Authors: Bill Hensley and Colleen Hensley

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1608320752, 203 pages

Former US Air Force (USAF) and commercial aviation pilots turned entrepreneurs Bill and Colleen Hensley reveal the unique disciplines that allow pilots to excel under enormous stress. The Hensleys’ lighthearted tone and dramatic narrative make this a quick, easy read, but one whose lessons linger. Their fictionalized but accurate tale about USAF pilots learning to fly the fiendishly fast supersonic T-38 jet reveals the roots of the Hensleys’ method for personal success. The book has an endearing gee-whiz quality; it reads like a story in a Boy Scout magazine. The whiz-bang tone offsets the book’s shortfall: While the Hensleys adeptly describe the programs and practices pilots follow to achieve mastery, they never quite connect these practices to a world outside the military. Even so, getAbstract recommends their enjoyable flight-based narrative to anyone seeking a more purposeful, disciplined approach to work and life.

Navigating the “PEER Performance Model”

“Achieving mastery” in any field or skill is not and should not be easy. Real mastery requires disciplined effort and self-sacrifice as well as the self-knowledge that comes from both that effort and that sacrifice. Achieving mastery means coming to “possess the full command of a skill that results in consistent, repeatable and reliable excellent performances.” You can attain a skill level that allows you to perform at your best under the greatest pressure, time after time. When you gain mastery, you will be able to act in high-pressure situations with confidence, knowing that you have done the work that will reap rewards. And while – like everyone – you may not always get everything you want, you will know you have done your best.

To attain mastery, utilize the PEER Performance Model by conquering its four components in turn – “prepare, practice, perform; evaluate; enhance; and repeat.” This model’s circular, self-fueling nature confirms that you never finish learning, and it shows that everyone needs help and guidance to achieve mastery.

Step one: Prepare, practice, perform

To prepare, you must achieve the necessary mind-set: “Total Immersion.” This means “becoming and remaining focused, acting with intent and removing distractions from the task at hand.” Pilots achieve total immersion by “chair flying,” rehearsing and repeating a task until it becomes as natural as breathing. Properly done, this means recreating the environment in which you must perform. A pilot in training sits in a chair at home surrounded by drawings of gauges and a model of an airplane cockpit, wearing a flight helmet and gloves, going through checklists and scenarios of flight eventualities. To prepare for a pressurized presentation, recreate in your home or office as close a model as possible of the place where you will present, right down to chairs for the audience. Imagine yourself in the room where you will speak. Have friends or co-workers observe your rehearsal.

Everyone who achieves mastery has practiced, but simply repeating a task will not improve your performance. Use “Smart Practices” with specific goals and great discipline. “Task Saturation,” which occurs when you are so overloaded with information that you cannot process anything new, undermines smart practice. Task saturation sometimes causes airplane crashes; pilots become so concerned with multiple tasks that they lose focus – or “situational awareness” – about the bigger picture. When you feel saturated, use a “Standard Operating Procedure” (SOP) to regain your situational awareness quickly. Each SOP has checklists of the steps you should take in your situation. When you feel overwhelmed, follow the right SOP to regain your footing…

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