I was recently at the home of my mentor Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, along with a group of beloved physicians committed to finding meaning in medicine, and we were talking about living with your mistakes.
As part of the discussion, Rachel told a story about the Concorde, the now retired turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airline that used to jet across the Atlantic at lightning speed.
The Perfectly Imperfect Concorde
Apparently, the jet goes too fast for human pilots to keep up with it. One wrong move and the Concorde is way off track. So back when it was still flying, the Concorde was flown by two computers that talk to each other. One autopilot would say something like “Hey! We’re off track! Get back on course!” And the other autopilot would say, “Recalculating. Getting back on track.”
Apparently, you could hear them talking to each other. They prattled on during the entire flight, yada yada yada—“Off track!” “Correcting course!”
One guy on a tour of the Concorde asked why they were constantly talking to each other. Was the Concorde ever on course?
The tour guide said “Yes, about one percent of the time. The other ninety-nine percent of the time the jet veers off course, requiring constant autocorrection.”
When asked what time the plane would arrive in New York by the concerned man, the tour guide said, “At 10 p.m., plus or minus three minutes.”
You Can Be Off Course & Still Reach Your Destination
In other words, it’s not about constantly sticking to the straight and narrow. You veer left. You stray right. You swerve and sway and bump up and down in the air pockets.
Nobody blames the Concorde for getting off course. There’s no shame game or guilt or Gremlins whispering evil-nothings. The Concorde’s computers aren’t screaming at each other, going “You IDIOT! You’re off course! AGAIN!”
No explanation needed. Forgive the fact that you’ve veered off course.
The secret to arriving at your destination is constant auto-correction in the face of the inevitable mistakes we all make. The error is not so much in getting off course. That part is inevitable. We’re human. Nobody is perfect, not even the Concorde. The error comes in not being conscious, aware, present, and humble, in not looking right and left to see where you are, in not checking in with your Inner Pilot Light to see where you might be off course, in not being brave enough to take action, to mindfully auto-correct.
We All Make Mistakes
You broke the law.
You abused your child.
You cheated on your spouse.
You picked the wrong career.
You agreed to the arranged marriage and turned your back on true love.
You injected that heroin.
Your scalpel slipped.
You drove too fast and hit someone.