Staying Focused

Year’s ago while taking flying lessons my instructor asked me what the most important thing for a pilot to do was. I thought it was a trick question. He then said that the most important task was to fly the plane. When he didn’t laugh at his apparent joke, I began to wonder if I had hired the wrong person for my training.

A few days later we were flying some maneuvers when, unbeknownst to me, my instructor tripped an electrical breaker. A warning buzzer started blaring, which caused me no small amount of concern. I quickly scanned my gauges trying to figure out what was wrong. While I searched for the problem, my instructor calmly tapped me on the shoulder and then pointed out the front windshield. I was surprised to see that the plane was in a steep dive towards the ground. He then said very firmly, “Fly the plane!”

That experience had a profound effect, not just on my flying, but also my life. I learned from it that it is very easy to get distracted from the job at hand by something that may actually be very minor. Many a pilot has inadvertently flown a perfectly good airplane into the ground while trying to figure out why some light was blinking, or some buzzer was going off, or maybe even just trying to find the potato chip he dropped between the seats. “Fly the Plane” simply means to always do first, that which is most important.

A current campaign by the City of Saint George called “Heads up, Thumbs up,” is designed to bring awareness to the hazards of distracted driving. Like pilots, auto drivers can also get caught in a dangerous trap when they turn their attention to answer a phone, look at a text, or even help a child who dropped her bottle. In a brief moment you forget that you are driving a car, with often-disastrous results. I am sure we have all been witnesses to distracted driving, and seen first hand how easy it is for someone to forget that the first task of a driver is to drive the car.

When you set out to build an investment portfolio that will support you in retirement, it is very useful to write down some goals regarding your money. How much will you need? How long will it need to last? What level of risk are you willing to take to reach your goals? What types of investments will you consider and what are the parameters under which you would buy or sell them?

Once you have your plan in place, follow it. Realize that along the way buzzers will go off, lights will flash, headlines will scream, neighbors will share worries and talk show hosts will spread uncertainty. While these distractions may deserve some attention, remember to stay focused on your ultimate goals, doing each day that which is most important. Like drivers and pilots, investors would do well to adopt the motto – Fly the Plane.