It’s a simple statement that says it all, but only scratches the surface when spoken. Thinking back over the past half century is almost as exciting as looking ahead; for some you say yes but not for everyone. Yes it is true that many would like to forget. For me it has been an up and down adventure and one that I could never have imagined.
The fabled statement that comes to mind goes like this, “if you fail to plan you have planned to fail.” Perhaps, but that may matter more for some than for others. We all have seen young adults on their parent’s career paths, most are successful, and some are not. Ninety five percent are bored and looking for that missing “thing” they secretly dreamed of but knew it was never in their plan. Don’t get me wrong, the world needs planners. But sometimes even the best laid plans are side tracked for reasons beyond our control.
My life has had such a course correction, many in fact. But I would not change a thing. I never had much self-esteem as a young child. But I should have. I was handsome, athletic, funny, lots of common sense but very insecure. I partied hard in Ft. Lauderdale during my youth, a town in the 60’s and 70’s beyond great for growing up. It had beaches, boating, diving, the weather and the tan young girls. Ft. Lauderdale had it all. None of us had time to think about what we wanted to do – there was no plan. My senior year of high school I was fairly popular mostly for my athletics. I was the MVP of the basketball team that went to the state final four for the first time in twenty years for our school. I wish I had known how special those times were so I could have savored them more fully. The last two years of high school my self-esteem was temporarily put on hold – no real issues. The moment I graduated from high school though that part of my life was closed like a chapter in a book. The next chapter was college and I was ill prepared for my freshman year. After one semester I nearly failed out, left school and came back to Ft. Lauderdale with my tail between my legs and my self-esteem at near zero.
You guessed it, I needed a plan. But what to do? I loved aviation and my friend had a plane. His father was a Captain flying for Eastern Airlines. I talked to his dad, flew some more with my friend and decided this was for me. Six months later I enrolled in a two year program at our local junior college that had an aviation course to train students to become commercial pilots. My plan was to be an airline pilot. I studied hard and made the dean’s list every semester. When I graduated with a two year degree I applied to every airline. No joy. The standard line was, “we are only hiring military pilots.” How do I become a military pilot I asked? All you need is a college degree, 20/20 vision and some brains. I had two of the three, so I modified my plan (it’s okay to modify a plan to reach the aforementioned goal). I enrolled in a university, studied business and flew a little. Because my plan was going well, I was highly motivated. But, my lingering lack of self-esteem was still giving me nightmares of failing. Again I made the dean’s list every semester, I had figured out how to study. But, even my last semester, making all A’s, I still had nightmares of somehow not graduating. Sound familiar? But I did graduate, and with honors; off to the military I went.
The military for me was a life changer, especially OTS (officer training school). It taught me things someone else saw in me that I never saw in myself. This was in the plan, but not exactly what I expected- it was better. My pilot training was hard work. Flying all day and academics at night was like being back in college again. Ten months after starting pilot’s training I graduated with my wings ready to ship off to my new squadron assigned to fly the venerable B-52 bomber. The plan was on track. From this point on I never doubted my self-esteem or my confidence. The United States Air Force had cured me.
After four years in the Air Force I was released from the service early when the Vietnam War closed out. Pilots were expensive and I was raring to get to the airlines with my military flying experience and finish my plan. It was now within my grasp. But, the airlines were not doing well and over 850 pilots were on furlough. They told me it would be years before I could expect a call. This was not part of the plan and through no fault of my own.
I could have waited, working at some meaningless job until I was called up. But I decided to do something I had never done before. I sold real estate during the day and worked as a bartender at night. Then something from left field landed in my lap. My best customer was an attorney whose client was a young successful builder looking for a right hand man. I got the job and now 36 years later I am doing what I love – building and developing real estate. Moreover, I now have the time to finish something that I started while I was in the military- writing a novel. I hope you enjoy reading Poison Pill in Paradise as much as I enjoyed writing it. As you can see it was years in the making. So much for the plan.
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