A few weeks ago I passed my written pilot exam which means that it is time to prepare for my final check ride. The final check ride is held by an FAA designated examiner where a student pilot is tested for knowledge and skills in executing a number of key maneuvers in the air. As part of the preparation, the head of my flight school conducts a mock check ride to test a student pilot before the real thing.
This past Saturday I went for my mock check ride. For 90 minutes in the air I was grilled over every possible detail. Every maneuver was broken down into micro steps that required the most extreme level of precision and proficiency to execute properly. He pointed out every tiny mistake and gave zero positive feedback. And then, I took two pages of notes as part of our hour long debrief reliving every area that needed more work. I left that day with feelings of defeat.
On Sunday afternoon I reviewed all of my notes and went back to practice with my normal instructor. Although the previous day was a painful experience, it led to my best day of flying yet. After being grilled on every possible aspect of flying, my skills were sharper, my attention to detail was greater and I was simply a better pilot. My takeaways from that experience are as follows:
1) There is no better way to grow than with a healthy challenge. A healthy challenge comes from a person that is willing to give you the real truth because they actually care about your well being and growth.
2) The head of the flight school could have easily overlooked certain things or thrown in a few extra “Atta Boy’s”, but that would not have made me a better pilot. It would have given me the false sense that my skills didn’t need to be sharpened. Giving someone undeserved praise is a great example of misguided altruism.
3) It is the job of a mentor to challenge their students. Without a challenge, nothing is learned and nothing is gained. I have learned to appreciate and seek out the hard truth with mentors.
I am thankful to have mentors that care enough about my growth and development that they are willing to challenge me. Although the hard truth doesn’t feel good in the moment, it certainly promotes growth better than an undeserved “Pat on the Back.”