“Growth Mindset;” Continuous Learning!

To be safe as pilots, and stay sharp as CFIs, we must embrace the “growth mindset” of continuous lifetime learning. Good pilots (and CFIs) should never leave the “student mode.” To do so means we have succumbed to complacency or arrogance and become a dangerous “know it all.”  Every pilot can always learn more or expand and sharpen their skills. Pilots who stop learning and lose their curiosity are “frozen;” stale, arrogant, and dangerous. Constant growth keeps a person curious and humble. It is the real fuel for life, which makes waking up and embracing life, motivating and exciting on a daily basis.

“The hand you are dealt is just the starting point for development.” —Carol Dweck

“Growth Mindset” is a term invented by psychologist Carol Dweck at Stanford. It starts with the understanding that no one was born with the innate abilities to fly a plane or perform any other higher-order skill. Though we all have areas we are better at, every complicated skill requires considerable effort to learn and constant maintenance to retain. We all admire excellence in every field and often mistakenly think it is “natural” or “god-given.” A deeper examination always reveals the real effort required to obtain and polish expert performance.  Any proficient performance requires a continuous learning initiative.

Piloting skills are not a fixed skillset that we obtain once and put in a box for safekeeping, they will very quickly get rusty and the pilot becomes dangerous (we have all seen this in action). Hopefully, one benefit of the COVID quarantine was proving the consequences of “rusty skills” to everyone.

The peril of unfocused internet learning should also be apparent to everyone. To be valuable, aviation knowledge must be carefully vetted and incrementally presented in a systematic fashion or there are dangerous gaps. The FAA WINGS program is an excellent repository of the collected wisdom from a diverse collection of educators. Though the clunky FAA web interface will continue to be a challenge, many in the aviation industry have stepped up to optimize this dinosaur and renovated the content. One of the best examples of this is AOPA’s Focused Flight Review. This was the brainchild of a consortium of “alphabets” that worked together to create a more comprehensive review for pilots and a resource center for aviation educators. If an airplane requires an extensive annual every year to remain airworthy, every pilot should also merit much more than the FAA-required (perfunctory) review every two years.

For flight instructors, “stale and frozen” is a serious trap due to the repetitive nature of the daily flight profiles. A lack of challenge and a failure to grow quickly results in a painful pedant instead of an exciting and motivating “flight coach.”. The Master Instructor Program was created to motivate and challenge aviation educators to pursue excellence instead. The 500 “continuing education units” required every two years ensure new skillset, ideas, and challenges, keeping a CFI motivated!

The WINGS Industry Network was created by a consortium of “alphabets” to promote and improve the FAA WINGS system. Since this FAA website seems internally “frozen,” many in the aviation industry have stepped up to improve its functionality expand its popularity. SAFE will present an industry profile and ideas on safety as part of this program this Wednesday at 8PM EST (WINGS Credit) Please join us with your ideas and comments; fly safely out there (and often)!

Join SAFE and get great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

2 thoughts on ““Growth Mindset;” Continuous Learning!”

  1. David:

    When a tree stops growing it is dead. Same thing applies to humans (including CFIs and pilots). The planned 10 Nov 2021 conversation is both timely and very important. Thanks in advance to you, Ron, and SAFE for what I expect will be an interesting evening.

    Mentioned several times in the article is the FAA Wings program. The topic seems well suited for Category 1, Aeronautical Decision Making. Will FAA Wings credit be offered for this webinar?

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