Episode 178 – How to “Fly Your Jet” and Lead a Life by Design

Rob Shallenberger: Hello to our Becoming your Best friends and family! This is your host, Rob Shallenberger today, hoping you’re having a great day wherever you are in the world. It’s a beautiful blue-sky day, here in Utah, with a slight breeze, about 75 degrees, so wherever you’re at I hope you’re having a great day, and if not, the intent of this podcast is to help lift your day and make it a great day. So, with that as our starting point, I had the honor last weekend of going to Marymount University in Los Angeles and doing their commencement address. It was awesome! It’s so cool to be around these students who just had this fire in their eyes, are getting ready to go out and tackle life and just a great atmosphere to be in. Not to mention the fact that we’re overlooking the Pacific Ocean and it was a perfect day, temperature-wise.

So, on this podcast, what I’d like to share with you is what I shared with the students during the commencement address because the thought is, it can have a real impact on our lives, if we will do those things. So, what I shared with them is, and I start out with this thought, and it is actually pretty funny, I did an informal survey on social media and asked how many people remembered anything from their commencement address and out of 70 responses, only three people remembered anything. So, the thought was, how could the people who are graduating, look for just one thing that could have an impact in their life so that in 20 years from today, when someone asks them, “What’s one thing from your commencement address” they can repeat that one thing. So, maybe likewise on this podcast, I’ll ask you just to look for one thing that you feel could have a big impact in your life. I think that’s a fair invitation. So, let’s get rolling in this.

I’m going to start with you, similar to how I started the address during the commencement, and that is to imagine ourselves 50 years from today. What’s the impact of your life? What’s the impact of your actions on the people around you? Some may think they’re small, some may realize they’re big, either way, you are going to have an immeasurable impact on the world, no matter what you’re doing right now. And so, the question is, how do we have the greatest impact? And as you know, at Becoming Your Best, we’ve spent decades researching the top 10% from any industry, so sales, executives, managers, athletes, coaches. The top 10% who we would call, “High Performers”, and what sets them apart. And as you know, if you’re listening to this, most likely, is that we’ve identified that there are 12 High-Performance Principles and Habits that you see over and over among the top 10% of high performers. And the question is, how do we utilize these 12 Principles, to have the biggest impact possible for the remainder of our lives? So, in that spirit, I’m going to invite you to imagine that you’re a pilot, except, the difference is you’re the pilot of your life. In other words, I’m going to invite you to fly your jet and lead a life by design, rather than live a life by default.

Now, in the fighter-pilot world, we don’t like to use auto-pilot or cruise-control, so to speak. We like to fly the jet. Likewise, as you go into life, let’s not put our lives on auto-pilot or cruise-control, rather actually fly your jet and lead a life by design. And one of the things that you need to know, let’s just take the F16 as an example, is that there are over 300 gauges, switches, and dials in the jet, and all of these have an important role. Yet, there are six what we would call, “Primary Instruments”. And if a pilot loses track of these primary instruments, at some point, they will die. And so, of all these gauges and instruments that are clamoring for your attention and they’re all important in their own right, these six are absolutely critical. And so, as you fly your jet, as you lead your life by design, there are six, what we would call, “primary instruments” in order to fly your jet successfully or lead your life. Some of these you’ve heard before, and some will be totally new.

The first is to “Lead with a vision.” Now, this is one you’ve heard from Becoming Your Best a lot and it’s because almost every great leader, at some point, has started with a vision. Almost every great endeavor has started with a vision. If you look at Bill Gates, the vision – desktop computer in every home. People told him he was crazy when he had that as its vision. President Kennedy – we will send a man to the moon and back, before the end of the decade. Or Martin Luther King and his famous speech, “I have a dream.” These are powerful examples of a vision. And in order to lead a life by design, a person needs to know where they’re going. I mean, you could imagine, if a fighter pilot takes off and they don’t have a destination in mind, where will they end up? Who knows? Likewise in life, we need to have a destination, so we know where to go. And it’s my opinion that your personal vision is the seed of your legacy. And if you think about that, what happens if we plant a seed in fertile soil? Well, it at least has the chance to grow, whereas if we never plant the seed, it never has a chance to grow. And as you develop your vision, it should be meaningful and provide you with direction. If it doesn’t do those two things, that’s your Litmus test. And it’s really not a vision. It needs to be meaningful, and provide you with direction. The other thing you need to know about this is, you’re going to be doing what 97% of people will not do. In our research of hundreds of organizations around the world, only 1-3% of people had a written personal vision. And I’ll take it a step further and even suggest that when we memorize it, it even becomes that much more powerful.

And some of you have heard this story, I mean, I’ve experienced the power of a personal vision, even as a teenager. And I don’t know how your teenage experience was, maybe some of you can relate, but that was a tough time for me. Speaking of direction, there was no direction, this was a ship without a rutter, at 16. I had no idea where I was going, school wasn’t going well, I mean, there were even teachers who said, “Rob, you’re not going to mount anything in life, because you can’t focus.” And to their credit, they were actually right. At that point in my life, I did not have any focus, until something happened. And we attended the event called, “The Stadium of Fire”, it’s in Provo, Utah, and there’s 55,000 people in the stands, to celebrate the 4th of July. And every year they start this with a force ship fly-by F16s and it’s just awesome to watch. And if you’ve ever watched a fly-by or felt this in real life, you know that it’s just awesome when you feel that rumbling in your chest, that roar of the jets. Well, in this case, the jets flew by and we felt that roar, and my brother and I looked at each other, and we said, “Someday, we’re going to fly those jets right over this stadium!” Now, what was just born inside of us was a vision. The seed was planted. And there we were, at 16 years old, whereas I was all over the place before, not anymore. Now, laser-focused. And 15 years later, if you fast-forward the clock, both my brother and I became F16 pilots and we got permission from the Pentagon to do the fly-by for The Stadium of Fire. And so, in 2007, I’ll never forget looking across the formation. There was my brother on the other side, we went over the stadium, and I just thought, “Man, we did it!” And then the jet is just “phoooo”, and I’m looking over, thinking, “We just did it!” We just did what we set out to do 15 years ago. And then, over the radio came the voice of the Ground Controller, and he said, “Viper 1-1, nice fly-by, perfect timing, congratulations Shallenbergers!” I remember getting chills up and down my arms and a tear in my eye because, for us, that had taken an incredible amount of work and effort to get to that point. So, number one, your primary instrument as you fly your jet is to “Lead with a vision.” What is your vision?

Number two are “Priorities”. Focus on what matters most. You know that this is one of the 12 Principles. A wise man once said, “No success in business can compensate for failure in the home.” And it’s my opinion that a transformational leader makes time. And I think we all can relate to this. If not in our own lives, we know someone who’s happened to, where we’d be the least health, a relationship, or something went south in our lives because we gave into the noise and chaos of the world. And the truth is, it doesn’t have to be that way! One of the best stories I’ve heard, that illustrates this point is a dad who came home late at night, it had been an exhausting day. He walks in the door, he sets down his computer, opens his laptop to fire off a couple more emails and his young boy walks out of his room, comes up to the dad and taps him on the shoulder. Dad looks down, and the young boy asks his dad, “Dad, how much do you make in an hour?” Dad thought, “Well, I don’t really think it’s anything that’s your business, but if you need to know, I make about $25 an hour.” And then, the son looked up at him again, and asked, “Dad, can I borrow $25?” And the dad, this was kind of enough to put him over the top. It had already been a long day, he kind of lost his temper and he said, “Son, go to your room! If you want to make the money, you can earn the money but I’m not going to loan it to you.” And the kid went to his room. After a few minutes, the dad realized that he’d probably been too hard on its son. And so he got up, I mean, he’d already realized that it was kind of a short fuse, because the long day that he had, and he walked to his room. And there he saw that his son was clearly crying, and he said, “Son, I apologize. I was probably a little bit too hard on you. If you were asking for $25, you probably had a reason, and so, here’s the $25.” And the son looked up, and he took the money and then he said to his dad, “Dad, now that I have $25, can I buy just one hour of your time?” And this was pretty much enough to put the father over the top. He broke down, he embraced his son and just apologized. For that father, that was a turning point in his life. He learned a life lesson on that day, at that moment, that he probably couldn’t have learned any other way. When it comes to priorities, schedule your priorities, rather than prioritize your schedule, and let’s always remember our priorities and what matters most. And if we’re a little off track, let’s get back on track because this is one of your primary instruments as you fly your jet. We can’t lose track of our priorities!

Number three is “Attitude.” I believe that success starts with attitude. And attitude is a reflection of our thoughts and language and it’s one of the greatest predictors of success. I mean, think about this, a positive attitude will help you do anything better than a negative attitude will help you do it. Isn’t that true? I mean, wouldn’t you agree? And attitude is contagious. it radiates to other people, either for good or for bad, a positive or a negative attitude. And since attitude is a reflection of our thoughts, I love this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. You’ve heard this before if you’ve been to our seminars. “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” In other words, all starts with our thoughts. Our words have power and whether we think we can, or whether we think we can’t. Either way, we’ll be right. And you may or may not be aware of this, but the average person thinks between 50 000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. 70% of those tend to be negative. I’m sure many of us can relate to that. And one of my good friends is a world-class triathlete. We’ve had him on the podcast, James. He was talking about the impact and the power of thoughts that they can have on an attitude. And he said he really learned this when he was on one of his bike rides. And you’ve got a long time sitting on the bike, and so he tested this theory. And what he would do is allow a negative thought to creep in just to test it. And his team was measuring his body, and what they found was that when he had a negative thought that would come in, his power would go down and his heart rate would go up. And as soon as he would cancel that thought and replace it with a positive on, power goes up, heart rate goes down. In other words, he was having a very physical effect on his body, whatever his thoughts were. And so, this is what he said, “I only need to be perfect in my thoughts for the next 10 seconds.” And what that means to us is, next time you have a negative thought creep into your mind, “I’m overweight, I’m ugly, I’m not good enough”, name the negative thought, there’s millions of them, next time we have those thoughts, replace it with a positive, and just focus on being perfect in our thoughts for the next 10 seconds. Let’s get rid of that thought and let’s replace it with something else. Why we are good enough, why we can do it. And that’s what I’m asking. When it comes to attitude and thoughts be perfect in the next 10 seconds, and then that will shift to 20 seconds and 30 seconds, and pretty soon, like James, our model will become, “We don’t do negative.” And I love what Zig Ziglar said, “Get rid of the stink in thinking.” and that is exactly right! So, if we want to have a great attitude, then that really starts in our head with our thoughts.

Number four, the fourth primary instrument as you fly your jet, as you lead a life by design, is to “Choose your wingman carefully.” In other words, be very careful who you choose to bring into your close circle of friends. There’s an old saying, and I know you’ve heard it if you’ve listened to these podcasts. Is that “We become the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” Well if that’s true, then we ought to be very careful who we choose to spend time with. If you look right now at your current circle, the people you spend the most time with, do they motivate you? Do they legitimately cheer on your successes and want to see you succeed? Here’s another way to look at this: if you’re in a room with people and you’re the sharpest in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room. We want to be around people who lift the bar for us, who help us want to do better. And at some point, the people who are on your team, whoever you bring into your inner circle, will play a significant role in either your success or failure, and the truth is, you need, just like we all do, a wingman who will watch your back.

I learned this, I was flying a night mission over the Atlantic Ocean, we were about 100 miles offshore, in the F16. It was a benign flight, it was very simple, One Be – One intercept flight, just a nice little practice sturdy, we call it. However, I remember being a pitch-black night. Couldn’t see any stars, there was no moon, everything was black. The ocean below, the sky above, it was just a pitch-black night. And on the way home, you know, we made it through the mission, no problem, and we’re about 20 miles from the base, and we finish our descend checklist and we start the descent, we take our night vision goggles off, and as I’m running a fuel test, I see that there’s a problem. And suddenly, what was calm, turned to chaos, because one of two things was either going to happen: either it was a gauge problem with my fuel, or I had about two or three minutes of flying time left before the engine flamed out. And so, immediately we started zooming the jet so that we can get a glide ratio that would allow us to glide into the airforce base, if the engine fails. I clear my wingman to a safety chase position. We put the night vision goggles back on, we declare an emergency, and really chaos has erupted. And with all of this stuff going on, I forgot about my primary instruments. And so, with the night vision goggles on, I was pointing to what I thought it was the Shaw Airforce Base, but with night vision goggles, there’s not a real good depth perception. It’s hard to see things at night like we see them during the day. So, what I was actually pointing at, was Sumter Airfield, which was 10 miles away from the actual airforce base. It had a short runway, and there was no way that if I would’ve flown an approach to that runway if I would’ve actually touched down, there’s no way that I would’ve been able to land that F16 on that runway and stay on the runway. It was way too short. And so, there was a radio call that came over the radio, when I was still flying my approach to Sumter Airfield. And he said, “1 (who was my position time)check heading, I’m showing Shaw Airforce Base left 10 o’clock, 8 miles.” That one radio call brought my eyes up, back on the primary instruments, I realized I was flying an approach to the wrong field. So I made a slight course adjustment, we landed uneventfully, I taxied back to the Gate and it end up being a gauge problem, so no issue. So what could’ve been benign, could have potentially turned into a scenario where we would’ve lost the jet and potentially my life, without that powerful call from the wingman. It was just a simple call, yet it potentially saved the jet and my life. So the question is, who will be on your team? Who will you bring into your circle of friends? And do they inspire you, want you to succeed and legitimately cheer you on?

The fifth primary instrument to fly your jet, is to make the resolve to never give up. And most of you have heard this during our seminars, if there’s a handful of you that haven’t, then I’m going to ask you the question and you can all respond with the first word that comes to mind. So, wherever you’re at, driving, sitting at a desk, if you’re alone you can yell it if you’re with other people you can say it quietly, but say something with a voice, out loud. I’m going to ask you the question I want you to respond. What is the opposite of success? Failure. Most likely, if you’re like 97% of people, responded with the word “Failure”. That’s because that’s exactly how we’ve been programmed since we were young. And the reason that that is negative programming is because if we’re afraid to fail, wouldn’t you agree that in many cases we’ll be afraid to try in the first place? So, in my opinion, the opposite of success is not “Failure”, it’s “Giving up”! And even deeper is this fear of failure. The fear of failure is a real emotion, and it is a dream-crusher. And so, I’m excited for failures. I mean, they’re not fun, none of us enjoy it, none of us say, “I want to fail.” But I’m excited for when you have a failure because it means you’re one step closer to success. And I love what Theodore Roosevelt said, because ultimately, what we’re talking about here, is getting into the arena. And he said about the arena, he said, “It’s not the critic who counts, nor the person who points out why the strong man stumbles or how the doer of deeds could do them better. No, the credit goes to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with blood, sweat, and dust, who if, at worse, they fail, fail daring greatly, but they may never be met found among the poor timid souls who knew neither victory, nor defeat.”

It’s only in the arena that we find success. And I’ve experienced this personally. Some of you have heard this story, most of you probably have not. When I was a sophomore in high school, I decided to wrestle. It was an average year, I won some matches and I lost some matches. You know, it was average. Well, at the end of the fall, when the season was over, most people went on to different sports or whatever, I decided to double down on wrestling. So I went to a local university, found the number two ranked collegial wrestler at this particular weight, and he agreed to coach me three times a week, throughout the summer. So when I wasn’t coaching with him, I was out on the mats of this University, training, grinning, over and over, the repetition. Well, when the fall came around the next year, I wrestled who had been one of the top wrestlers on the team the year prior and pinned him in about 45 seconds. And suddenly, I wasn’t ready for this, mentally, the coaches started talking about, “Rob, you’re going to win state, you’re going to be a state champion!” Well, I wasn’t ready for that, mentally. And so, I kind of, in my mind, thought, there’s really one or two things we can do here. Number one is I can keep wrestling, and I may be a state champion. But if I keep wrestling, and I lose, I’ll have assured that I lost, and I’ll never be able to say, for the rest of my life, that I was a state champion. In other words, there a possibility of failure, if I keep wrestling. The other alternative is I could quit, and if I quit, for the rest of my life I could say, I could’ve been a state champion. Not assuring the defeat. Something weird happened to my mind, and I decided to quit. Well, this was crushing to a lot of people, and so the coaches came down, trying to get me out of class, come wrestle, and nothing that anyone did, worked. I quit. In other words, I took myself out of the arena.

As I look back on life, that is in the top three regrets of my life. It’s one of the top three things that I regret. At the same time, there’s a gratitude in this, because from that experience, evolved a motto, that we now use as a family, and it’s this, “Shallengergers don’t quit. When we start, we finish. Pivot? Yes! Adjust the plan? Yes! Quit? NO. Quitting is not an option.” So, on one hand, yes, one of the top regrets of my life, I removed myself out of the arena because of a fear of failure. That is the single reason for quitting. As I look back though, that resolve, to never again quit, has carried me through so many things, a two-year mission in Bolivia, pilot training, all of these different things through life. So under that hand, I’m grateful for the experience. I invite you to decide now, no matter where you’re at in life, to never give up in pursuit of your vision. Pivot? Yes! Adjust the plans? Yes, that’s smart! Quit? NO. That’s stepping out of the arena.

And the sixth and final primary instrument, as you lead a life by design, as you fly your jet, is, in my opinion, trust in God. There’s a Proverbs that said, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not into thine own understanding.” There’s another one that says, “To be learned is good if they hearken to the counsels of God.” And here’s the deal. Bad things happen to good people. I don’t know why that’s the case. They will continue to happen. Bad things will continue to happen to good people. Here’s what I do know. I would say a prayer when I climb in the cockpit every time getting in the jet. Just a silent prayer. And there were many times where I felt the divine hand of God protecting me while flying, not only in flying but in leading our life and our family throughout the experience in the airforce and thereafter. And so, what I know to be true, is this, is that God lives and that he is real, and that our lives will be better off with him, than without him, in our lives. And that’s why I consider that to be one of the primary instruments.

So, as we wrap up this podcast, we’ve used this metaphor, this analogy, if you’re flying your jet of leading a life by design, well, there are six primary instruments that we’ve talked about here, that will help a person do that. Lead with a vision; stay focused on your priorities, do what matters most; attitude – remember that success starts with attitude; choose your wingman carefully; make the resolve to never give up; and lastly, trust in God. A person who does this is so much more likely to succeed than a person who doesn’t. I mean, if you think about that, how could you not be? You have a vision, a direction. You stay focused on your priorities, you have a great attitude, you figure out how to make it happen, you never give up. The people around you cheer you on, they’re part of your success team, and you have God at the helm. How can a person possibly fail, in the ultimate sense of the word, with that being the case?

So, I’m going to finish with this quote, and then an invitation. You’ve probably heard this before, “One ship sails east, and another west. By the self same wind that blow, tis the set of the sail, and not the gail, that determines the way they’ll go.” In other words, we all have this wind at our backs and the question is, how will each one of us choose to set our sails. Will we, or won’t we catch that wind? So, as we wrap up this podcast, I invite you to fly your jet. Lead a life by design and have a big impact in the world, wherever you’re at, whether that’s in your own life, family, children, neighbors, your business, wherever your sphere of influence is, have an impact in that part of the world. And that’s the whole spirit of Becoming Your Best.

Now, just as a reminder, to those of you who have not registered yet, at, there are some powerful free tools and courses there, that you can take. “How to develop a powerful vision” that’s a free course sitting there on the university. Anyone with the desire can do that. “The six-step process”, “How to hire the right people the first time”, “How to mind map and bring ideas”. These are simple, and yet powerful courses, that are all there for the taking, if we have the desire and willingness to take action. So, this is Rob Shallenberger, it’s been great being with you, wherever you’re at in the world, and I hope you’ll have a fabulous rest of the week.

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