hope when governments repeatedly failed you?

Is hope going to get us out of this mess?

No.

Fuck hope. 

You’re the super hero of your own reality. You control yourself, your thoughts and the way you look at the world. 

Fuck hope. 

Hope is an excuse not to do what you can.

Hope is an excuse to say these problems are beyond you, to say they are beyond all of us.

Hope is saying all will be ok when I die and go to heaven. 

Fuck hope. 

Hope is what led you to hopelessness when the world didn’t live up to your expectations. 

And let me tell you, living in hopelessness is an equally terrible place because that isn’t based in reality either. 

Act or Accept. 

Those are your choices.

I’ll say one more thing before I wrap up.

Giving up hope isn’t about being overly pessimistic – it’s about coming back to reality and seeing it for what it is. 

Hopelessness is being overly pessimistic.

If you have clothes on your back, food on the table and a roof over your head. If you can breathe…!

I’d say there is more right with you than not.

The best things in life haven’t changed because you lost your job or your wife left you.

Taking a shit or having a wank is just as wonderful with zero dollars in the bank as it is with billions (sorry, I meant feeling the cool breeze on your skin or listening to the birds chirping in the morning – yeah those things too).

Will this message inspire you in some way?

Who knows.

All I can do is my best to reinforce the narratives that help me and see if it helps others.

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.

Either way, I’m not holding onto any hope.


(Thanks for reading ladies and gentlemen. I hope (ha) you enjoyed it. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I take an extreme position on a topic simply to challenge myself (and you) to think differently, even if I don’t agree with the argument. Do I really think that hope is such a terrible emotion? No, of course not. Hope is a very important emotion designed to inspire action. But here is what I did take from this post – hope must be tied to action otherwise it’s dangerous. Hoping for things out of your control (as I learnt the hard way this past year) is truly awful for your mental health. Hope only for yourself, for the things that you can control. And then take action to make it so. For everything else you can’t control – I suggest you practise acceptance instead. With that said I’m curious what your thoughts are on the topic of hope? As always I welcome ALL comments and opinions. Wishing you well, AP2 🙏)

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You can see find more of AP2’s nonsensical world views and poor self-help advice here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

The Shameless Nature Of Pride

As the dust settles on the US election my feeling is not jubilation. I’m not happy that 70 million people still find Trump an acceptable leader. I’m not happy that a man whose flagrant disregard for the safety of his fellow Americans has cost hundreds of thousands their lives. I’m not happy that in death, the Trump campaign still has the audacity to attack the freedoms that millions have died for. I knew it was coming, but it still hurts. It hurts enormously.

I broke down and cried when Biden won. A cocktail of difficult emotions coming to a head following weeks of anxiety, depression, anger, shame, hatred… I’ve felt them all this year but not as acutely as I had in the 2 weeks preceding. In the end it was too much. 

The question I have is where do we go from here? Biden is a gift during a year that’s been desperately short of them, but it doesn’t detract from my feeling that we are nowhere near where we need to be. We cannot continue on our path of wilful ignorance. We cannot continue to turn our attention away from one another or from the marginalised of society. We cannot continue to let our fear get in the way of doing what is right. We must bring greater integrity back into our lives. We must live for our values, not our pride

We must also start finding common ground and working together. For me that common ground has to be the freedoms for which democracy stands. However we have a massive problem if we can’t agree on what reality is anymore. Perhaps this is the larger consequence of our vote 4 years ago? Where we have become so desensitised to lying that we are willing to accept it as fact. Where we are willing to believe whatever we want because it’s easier or because it’s more interesting – because the “facts” exist to support any cockamamy conspiracy theory out there. 

We’re clearly addicted to the drama. It feels like we want life to one big conspiracy. In the process we have isolated ourselves from our own reality. In much the same way we refuse to accept the parts of ourselves we dislike, we have pushed the other side away. But in doing so we have only given them strength. We have only deepened the divide. Eventually we will reach a breaking point where we can no longer avoid the other side – those parts of ourselves. In that moment we have choice. We can let pride seal our hearts or let shame break down our egos. 

As I write this tears are rolling down my face. I look at my 2-year-old boy and my wife who is pregnant with our second. I think about what I want my children to understand as they grow up. I desperately want them to understand that decency and character matter. That the truth and honesty matter. That morals and integrity matter. That responsibility matters. But I also want them to understand just how much forgiveness matters. This is where I have been failing. 

The truth is I find it difficult to forgive those who still support Trump. And I get it. I understand why it’s the right thing to do. However it’s far easier to say the right thing than to do it. And let’s be honest, would you be able to forgive those who voted for Trump had he actually won? If you’re a Trump supporter do you forgive me? It’s much easier to forgive someone when you don’t have to sacrifice your pride. I recall that I wasn’t in a very forgiving mood four years ago. Maybe this is why so many of us refuse to accept the outcome? Not because we can’t accept reality but because we can’t forgive? It occurs to me that pride holds way more value in our society than honesty. It also occurs to me that I must swallow mine if I’m to forgive those I disagree. So let me do it. Let me say how truly sorry I am. Let me admit my shame publicly. 

4 years ago I didn’t vote. I’m not talking about the US election. I’m not American FYI. I’m talking about the Brexit referendum in the UK. I didn’t pay attention living here in Hong Kong. I naively assumed we would never leave the EU. I assumed I didn’t need to go through the trouble of voting. Then I watched in disbelief as we voted to leave. And then, as if to teach me the cruelest kind of lesson, I watched on as the rest of the world seemed to follow. A series of backwards political movements that followed me home, culminating in the loss of autonomy here in Hong Kong. A loss that has meant a genuine fear of what I can say publicly. A fear that now has me writing under a pseudonym. And now I watch on in horror as the very legitimacy of voting comes under attack in what might be one of most treacherous acts from a sitting president in the history of American democracy. All for the sake of fucking pride.

And it is pride that Trump has successfully used against me. He understood that pride can be used to stoke the fires of rage and hatred in my heart. In all our hearts. And he has. He’s made me angrier than any other politician, or indeed few other people, ever have. I believe this is the main reason I cried when I found out Biden won. There was a part of me that needed to be broken down. There still is. That needs to mourn the passing of a previous self. The part that thinks it’s somehow better than others. The part of me who is unwilling to forgive those for the same mistakes I’ve made in my own past. For being human. So for my arrogance, for my wilful ignorance, for ignoring the other side, for avoiding the difficult conversations and for my pride, I am deeply sorry. I will do better.

Let me finish by telling you about the shame I’ve felt since that period in my life 4 years ago. What I’ve learnt from it and why I’m owning it now. Shame is demonised in our society yet pride is glorified. I call bullshit. Pride is a means of avoiding shame. Often the very shame we need to feel in order to change – to become a better person. Shame isn’t the bugbear that everyone makes out. Of course you shouldn’t cling to it. You need to forgive yourself, but I believe you do need to feel it. You need to process it. Shame allowed me to really see the error of my ways. It allowed me to see why I must never take my freedom for granted ever again. Why I must protect it for my children. Shame has undeniably made me a better person. 

Of course I understand that pride has its place and that shame for the wrong reasons is very damaging, but if you asked me to swallow one and accept the other – if pride came in form of a red pill and shame in the form of a blue one (you’ll have to excuse my choice of colours) – I would swallow my pride. I would choose to feel shame. It’s by far the harder choice. It’s not hopeful or inspiring like pride is. It’s difficult. It’s brutal in fact, but it hurts because it’s meant to. That’s what makes you change. That’s what makes you a better person. Right now, if you care about freedom and democracy, at the very least, I believe you need to swallow the red pill as well. 

Thanks for reading everyone. I might have given you a bit too much to chew on there! I also appreciate many of you might have had your fill of politics recently… Still I’m curious to get your thoughts on the relationship between pride and shame. Do we use pride as a shield – as a way of avoiding shame? As a means to avoid reality even? What do you think? As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. And please don’t worry – all is forgiven.

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You can see more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

Tuesday’s Top Tip

Vote.

If you value democracy and freedom, vote. 

If you value the rights that millions have died for, vote. 

If you value the planet that we live on, vote. 

If you believe in living a life of greater purpose and meaning, vote. 

If you believe in securing a better future for your children, vote. 

If you believe in looking after one another, vote. 

If you care for those who have lost their lives this year, vote. 

If you believe in honesty, compassion, kindness, responsibility, love… vote. 

Look your children in the eyes and ask yourself, what’s in their best interest – really dig deep. Ask yourself what is best for them, for your fellow Americans, for your fellow humans. 

Really ask yourself the question. 

Because if you really love them you cannot, in good conscious, vote for the person that will hurt them. Don’t let pride form your narrative. Forgive yourself for any and all past mistakes. Make amends by putting yourself on the right side of history. It is never too late to do what’s right.

The choice has never been clearer. 

The choice has never been more important. 

You must get out there and vote.

Previous Top Tip

Is This The Only Thing We Need Do To Save The Planet?

Before I get started there are a couple of things you should know. 

The first is I’m a pilot. (What? Didn’t you know!?)

My choice of profession means I’m responsible for pumping copious amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. (Seriously a fucking lot!) It should also be said I love to do this in my spare time. Travelling is a passion and if it weren’t for COVID that’s exactly what I’d be doing right now.

The second is that I eat meat, drink my tea with cows milk (because anything else ruins it) and fucking love cheese. Seriously, put some of that shit on a giant man-sized mouse trap and my last words would be, “this… mature cheddar… is… to die for… aaaaahhhhhhhh…”

This all begs the following question,

Why Should You Listen To Me Regarding The Environment?

Well, I’m not entirely sure you should, but I can, at least, think of a couple reasons why you might consider hearing me out. 

For one, I’m not here to give some fluffy account about how great I am or all the incredible things I’ve done/are doing to save this planet. 

“Hey everybody, look at me – I’ll show you exactly how you should live your life! All you have to do is be tee-totalling vegan buddhist monk just like me, yaaaay! 🤗”

No. That would be too easy.

I want to inspire change but you can’t do that without being honest. Without being clear where it is you are. For me that means admitting I still have an almighty mountain to climb if I am to become the change in this world that I wish to see. After all it’s not just changes in others I wish to inspire, but myself.

However I will admit my selfish intentions here – I want all of us to change for my children’s sake. 

With that said, I don’t subscribe to the belief that you need to be a vegan or some kind of die-hard environmentalist to save the planet either. At least not yet. At any rate, I believe telling others that they must does more harm than good.

Why?

Because beating your head against the wall trying to convince millions to become vegans overnight patiently doesn’t work. I actually think those who do turn more people off than they manage convincing – like telling people they must wear masks.

Look at how that worked out!

By the by, I don’t believe people are saying no to wearing masks per say – I don’t believe they are necessarily denying the science either – I believe they’re simply saying fuck you for demanding it of them.

Stupid as it might be, that’s America people. That’s the free world! People want to believe it was a choice they made for themselves, not because someone told them they had to. Like it or loath it, the culture of American exceptionalism is something we have to work with. In China they can demand change overnight. We can’t. Yet if we want to keep our freedoms, then we must take responsibility for them. That means doing what we know is right, not what we want simply because we are free to do so.

Can you not see why?

Our children are already striking – many becoming full-time climate activists – understanding that if things don’t change, and quickly, then becoming a doctor or a pilot (god forbid) will be luxuries they simply can’t afford to pursue. Instead we will have a generation of full-time environmentalists because we’ve left them little other choice.

If this scares you it should.

It’s a tragic irony that they’ve found themselves missing a lot more school this year as a result of our environmental exploitations.

This is precisely why we must ensure our choices are based on fact and not our feelings or fucked up entitled beliefs. If you didn’t know already, science gives zero fucks about what you feel you’re entitled to believe.

With all that said I won’t demanding you change your ways but instead ask compassionately that you please grow the fuck up and wear a mask (and make it a reusable one too). You do that and maybe, just maybe, I’ll consider putting oat milk in my cup of English breakfast tea (In other news the Queen just revoked my British passport).

I joke, of course.

Seriously though let me come back to the title of this post. The one you clicked on with a huge amount of scepticism.

Allow me to reframe it slightly and ask you this:

What’s One Thing You Can Do Today That Will Help Save The Planet?

And what if… (I’m dreaming big here.) What if all we had to do was ask and act on that one simple question?

What if we simply made the decision to be ever so slightly kinder to the environment today than they were yesterday?

And If we all did this, could it work? Could this be all that it takes?

Or am I away in the clouds again?

What do you think?

(Thanks for reading everyone. I appreciate the above might feel rich coming from a pilot but I genuinely believe in broader movements over absolute ideas of living in the woods with Bambi as my playmate. I also appreciate that the single biggest thing I could do to help the environment as a pilot is quit my job. Truthfully this is something I’m working on but now is not the right time (although it might well be out of my control soon enough).

Honestly the idea of making very small changes everyday has worked well for me – which is why I brought up this topic. For example I’m entirely plant based at home. This is a balance that works for me. It’s important to stress this didn’t happen overnight. This has been years in the making. It’s been a process. Of course I wouldn’t advocate you do the same, I’m merely pointing out a balance I’ve found in my life that works for me. It has been a long process of course, and I still have a long way to go but there is no question I’m moving in the right direction. And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be a tee-totalling vegan Buddhist monk but that definitely isn’t the goal! Anyway it’s getting late so I’ll stop here.

As always I’m keen to get your thoughts and opinions on the matter. I welcome ALL of them. Also if you know of any easy to implement changes at home that one could incorporate to help the environment, I’m all ears?! I’ve also left a few articles for any interested parties! Thanks again and love to all, AP2 X)


nationalgeographic.com – Why We Will Succeed In Saving The Planet From Climate Change

nationalgeographic.com – Your Actions Alone Can’t Save The Planet But These Habits Can Help

www.wwf.org.uk – 10 Things You Can Do To Save Our Planet

science.howstuffworks.com – 10 Things You Can Do to Help Save the Earth

twenti.com – How To Save The Planet: 10 Changes With The Biggest Impact

How My Worst Landing As A Pilot Came To Define Me As A Person (Plus Some Advice On Dealing With Anxiety, Depression and PTSD)

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to land a commercial jet?

As you’ve travelled somewhere excitedly looking out of the passenger window and thought what the view is like from the front as you come into land?

Well I can tell you, on a good day, it’s truly exhilarating.

To safely bring one of those big birds back to earth. Gliding onto the tarmac with some 300 passengers behind you. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings in the world. 

On a bad day, however, it can be more of a poo-your-pants kinda feeling. Or, to put it another way, it can be shit scary!

The following is a story about a particularly bad day ‘at the office’ for me. A story of my most traumatic experience as a young pilot. One that took me some time to recover from.

That said, it is one I now look back on as a defining moment in my career. One that led me to seek the help I needed and shape me into the man I am today. I’m not only a better pilot because of it, I’m a better person.

Before I continue I want to first say, I don’t mean to scare anyone with the following account – especially those who might already have a fear of flying (maybe stop reading now if you do) – but only to talk openly and honestly about what was a fairly traumatic experience for me in the interest of raising awareness around PTSD.

I also want to talk about how I coped afterwards in the interest of helping others who might have suffered similarly and might be looking for some guidance. 

I hope you find this helpful.

Anyway, allow me to start with the story. Deep breathes everyone, here we go…

(I’m going to try to avoid using too much aviation jargon but will leave links attached for certain phrases in case any of you are unsure of the meaning)


The Story Of My Most Traumatic Experience As A Pilot

As we flew back to Hong Kong over the South China Sea I reflected on how the day had gone. I was pleased. We had flown to Kuala Lumpur without incident during which I managed a challenging approach followed by a decent landing. It was still early days during my Junior First Officer training and my landings had been less than consistent, so this was something of a relief for me. Still, I couldn’t help but doubt myself when thinking about our approach into Hong Kong. I tired to shake it off as we set up for the arrival.

I should say the idea of safely landing a passenger plane based on my skill alone was somewhat daunting for me at the time, especially given it was only my sixth sector ever as the pilot flying a jet (an Airbus A330 for any interested parties) with passengers aboard. I’d also spent the 3 years previous watching on as a Second Officer – without doing any hand flying except occasionally in the simulator – wondering if I was capable. Looking back I realise that I didn’t really believe it. What I’d done by constantly asking the question was reinforce the idea that I wasn’t. As so often comes up in the story about my past the big issue for me had nothing to do with capability, but self-belief.

The weather into Hong Kong was benign except for the wind that was coming from the south (which can mean the possibility of mechanical turbulence from the winds passing over the hills and buildings to the south of the runway, especially near the threshold of 25R – our arrival runway that day).

After briefing the arrival we started our descent. ATC told us to take up the hold while they dealt with the many arrivals typical that time of the day. I began to feel the butterflies build.

As we slowly descended in the hold, the Captain mentioned noticing how I was frequently wiping my hands on my trousers. He told me how Captains tend to notice these kinds of nervous ticks. I didn’t know what to say. I thought about how such a comment was suppose to help?! I knew I was nervous. I wasn’t trying to hide it. Anyway, was it not normal given I was still learning how to fly the damn thing?! I kept quiet and tried to focus on the task at hand.

When we finally joined final approach, my nerves worsened. I tired my best to ignore them but the butterflies were in overdrive. I began to wipe my increasingly sweaty hands with greater frequency – now acutely aware every time I did so! I told myself to breathe. We took the gear down followed by our final flaps. I then asked for the landing check list. Shortly afterwards we were cleared to land. 

It was crunch time. 

As I took the autopilot out, I felt the mechanical turbulence rock the plane. I tried my best to keep my scan going but had a habit of looking down at my PFD (Primary Flight Display) instead of outside. (As part of our scan we should be alternating between both, slowly increasing the amount of time looking outside as we get closer to the runway. Eventually you should be completely ‘heads up’ – only looking outside while the other pilot (the pilot monitoring) continues to monitor the instruments. I had a habit of fixating on the screen (PFD) a little too much instead of looking outside (Not uncommon for trainee pilots)).

When we passed over the threshold a positive wind change caused the aircraft to ballon slightly. At this stage I was looking up but had left it too late to get an adequate picture of what was going on. Instead of counteracting the ballooning effect by pushing the nose down, I did the opposite. In my nervous haste, with the runway growing bigger, I pitched the nose up, flaring way too early.

Then I froze. 

Everything within my field of vision seemed to fade away and all I could feel was an overwhelming sinking feeling. Like my whole being was collapsing in on itself at the pit of my stomach. 

I didn’t know what to do.

We floated and floated, for what felt like an eternity, well beyond our desired touchdown zone, as we hovered above the runway. 

The next thing I remember hearing was the captain announcing, “I have control.” He placed his hands on the thrust levers driving them fully forward to select maximum (TOGA) thrust. It took a while for the jet engines to spool up before we got the proverbial ‘kick up the ass’ and climbed away. When we eventually did the captain then announced, “Go-around, flaps.” 

The rest is a blur. 

I remember cleaning up the aircraft – retracting the flaps and gear as per our standard operating procedures during a go-around (an aborted approach to landing) – but little else except for how I felt. 

What it felt like was the whole world had fallen apart. That my worst fears had been confirmed – that I wasn’t capable and didn’t belong in an aeroplane, let alone one with 300 passengers – and that my lack of ability was responsible for nearly having an accident. (To give you an idea of the dramatisation going on inside my head – the Training Captain was always in control of the situation.)

To reassure you lovely readers, while It is rare for a go-around to happen because of a botched landing, it does happen. It’s nothing to be alarmed about. It would be more alarming had we tired to continue with the landing. To explain, for those who don’t know, a go-around (an aborted approach) is a standard and very safe option available to us at any time during the approach should we elect discontinuing to be the safest course of action. In this case, as we had floated so far down the runway, flying away instead of landing and trying to stop on the limited amount of runway length left available was the safest option. (That didn’t stop it from shattering my ego of course.) I would also stress that this was during my training. Like any skill it takes a while to get the hang of it. Flying is no different. It’s also not uncommon for Training Captains to take control or help via a dual input (the Captain acts on the controls from his seat on the lefthand side of the cockpit at the same time as the pilot flying in the righthand seat does) when teaching inexperienced pilots to fly on a new aircraft type.

As we flew back around for a second approach, the captain asked if I was ok. I shook it off as best I could given the circumstances and declared confidently that I was. I can tell you now, I was not!

The second approach to landing happened quickly as ATC gave us priority to join final approach. I don’t remember much else except for the landing that was long as once again I flared too early. This time the Captain helped to bring the plane down safely by adding a dual input before we plonked onto the runway. A graceful landing, it was not!

As we taxied off the runway and to our parking bay I felt like the smallest person in the world.

The debrief afterwards was hard to take. The Captain tried his best to reassure me and get me to see the bigger picture – what a valuable learning experience this was, etc. – but all I wanted to do was go into hiding. To runaway, crawl under a rock and never come back out.

When I made my way from work on the train home, I remember reliving it over and over again in my head. I kept wondering what the hell had happened? How had it come to this? I couldn’t make sense of it. My initial base training (where trainees fly circuits at a remote airfield without passengers boarded before flying commercially) had gone so well. I had felt so confident but now it felt like I’d fallen into the abyss. I knew it was going to take everything to climb back up. It was everything I didn’t believe I had. .


Dealing With The Aftermath And How I Eventually Overcame My Inner Demons

That evening I’d made plans to have dinner with my parents. When I arrived at their apartment I explained to them what had happened. I didn’t realise at the time just how important it was to simply talk. How getting those words out in the open immediately lessened the power they’d had over me, trapped inside my head. Had I gone home that evening my natural inclination would have been to lock myself away. I know this would have definitely made things worse.

One big problem I’ve always had is talking openly about my problems. Instead my defence has long been to withdraw inward – something I picked up from years of being bullied as an adolescent.

Instead my parents were there to pick me up when I needed it most. They helped me to see how it was something from which I would learn and grow. Something for which I would one day look back on be truly grateful. It was difficult to see at the time but they were, of course, right.

It’s for this reason I strongly believe having people in your life that you can talk to openly and honestly is something we all need.

Still this was only the beginning of a long road to recovery for me. To give you a little more background, my problems extended well beyond the event itself. I had deeper issues to do with low self esteem yet to work through – inner demons that undoubtedly contributed to what happened that day. Although I did eventually seek the help I needed, it took a long time to find the courage to do so. I dreaded going to work. I worried incessantly during my spare time. When I was at work I became especially nervous about performing landings. I remember feeling my heart beat so hard I thought it was going to come out of my chest! I regularly thought about throwing in the towel and giving up. Yet I didn’t. I kept going, against all the will in my being, something inside me wasn’t prepared to let this event define me like that. That this time I wouldn’t let it end in failure.

(Again I want to reassure you lovely readers that I did seek help for PTSD following what happened – however the help I’m referring to above relates to the larger issues I had with both anxiety and depression that long preceded this event. In both cases when I did seek professional help, it was never their opinion that I needed any form medication or that I was a danger to myself or others or that I should stop flying. Had they thought so, they had the power to ground me. Before you jump on my back for continuing to fly despite suffered from mental illness, I want you to know I never believed my issues were so bad I couldn’t perform my duties. I’m confiding in you all now partly because I believe there is still a very unhealthy stigma surrounding mental illness – especially in aviation – where such topics are still strictly taboo despite the crucial need to talk about them!)

Ultimately it was getting back in the seat and facing my demons head on that allowed me to overcome them.

I managed to overcome my fears by proving to myself I was more than capable. Little by little, flight by flight, landing by landing, the anxiety that gripped my heart began to loosen. I went on to complete my Junior First Officer training and then First Officer upgrade the first time of asking and to a very good standard, with no other hiccups along the way. Following that I flew for years around the region with so much exposure that landing the plane became second nature.

Still, there was a feeling that wouldn’t go away. A feeling that continued to plague me. A feeling that I knew if I didn’t face, it would continue to plague me for the rest of my life. I put it off, out of fear, for as long as I could. Eventually I couldn’t take it any longer. I reached out and finally got the help I knew in my heart I’d needed all along.

When I did everything changed for me. I can honestly say I don’t suffer from depression or PTSD anymore. I’m still working through some issues regarding anxiety but even that has lost its hold over me.

It’s for this reason I will always be a voice for encouraging others, especially for anyone who is reading and has suffered from any sort of trauma or mental illness, to ask for the help they need.

I can tell you from experience that that later you leave it the harder it is to solve.

That said, it’s never too late to get the help you need. Never. And solve it you can.

I really hope I can inspire others who may have difficulty getting the help they need, to find the courage to do so. To come out and talk about their problems openly and to know that there is no shame in this whatsoever. Whether talking to a professional, friends and family or simply leaving a comment here – we all need to be having far more of these awkward discussions. We are all human and part of being human is to know we can’t do it alone. Together we are stronger and together we can help one another change. However difficult the road might be for you, please know that change is always possible. It starts with talking.


Fly The Aircraft To The Ground” – Some Closing Thoughts

The day after the landing that wasn’t, I remember getting a call from work. Another senior Captain called to ask how I was and discuss a recurring problem he’d noticed when teaching Junior First Officers to fly. He said he’d noticed how many of them stopped flying after the flare. If you can nail the flare exactly this isn’t such a big issue, but if you flare early, or wind conditions cause you to land long, he’d noticed a tendency to let go even if the aircraft hadn’t landed yet. He said “you have to fly the aircraft to the ground.” 

I never forgot that advice. Not only because it was a very practical tip that summed up exactly what I hadn’t done. But it resonated with me on a deeper level.

You have to fly the aircraft to the ground.

Don’t think because you’re on final approach you can relax. Don’t think because you’re almost home you can let your guard down. You have to keep flying. You have to keep going. Keep taking responsibility for your life and your problems. Life isn’t just one big problem to solve and then you’re set. It’s a series of never ending problems for which you have to take responsibility right till the end. You have strive to stay in control. You have to believe you can deal with it. Should you get it wrong, then you need to let go of you ego and go around.

You can always go around if you don’t get it right.

There is no shame in this. Don’t be afraid to go around and try again. But try again you must. It’s up to all of us to manage our own journeys in life and to make sure we come home safely. I, for one, have ever faith that you can.


For Additional Information regarding PTSD please follow the links below:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/about-ptsd/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Other Sources:

https://www.psycom.net/aerophobia-fear-of-flying/

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_Flying_(PF)and_Pilot_Monitoring(PM)

https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/passenger-aircraft/a330-family.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_simulator

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_officer_(aviation)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Turbulence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runway

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Holding_Pattern

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_approach_(aeronautics)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Primary_Flight_Display_(PFD)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_Flying_(PF)and_Pilot_Monitoring(PM)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takeoff/Go-around_switch

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go-around

https://captainong.com/what-is-base-training-base-check-line-training-and-line-ch/