Nav Canada Training
“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda
So many times in life, we are presented with opportunities to improve our lives, whether it be through a job or in a business. So we decide to give it a try. I have been doing this over the last few months at Nav Canada. I was offered a job there at the Flight Information Centre, having left the company 6 years ago. It is such an excellent opportunity! I’ve been training to give pilot weather briefings (customized weather forecasts just for pilots) since the end of January — that’s why I haven’t been blogging at all! It’s been taking up all my time!
They’ve been teaching us a ton of weather theory, all about high and low pressure systems, what causes them to form, develop and dissipate. We’ve learned everything there is to know about warm and cold fronts, how to see when they begin and pick them out on upper air charts. Precipitation, cloud types, tornadoes and hurricanes. Freezing rain, vorticity, and a whole chapter on fog. It’s ridiculous how much I know about the jet stream now! And I can interpret satellite imagery, radar signals, and read a GFA like a boss.
As you might have guessed, I did pretty well at the theory and classwork. We wrote 7 tests and I think my lowest mark was 89%. In the process, I have completely drained the ink out of 2 pens (I’m working on the 3rd), filled two 3″ binders with hand-written notes, and have an impressive stack of cue cards with key points on them.
The practical part has been much more of a challenge. We have a lab with all the computers and graphic feeds that we need to give these customized weather forecasts. We go back and forth between 3 different screens to look at all the satellite views, actual weather reports and aviation forecasts. It’s a challenge to correlate all the info and the theory and then know how much to actually SAY to the pilot. What does he/she need to know? How much is too much info? How do I describe what I’m seeing over the phone so that it makes sense? It was very difficult to put the info into a logical order and string it together so that is sounds good.
And I’m a talker! I don’t usually have any sort of trouble communicating! One day, it all clicked and I was able to describe things well and get it all out. Then my instructors all started saying I need to say less. “Too much detail. You’ll confuse the pilot.” So, I’d say less. Sometimes, there were great pauses, as I tried to conjure the best, most concise way to say what I needed to say. Then, during a pause, they’d prompt me, “talk about the radar.” “Jesus H Christ, that’s what I’m about to do!” I would think, but I never said it. All of us trainees were awkward and making lots of mistakes, and our instructors would interrupt us. They were trying to help, or stop us from making mistakes, but it was so frustrating. Many times, I felt like saying, “just let me do it. Let me make the mistakes, notice them and fix them. Yes, typos will happen. Just never mind them!” But I didn’t say anything, and soon I started having nightmares about not being heard, yelling and no one listening. It was bad. I found out that my fellow students were having similar experiences, and one of them kinda blew up one day; after that, there was less interrupting.
After one lab run with the worst interrupting instructor, I finally had the clarity to tell him this: “When you interrupt or try to help, I feel like you don’t think I can do it. And that makes it really hard to actually do it.” I think he understood that, and that was the core of the problem. I was frustrated because I felt like he was just sitting there, feeling I was hopeless, wishing he was home (or anywhere else!) because I was so bad. But after I said that, he stopped almost all his interrupting and he was more encouraging.
So now we are in evals (evaluations). The mid-term eval was one 8-hour day, and in the 2 lab runs leading up to it, I was very stressed. All I could do was joke that I was getting all my nerves out ahead of time so that I’d do better on the eval. I have only been that nervous a few times in my life, and it was so hard on me. I decided that mistakes be damned, I just HAD to lighten up about it or it was going to kill me. I just can’t live with that level of stress for days on end.
And I passed! So the course continued and we learned more in-depth theory, like why the worst turbulence is on the left side of the jet stream. And it was all good! But now it’s time for the final eval.
It is three days long! Three 8-hour days of giving weather briefings, taking flight plans, processing NOTAMS, and generally having every word I say written down and scrutinized. I’ve done 2 of those days and have 1 more to go and I am just bursting to write about my experience.
On Monday, we had a practice run. As before, I was pretty nervous and didn’t do very well. Tuesday went quite a bit better, and I was feeling pretty confident on Wednesday, day 1 of the eval. As it went along, I was able to keep my nerves in check, and tried my absolute best to do my job diligently, carefully and not make mistakes. Tried very hard. As I went, once in a while I would realize I had made a small mistake, and I think I even knew I had made one bigger one, but at the end I was feeling pretty good. My instructor came over and gave me a quick overview of how I’d done — and I couldn’t believe how many mistakes I had made. All kinds of dumb ones! That I hadn’t even realized I had made! Lots. Too many. Way too many. I still passed overall, but barely.
Well, shit. All that careful work. I thought I had done so well! I was really rattled. It took me a while to process that on Wednesday night so that I could eventually get to sleep.
Yesterday came and I told myself, “it’s a new day! I won’t make those mistakes again.” I went in early, as I always do, and reviewed all the charts and weather info. I got it pretty solidly in my head and felt very ready, again! Almost too ready. I was there an hour and a half early, so by the time we started, I was pumped. And so I rushed in on the first one without considering all the info and made a really big mistake on the very first call! And I realized it a few minutes later! Crap. And then the strangest thing happened.
I instantly took on a “f*ck it” attitude. “Screw it. If I’m ridiculously careful, I make mistakes I don’t even know I’m making. If I act more confident, I screw that up too! F*ck f*ck f*ck.”
It was very strange. A part of me was still detached enough to see what was going on and that the f*ck it train of thought was too far on the other side of the pendulum and would prove self-destructive. Somehow, I don’t even really know how, I was able to talk myself down and get back into a more balanced headspace in order to do the job. And I did pretty well at the end of the day. I still made some mistakes, but other than that really big one at the beginning, I did better than on Wednesday.
And today is Friday, day 3. I’ve been struggling with getting in the right headspace for the practical side of the job for weeks. But I think I’ve got it. I’ve had 2 big realizations:
– I have to channel the inner weather briefer in me! I have the training! I know how to do it.
– So just do it. Stop trying and just do it.
That’s it. That’s my deep wisdom. Do or do not. There is no try. Trying just makes for a dualistic mindset/vibe. It introduces the possibility of not being successful. Learn, practice, do. That’s it! (Hey, I could write a book, like Liz Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” and call it “Learn Practice Do.” 🙂
As a side note, I started this blog to report on my training progress with Nav Canada the first time! Some of those old posts are fun reading! 🙂