A few years ago, I unexpectedly received a large yellow envelope in the mail. Although there was no return address, the package had a cancelled stamp from Australia. I quickly tore open the envelope. Inside was a newspaper with a yellow sticky note at the margin, luring me to an inside page.

And there it was – a picture of Louise, a young woman I had mentored, standing next to her aircraft in a full-page spread! Not only had Louise, become a pilot, but a commercial pilot flying the Australian outback. She had started her own successful flying business, providing custom charters and tourist flights.

Although there was no note from Louise, the article conveyed her sentiments. She spoke of how the academics of flying were difficult for her and how she was willing to ask for help. She also told of my willingness to mentor her because I had been mentored. That is how life works or should work anyway. Usually, a mentor has been previously mentored by someone else and then pays it forward to others. Louise had found her strength by holding onto her dream. I beamed with pride. Nothing fills me up more than seeing someone I have mentored find success.

Aviators often talk of building situational awareness or SA. Situational awareness means being acutely aware of the dynamic environment in which we operate. We have “good situational awareness” when we frequently study our instruments, check our mirrors, and scan the horizon outside the aircraft. “Bad situational awareness” occurs when we focus too intently on just one area or aspect of flying the plane. The results can be disastrous.

You can build your situational awareness by directing your focus up and outward, actively looking for opportunities that exist in your environment, whether that be at your job, in school, in your network, or in your community. Of course, you do need to pay attention to the work or job directly in front of you. But when you become too narrowly focused on what is happening in front of you, you are likely to miss new and exciting prospects.

Had Louise been focused solely on building flight hours to become an airline pilot as she originally intended, she might have missed the chance to start her own business. Her life experience reinforced so many lessons that I had learned throughout my life and career. She followed her dream, learned to look for opportunities, and grabbed them.

What is your situation or, said differently, what is your situational awareness?

Fly high,


Need some coaching or help building your situational awareness? Drop me a line at CaptainBarbaraBell.com.  Check out my book: Flight Lessons: Navigating Through Life’s Turbulence and Learning to Fly High – I have some great questions to help move you to the next level.

#Situationalawareness, #SA, #coaching, #mentor, #mentorship, #leadership


Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash