My altimeter read 2,100 feet. The airport that I was on short final for sat 873 feet above sea level. Not only what I was attempting to do stupid and dangerous but also illegal. I should have been at an altitude of about 1,200 feet and as a student pilot, early in my training, I hadn’t even learned to slip the plane in by stepping on the rudder pedal and using the broad side of the fuselage as a flap. I had actually never extended my flaps past 10 degrees, which I now fault my instructor for, but he wasn’t there to help me right then. I knew enough to fully extend the flaps, but I wasn’t prepared for the plane to balloon up (oh yeah, I think I had read something about that). I was actually gaining altitude! No, that was wrong, I should have been going lower. My throttle was already pulled out, I had as little power as possible. There was only one thing to do. Full-power, raise the flaps and go around…
Guess what I didn’t do. I did not go around. I really wanted to land. There were other planes in the pattern, and they were expecting me to land. I had to land.
The plane began to steeply descend. It was like I had flown onto an elevator and I was riding it down. I was going too fast though and there was no slowing down. I was going as steep and as slow as possible. I was clearly going to land on the runway, but could I stop the plane once I hit the ground? BOOM, I hit the ground hard. BOOM, I hit the ground hard again. The end of the runway was coming very fast, but there was no way I could throttle up and take off at this point. I had made a commitment to land and now either my brakes were going to stop me or the fence on the far side of the runway. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, I kept bouncing, yet each bounce was a little less violent. I finally slowed the plane enough to taxi out at the end of the runway, I had used 9,002 feet of a 9,002-foot runway to land and stop a Cessna 152, one of the smallest training planes in existence. If the taxiway wasn’t attached to the end of the runway, I would have gone off it.
After I stopped the plane and got out to inspect it, I realized that all was well. It was a horrific experience, but, one, that 22 years later I still think about often.
So What Does That Have to Do with Marketing?
I have dozens of experiences similar to that. While many of them were in airplanes, many more were in life, or at work, or in marriage. If I were alone in this and the only one living on the edge with all these mistakes I’d really wonder why society puts up with me. Since society, for the most part, does put up with me, I figure I owe everyone to learn from my past and be better moving forward.
With a long career in marketing, I’ve made a mistake or two as well. I’ve allowed a microsite to go live for a major CPG brand with the wrong URL. I’ve sent Tweets for a client from another client’s Twitter account. I’ve overspent on Google Ads and underspent on LinkedIn campaigns. Mistakes happen. The marketing world moves on, just like the plane behind me that day landed and taxied off the runway as if nothing happened, because to him nothing did happen.
Setting Your Compass
As long as you have your goals in place and trust that your proverbial marketing compass is pointed to the right place, then a mistake doesn’t matter. A mistake is something to learn from and become better from, but not a reason to call a campaign a failure. What makes a campaign a failure is not hitting the KPIs at the end, or quitting prematurely rather than being agile and adjust it on the fly. Even in those cases, as long as you understand why you didn’t and can reutilize your assets, there’s still success in the campaign. Setting your compass and hitting your goal is ultimately all that matters.
Why Did I Write This?
Besides the obvious, that my first post for a company called Copilot Marketing, Content and SEO with an aeronautical themed site should have an aviation angle, I wrote this because I didn’t want to make this about SEO, instead I wanted to explain why Copilot was born and our principles. People tend to dwell on mistakes more than they celebrate success. Mistakes haunt you, but success if fleeting. For years I didn’t look at the outcome of that flight as a step to eventually getting my pilot’s certificate and becoming a safer pilot as a result. I looked at it as a stupid thing to do. Now, as I begin this endeavor, I’m learning to fly again. My mistakes are front of mind, while my successes live on in the past. It’s up to what I’ve learned to get Copilot to the next level. But, my clients will be the better for me almost having crashed a time or two.