This is Jake, my youngest son, and he just turned seven a few months before this photo.  I wish this picture had better resolution so you could see the look on his face.  I snapped it with my phone, and the fact that I was able to time it so he was halfway down the ramp is a miracle.  If you could see the look on his face, you would recognize that it is a look halfway between deathly afraid and pure joy.  This picture captured that moment when fear gives way to euphoria.

Just a few moments before, he wouldn’t even get on the ramp, wouldn’t even stand at the top. He was too scared, and this wasn’t even our first trip to the skate park.  We’d come one week before, and he was too intimidated by all the big kids around him to even use his scooter at all. On this trip, it took him thirty minutes of scooting around on the flat concrete to work up the nerve to get on the ramp.  If you could have seen him look down the ramp, seen the fear in his eyes…

So there I was, in the waning hours of the day, watching my youngest conquer his fears and transform them into an adrenaline rush.  It was a proud moment, so like any Dad with a variety of social media accounts, I immediately imagined posting the picture on facebook and adding an epic caption: #winning

It’s pronounced “hashtag winning.”

Some readers have no idea what I’m talking about, so I’ll try to explain.  There aren’t a set of rules that tell you when you can and can’t use this hashtag.  Furthermore, it is starting to get overused like its predecessor, #epic. But I’m sure you can imagine a situation during which you succeeded at life in a surprising way…  What you accomplished was so surprising or so fulfilling that it needed its own label.

For Lee Bell, a fellow FTE who has two very young children, it was the time he first successfully changed a diaper without getting IT everywhere.  It also applies when you remember to select duplex before printing the 100 page report, or that time you almost dropped your coffee cup but somehow managed a ninja move that didn’t spill a single drop!

And like the picture, it applies when your dad skills rise to the occasion. When you are able to coax your son off the top of the ramp onto his scooter, and when you are lucky enough to snap a split-second photograph of said epic moment, something suitable for sharing on facebook.

“Hashtag winning”…  Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase before or even used it yourself.  If you have, it might surprise you to know that my wife and I have recently banished this phrase from our vocabulary.  We have replaced it with something we think is more appropriate. We made the decision to replace it based on a variety of factors…

Just a split second after the previous photo, Jake swerved wildly and bit the dust, ending up with the wound pictured here along with one on his hip and a severely bruised ego.  Luckily, Mom was there to provide the appropriate first aid and comfort his broken spirit.

It wasn’t this accident that made us change our mind, convinced us to get rid of the label #winning. We had already made the decision before the crash.  It was something else. Something was missing from the popular phrase.

For example, I am happy to report that just two weeks ago, I took my two youngest boys back to the skate park.  Both of them have now conquered the ramps. They’ve even made it down bigger obstacles. So you can begin to see that the word “winning” doesn’t tell the whole story.  Unfortunately, “hashtag winning” suggests that the game is over and you can rest on your laurels.

As we all know—as you can see—that’s not true in parenting, and it’s not true for us today, whether we identify as an experienced flight test professionals or a new graduate.  Therefore, we need a word that reminds us of everything I’ve said for the past few minutes, that it’s okay to celebrate this moment, but the next moment may bring something different.  And if it doesn’t happen in the next minute, maybe it will happen in the next day or week or year.

What is that word? I’m not sure I know the answer, but my wife and I have adopted this phrase: #2points

It’s a basketball analogy.  In this case the phrase is meant to convey two things.  First it means that you can celebrate the moment. You made the shot. For the new graduates especially, I encourage you savor the moment. You deserve this.  But after you let out a cheer, it’s time to hustle back down the court and set up on defense. For the past year, the graduates have had someone keeping score for them, but they are entering a new stage.

“Hashtag 2 points” is a basketball term, but I could have picked any of a number of phrases. We could have used Nascar racing or running or even combat.  But the point of this phrase is NOT to explain all of life’s existential questions but to remind us that the game is not over.  

As the new test pilot school graduates arrive—as a new year begins—we all need to remember that the game is not over.  The holiday break was halftime, but now we have to get back in the game. The coming year will undoubtedly serve as a major milestone in the history of aviation, but it will also give us a chance to evaluate our game plan.  What does it mean to win in the next decade? What worked well and what didn’t? How have the demographics of our profession changed and how does this affect the way we do business? A similar line of questioning applies to each of us, individually, as well.  I hope we can all think about these things as we start off our New Year and the next stage of our profession. How do each of us measure progress, success, in the next stage of a career? How do we keep getting better, and how do we make sure everyone around us is getting better too? How do we adapt to the changes, and how do we make it better for those coming behind us, those following in our footsteps.  It’s a lot to think about, but there are people counting on us. So let’s hustle back down the court!

This article first appeared in the January 2018 Flight Test News.

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