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I feel very fortunate to work for a company like Pearson that truly values lifelong learning. To help promote this, Pearson Australia provides their staff with an extra day of leave to be used as a 'learning day'. The rules are simple; you take a day off as long as you undertake some sort of structured learning. Like many of my colleagues across the business, I was struck with choice paralysis... if I could learn to do anything, what should I do? My head went straight to work related learning that I could undertake.

For me, Pearson's motto of Always Learning is something that I have always connected with, inspiring me to view challenges as opportunities, failures as learning and to push myself out of my comfort zone. So after a bit of research and steadying my nerves, in October I utilised my learning day to undertake a trial instructional flight with Ballarat Aero Club and dragged my partner, Tracy, along to keep me comany.

Flying has always amazed me and something I've never quite understood how it worked, coupled with a fear of heights it seemed like a great opportunity to push myself completely out of my comfort zone....around 5,000 ft to be exact! I had prepared my 'get psyched' mix which of course consisted of:

1. Learn to fly - Foo Fighters

2. Come fly with me - Frank Sinatra

3. Fly away - Lenny Kravitz

4. Fly me to the moon - Frank Sinatra

5. Learning to fly - Tom Petty

Interestingly Spotify then recommended 'Flying without wings'... I promptly skipped this one. Arriving at Ballarat Aero Club, we went through a briefing on what we would do over the next couple of hours before completing a walk-around the plane for pre-flight checks - below is the, much smaller than I imagined, plane the instructor and I would take to the skies with.

We then got strapped in and went through all of the dials in the cockpit, what they measured, the ones that we really had to keep an eye on and the balance ball which would ensure we had a 'smooth' flight. With everything looking good we were off on our way.

I have to admit that I was pretty nervous at this point and didn't quite expect the experience to be as hands-on as it was. With the instructor at my side, correcting and coaching I managed to taxi us to the runway, just about line us up and then get airborne. Tracy, of course had full confidence in my flying ability...

David Watters Flying Plane

After getting a little more used to the sensitivity of the controls and the many different things that you needed to keep any eye on, I was almost relaxed... until the wind picked up. You really feel every bump and gust of wind in such a small plane especially at the relatively low altitude we were; however, given you are in control you feel a lot less helpless than when you are on commercial plane.

As we neared the end of the flight, my instructor asked me to take us back and line us up to land, which I thought was a very funny joke - evidently not. Granted with a lot of help (I really must stress the amount of help that I was given) we touched down "gently" - safe and sound. All in all it was a fantastic, adrenaline filled experience and one that I will remember for a long time to come.

I recently heard the AJ Jacob's use the term 'fun-comfortable' on a recent podcast (the intersection between discomfort and curiosity) and it really made me think about what I took away from this experience. So what did I actually learn on my learning day?

Getting out of your comfort zone is hugely beneficial with the right support - at one point before we started to taxi onto the runway I actually didn't think I could go through with it, I was afraid, doubted my own ability to learn how to do something new and didn't want to embarrass myself. The instructor was vital in getting me through this, her confidence, guidance, instruction and coaching pushed me to achieve something I never thought I could do.

Extremely complicated tasks can become routine with a lot of practice - there was so much to consider, calculate, monitor and review from start to finish, I was genuinely astounded by how easy the instructor made this look. She mentioned at the start that flying a plane is much like driving a car....once you master the basics (after a lot of hours flying) it becomes second nature.

"Whether you think you can or you can't, either way you are right"- This Henry Ford quote sums this up perfectly for me, by taking a risk, backing yourself, acknowledging your areas of improvement and having the right support network you'd be amazed at what you can achieve.

If you're interested in finding out more about any of this, I'd highly recommend:

The Science of breaking out of your comfort zone and why you should

10 ways to overcome fear and break out of your comfort zone

James Altucher podcast - AJ Jacobs – The Intersection Between Discomfort and Curiosity

Ballarat Aero Club

Pearson Australia

When was the last time you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone? Comment on David's original LinkedIn post here.

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Written by David Watters

David Watters is School Services Manager for Pearson Australia.

He has been working with Pearson for over 7 years in roles ranging across project management, strategy development, leadership and management.

David is very passionate about education and enjoys finding sustainable solutions to complex customer and educator problems.