Flight Mode

Me accessing flight mode

At a particular moment during a college basketball game I was playing in (this must have been circa 2004), I detached from the emotional intensity of the competition and looked around to notice what we were all doing. We had just scored a basket, and were situating ourselves on the defensive end. I located the player from the opposing team that I was guarding, keeping him at arm’s length. But with a quick scan of my bench, coach, teammates with me on the court, perhaps even the crowd…I noticed that everyone was locked in, engaged, gripped by the moment. My teammates’ faces were strained, and all of their muscles were flexed. Interestingly, this was a 3 second span in which the other team was taking the ball out of bounds, taking direction from their coach, and slowly bringing the ball up the court. We could rest during this moment…mentally and physically. We could all enter flight mode for 3 seconds…but we didn’t. 

Let me back up. Throughout my life, there have been many of these moments where I’ve felt separate from the herd of people. Many times when I have detached. Believe me, most of these experiences have not been comfortable, and typically stem from anxiety. You see, I’ve come to understand, through a lot of reading, writing, and soul searching…how very introverted I am. Introversion means that it can be very challenging for me to function effectively within loud, intense, or people-filled moments. Ironic, how much I love the sport of basketball, which seemingly would be full of this! I didn’t understand anything about being an introvert until much later in life though. That wasn’t even a word we used back in the day. Honestly, I just felt different, insecure, uncomfortable, or anxious in a lot of those social situations. Even a high school class was a very challenging atmosphere for me. It’s no wonder I barely made it through. 

I’m assuming that this detaching that I came to find comfort in, was a defense mechanism. An actual way to escape my body, and the anxious feelings I was experiencing. To help illustrate this, picture a middle-school cafeteria lunch table, full of 12 students. There is a ton of dynamic conversation going on, kids poking and prodding, trading foods, laughing and pranking, etc. But at some point, I couldn’t keep up. I didn’t know what to say…or how to contribute. And I know this sounds silly, but I’d somehow detach, and somehow step back and up (about 10 feet above my head), taking in a bird’s eye view of the table. To be clear, it’s not that I moved my body at all, just that I must have considered this view, or at least an idea of this view. Who the hell knows exactly how or why I felt this. Again, a lot of this sucked. It wasn’t like I was thinking, ‘ahh, look at all these idiots…and what a view!’  No. I was thinking, ‘boy, I wish I was that charismatic fella that knows how to talk up the girls at the next table over.’

But enough of that whoa is me crap! I have come to learn that there are a ton of benefits of being highly introverted, and of being able to detach. One of which is accessing Flight Mode early and often.  

What I came to understand after that experience on the basketball court, was that I was burning and wasting a ton of energy unnecessarily. And considering the fact that I was slower, weaker, and couldn’t jump as high as many of my competitors, I knew that I better use any competitive advantage that I could! By going into Flight Mode, even for 3 seconds at a time, I could preserve valuable fuel for the instances when I really had to turn on the burners. It then started to feel as if my full out sprints, in the transition phase of the game, were more immediate and faster than before. Obviously this is only anecdotal and unmeasured. 

To generalize this practice of accessing Flight Mode though, I began to read about and notice other people being able to truly ‘shut down’ all unnecessary functions when they had the ability to. High achieving entrepreneurs and tech innovators for instance, that I thought were just grinding every moment of every day…were yes, working harder and smarter than everyone else, achieving flow states and ultimate focus much more frequently than others. However, I continued running into this interesting thread that these folks were also better at shutting down and absolutely accessing Flight Mode more immediately and deeper than the rest of us. 

The best athletes in the world…sure they train harder than me. But they also know how to be incredibly lazy when they are NOT training. By being able to totally detach, mentally and physically, shutting down all systems, and entering Flight Mode, these fittest-of-individuals in the world can seriously maximize their human potential when called upon. They play in extremes. Polarities. They’re either charged and focused as hell, handling the big task, or they’re feet up and kicked back, not a worry in the world.

What do most of us do? The sheeple of the world are constantly in the middle of those poles. Most people are near the equator all of the time. Never all the way on, and never truly checked out. Most of us would never articulate that we’ve actually even experienced a flow-state for instance, which is a state of ultimate focus. And most of us never truly detach, achieving Flight Mode. A good example of this is with our phones. Throughout our evening with the family after work, we have a connection to the outside world (our cell phone), constantly nudging us to stay in the middle, to never shut it down. While my child is telling me a story about the school day, I’m wondering about a comment on an Instagram post? How regrettable. Shut the damn phone off, put it in the cabinet, and totally commit to a surprisingly radical and extreme behavior of being totally present with the family. 

I’m an aspiring writer. But I don’t spend enough of my time doing deep work with deep focus on my writing. And I also don’t access Flight Mode enough of the time on the other side of that. Because of my recent awareness with other successful individuals doing this, I am certainly trying to get there. I’m a little bit down the path. But I see that I have a ways to go. Therefore, I’m doing my damnedest to learn about how to be more effective here.

One area where I feel I’m ahead is with my sleep. I make sure to move a lot throughout my day, tiring me out, and readying me for sleep. I try not to get blue light (from screens, etc.) in my eyes later in the evening. I get the phone shut off before going into the bedroom. I read from an actual book while in bed. And then I close the book, do some deep/slow breathing, and finally, as Thomas Edison taught me,  I make a request to my subconscious. Basically, I acknowledge gratitude for what I was able to do throughout the day, thank my body for the service, then tell myself that it’s now ok to shut down. I also request that within my resting time, I’ll be able to sort out, categorize, or find solutions for particular themes…and most importantly that I’ll be able to rest and recharge, recover, and replenish all that was used during my wakeful hours. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking ourselves to enter Flight Mode.    

Perhaps we can use Flight Mode during an argument, or during chaotic and intense situations. By detaching, and observing ourselves in our environment, from 10 feet back and 10 feet up, we take in a bird’s eye view. From this angle, we can utilize a broader perspective. We can take in more information…more data, which gives us a better foundation to make more informed decisions from. 

By knowing how to completely shut down when the opportunity is available to us, even for the 3 seconds of transition into the defensive end of the court, perhaps we can conserve our valuable energy. We can gain an efficiency that proves to be incredibly useful at the next go-time. By knowing how and when we can turn it off, we may just discover an elite ability to fully turn it on.