How To Keep From Crashing When The Engine Stops

The single-engine Cessna 172 was about 1,500 feet above the Pacific Ocean when that engine stopped.

I still don’t know why it stopped. All I know is that I was the pilot and the sole occupant of the plane. I had just taken off from a small airport in Western Washington. The pre-check had been routine. The takeoff had been uneventful. The sky was blue, the wind was calm. It was a beautiful day for flying.

And then the engine stopped.

What would you do? How do you react when the pressure’s on? How can you make sure you’re at your best when it matters most?

Leaders face pressure all the time. Pressure from above to deliver results. Pressure from below to motivate and inspire. Pressure from the clock. Pressure from the budget. And, of course, pressure from the “real world” outside of the workplace: the spouse’s upcoming surgery, the kid’s braces, the car’s flashing “CHECK ENGINE” light. And a leader is expected to produce under pressure, no matter where it comes from.

Some of these pressures are predictable, like the report that’s due every Monday at 9 am. Some are unpredictable, like when the single engine of the airplane you’re piloting stops at 1,500 feet above the Pacific Ocean. But the answer to both is the same:


Anyone who’s ever trained for a pilot’s license will tell you that that training includes dozens and dozens of simulated “engine out” exercises. The instructor, without warning, pulls the engine back to idle and says, “Your engine’s just gone out; where are you going to land?” Do this drill often enough, and it becomes a part of your subconscious. To this day, when I’m flying commercially from one speaking engagement to another, I’ll sometimes look out the window and ask myself, “If I were flying this plane and the engine(s) went out, where would I land?”

That’s how you produce under pressure. That’s how you ensure you’ll be at your best when it matters most. You practice. Over and over again. You do mental drills. “What would I do if there’s a delay in the supply chain?” “What would I do if my number one producer got an offer from our biggest competitor?” You prepare.

Pilots routinely prepare for the unexpected. So do professional athletes. And military commanders. People whose jobs require them to produce under pressure are continuously preparing.

Shouldn’t you be too?

When my engine stopped, I went into “automatic react” mode. I trimmed the plane for maximum glide ratio. I tried a restart. When that didn’t work, I initiated a 45-degree bank turn back to the runway-not knowing if I would make it or not, but knowing that this angle of bank gave me the most distance relative to altitude loss. I mentally went over the procedures in case I had to perform what is humorously called a “water landing.”

Office Design to Improve Productivity

Sometimes, adding chalkboards and whiteboards can seem handy, but there is more than you can do to improve your office space. Here are just a few office design tips to help improve your overall productivity.

1. Idea Storage

One of the worst things that can happen for creative people is that they have a great idea but do not have anywhere to write it down, and they lose it. There is also the chance that you will end up doing a huge amount of research on a topic that you are not going to use. Whiteboards and notebooks are a great option for writing your ideas down, so you can continue to work on your main task for the day.

2. Remove the Clutter

It is important that you are regularly cleaning your office. Clutter comes from your creative mind working, but it can make focusing and getting your work done difficult. You should make sure that you have enough storage for all your items and that you have access to your most used objects.

3. Bring in Some Nature

We are biological creatures, so we should be spending some amount of time outside every single day. However, being inside all the time has a huge effect on our work. While it would be nice to spend a lot of time outside, for most jobs, this is not really possible. If you cannot take your work outside, why not bring nature to you? Try opening the shades and letting fresh air. This could help you feel more energised and help you get more done. Plants can also be a great option to add to your office, you just have to remember to water it.

4. Table and Chairs

We have all experienced having to sit at a table and having to consistently having to readjust to be comfortable, so we could focus on our work. This is why you should take the time to find a desk and chair that both fits your body and the way that you sit. This can take some adjusting to if you are working on an office where you do not have control over when items are ordered. If you are working at home, try to sit in chairs that you are thinking about buying for around 30 minutes to find out if they are comfortable for you.

There are many office items that you may need in your office that you could be overlooking. Whiteboards and noticeboards are great tools that most people overlook until they need these items. However, you should only add items that you think you are going to need regularly to your office, so you can save space and make the room look less cluttered.

What Are You Not Doing?

When you see someone you haven’t seen for a while, how do you greet them? We often ask “how have you been doing?” We also start with “what have you been doing,” particularly of other business owners or co-workers.

We ask ourselves:

What am I going to do today?

What did I do yesterday that can come off my list?

It’s a great feeling to tick a task off a list.

What can I do next?

The doing makes us feel productive, so much so that any plan might be a good one, as long as there is “doing” happening.

We have our to do list and our plans and we march along the path we have set for ourselves. The focus is on what we decided to accomplish and how we intend to meet our targets. Other possibilities are no longer in our line of sight.

We don’t see the mountain to the right of us when we are staring at the trail (or the mountain lion either).

I was recently speaking with a client who was struggling. We spoke about what she had been doing, but the struggle really was a result of what she had not been doing.

There was a laundry list of actions she had been taking. However, a more essential list of steps exists. These are ideas outside of her awareness, that she may or may not have considered, but that were not part of her current plan.

Whether she was not aware, or was avoiding or procrastinating was not immediately important. She was not asking herself the question – what am I not doing that could make a greater impact?

Often our challenges are a result of what we are not doing. The actions we are taking are just not making it happen. If you are not seeing the results you want, reflect on what you are not doing that is crucial but difficult.

If you can’t see what you could be doing that would make a difference, get help from other people, books, or any resource that can offer tips and best practices and honestly examine whether you are excluding activities that are creating great results for others.

I’m not advising blindly copying what others do, or taking advice because it’s worked for someone else in your industry. However, you don’t know what you don’t know, so learn more and see if an action outside of your plan, and potentially out of your comfort zone, might make a significant difference.