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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Half a hundred, Part 1

I spent a good portion of the beginning of the year going over goals: what are good goals, why you need them, and so on. One of the things I mentioned was that goals need to be realistic yet challenging. Unrealistic goals tend not to be unattainable; instead, they are reachable goals but given entirely too little time to achieve them.

One of the goals I set this year was actually set for me by someone else: the 100 Workouts Challenge at my gym. This is a nice example of a good goal: 100 workouts in a year is a bit of a challenge, but still doable with moderate effort. It's less than a workout every three days, but that's only if you break it down over the entire year.

It's just past the halfway point of the year, and that means there's been sufficient time to see how things are going. How am I doing? Well, see for yourself:


At the halfway point, I'm half way done. Not bad considering I didn't start until six weeks into the new year! How have I done it? Simple.

I did 1% of the total 50 times. That's it.

Since the tracking sheet is in a binder with everyone else's, as I try to get to mine I inevitably come across a few others before finally getting to the right one. This means I see how others are doing whether I want to or not. It's interesting to me to see how others are doing on their goals. I don't judge those who haven't made them; after all, everyone has their own reasons for showing up or not. I'm more concerned with how I am doing against my own 100 workouts goal than judging others who aren't. Besides, there are already a handful of people who have already beaten the 100 Workouts Challenge, so I'm not the Superman to judge anybody else anyway.

What I do want to know is why those who aren't going to beat this challenge aren't going to. My observations are twofold:

1. They set themselves up for failure with unreasonable expectations. Many of the date goals weren't reasonable. Many of them were set for May or June, meaning they would have to work out 5-6 days a week every week. Unless you're already working out almost all the time, you're not suddenly going to go from sedentary to being at the gym all the time.

Going to the gym is a habit, but not going to the gym is ALSO a habit. Setting a goal that requires you to be there almost every day just isn't realistic because you have to break the habit of not going and replace it with a habit of going, both at the same time! Doing one or the other (i.e., breaking a habit or building a new one) is hard enough; trying to do both is just asking to fail.

One of the dates that was set was less than 100 days from the begin date. That's basically impossible, but reflects the second important reason most people who aren't on track aren't:

2. They underestimate the amount of change, effort, or resources involved in attaining that goal. If your goal requires adding something to your life (rather than removing something, like eating less sugar, for example), that's going to require time. Since you are living 24 hours a day already even if you're doing very little in those 24, that means you're going to have to take time that you're doing something and reallocate it to that new thing.

If you're not already doing something with your 24 hours that pass every day already, then finding something to do with an hour or so is easy. But how many of us can say that their schedule is empty? After all, being too busy is one of the biggest complaints most people have. That means that if you want to attain this new goal, you're going to have to take something you already do and replace it with something else; you're not going to magically have a 25th hour in your day.

This is one reason that a lot of people start off strong and then fade. I see a lot of date blocks filled in in a row with little gap between dates, then the gaps get bigger, then bigger... At first, it's new and fun, and it's easy. Then as a week or two goes by, some of the other things that used to occupy that time start giving reminders of the "old" times as they get neglected. That leads to decision time: do I go back to what I used to do or do I stick with the new thing now that it's not the "new thing" anymore?

Since the old habit was probably around a lot longer than the new habit, the old one tends to win out in the end through sheer familiarity and comfort. Since it takes a month or more for working out to start having a real effect, the old ways have an even easier battle. It's easy to go back to the couch when it seems like the new working out habit isn't doing anything.

The realization of the amount of work and/or disruption this new habit involves also contributes to the easy victory for the old habits. That's why instead of looking at the challenge as [big, deep announcer voice] THE 100 WORKOUT CHALLENGE, I look at it as a hundred 1-workout challenges. Each time I fill in a date box, I've won that challenge. All I have to do is 99 more. Then 98 more. And so on. It's just like the old question, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."

How has it worked for me? Well, this (the only workout selfie I've ever taken) was taken not even 90 days in, and I've gotten even better since then:


What does this have to do with flying? Well, next week I'll apply these lessons to an aviation setting. See you next Wednesday!


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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A month with David

Last month, I switched from my old Bose X headset to the David Clark DC PRO-X. Now that I've had them for a month, how are they performing?

Outstanding, in short.

The active noise reduction (ANR) is superb. The first time I turned it on was a bit disconcerting, as the noise level with the engines running dropped to quieter than the noise level with the plane shut down without the headset on!

While that was impressive, I really gained an appreciation for just how well the ANR works when the batteries finally died in flight. The noise level shot up so much so quickly that I was startled for a second or two as the sudden noise of rushing air (the noise the headset had been canceling) made me initially think we had lost pressurization.

My eyes shot to the pressurization display and it was holding at 0 FPM (meaning no change in cabin pressure), so I pulled one of the sides of my headset off my ear. There was no change, which meant the batteries had finally worn out. (I knew it was going to happen sometime soon because the battery indicator on the headset control had been blinking red instead of the normal green, which is a warning that the battery is low.) I intentionally was letting the battery run all the way out to see how long it would last, and I got about 25% more life out of it than I did with the old Bose X: 4 weeks instead of 3.

Before, at the end of every flight, as soon as the shutdown checklist was over I used to rip the Bose X headset off right away. I've noticed that there have been a couple of times that I've forgotten to take the PRO-X off until it was time to leave the plane because they are so much more comfortable that they're not constantly reminding me that they're sitting on my head. I also don't tend to try to readjust it one or more times a flight like I did with the Bose X. Once it's on my head, it doesn't slide forward or backward or need readjusted.

Some of that has to do with how much lighter the PRO-X is and how its design does a better job distributing the clamping force that keeps the headset over the ears. Much of that, however, has to do with how much more comfortable the ear cushions are. Since the PRO-X cushions are much smaller and only cover the ear opening instead of the entire ear, my ears are much cooler than they used to be.

Another factor in that is how much more comfortable the material used for the cushions is. The Bose used a cheap-feeling, thin layer of soft material over a large spongy material. In the summer, this outer layer would absorb sweat, get soggy, and start flaking off in a couple of months. Once enough of that material flaked off, the sweat would then wick into the thin fabric material behind it and eventually into the spongy material underneath. After a while, this would start to cause the cushions to smell like unwashed gym socks. (Yes, it is as unpleasant as it sounds.) Trying to get rid of that smell with Lysol wouldn't do much but make the headset smell like Lysol + gym socks, and it would cause what was left of the cushion to dry out and peel apart even faster. Alcohol wipes had the same result.

And if that wasn't enough, if the Bose headset didn't fit exactly perfectly on the head, meaning absolutely no angular displacement, once the cushions got soggy they would start to warp at an angle and at the same time start to gradually lose their sponginess.

Although it's only been a month, the ear cushions for the PRO-X still look brand new and have no evidence whatsoever of wear or loss of support. The leatherette material also feels less cheap and more like real leather.

One of the knocks I've heard about the PRO-X from those who considered it was that it feels and/or looks like it's not very rugged. I've compared it with the Bose X by tapping on it, and the plastic parts actually feel more solid on the DC than the Bose. I think one reason it may look a little flimsier is the matte finish DC uses on the magnesium parts makes the metal look dull like plastic. And the way the PRO-X folds up (which the Bose didn't) makes it sit in my case in a way that makes it less likely to be damaged.

Nothing is perfect, though. However, the only thing I've found so far that I don't like about the PRO-X is one that is easily remedied: the light that flashes to tell you it is on is obnoxiously bright. At night in a dark cockpit, the power light reflecting in the side windscreen is annoying. I solved that by simply placing a piece of electrical tape that covers half of the light.

After I did that, I found out that the DC has a feature that the Bose didn't: you can actually turn the power LED off without turning off the headset! By holding the Power + Bluetooth buttons down, you can turn off the blinking altogether! And as another nice touch, if the battery gets low, the power light will start blinking red to let you know even if you turned it off.


See you next Wednesday!


Like Larry the Flying Guy on Facebook:





The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

It takes hours of work to bring each Keyboard & Rudder post to you. If you've found it useful, please consider making an easy one-time or recurring donation via PayPal in any amount you choose.