35,000 Feet In the Middle of the Night

Many of you know me as an author and a speaker. Indeed, I have written a book, The Symphony of Your Life: Restoring Harmony When Your World Is Out of Tune. I’ve presented publicly over 100 times, in the form of keynote addresses, and workshops, as well as private life and business coaching in the short two years since my book came out.

But what you may not know is that I’m also an airline pilot. I work for one of the largest airlines in the country, flying Boeing 777s all around the world.

Which leads to the reason I wrote the book in the first place.  It’s a compilation of stories from my life, and the lives of those around me, about fighting through the inevitable challenges fortune throws our way.

“This book is such an inspiration for anyone ready for a new life journey.  Thank you Mark Hardcastle for writing a book that illustrates the power of unique thought and careful planning to ultimately provide true happiness.”  -Brooke Chesnut

Before I launch into the story about the book, I want to let you know you’ll find a special offer at the bottom of this page, so be sure to read all the way to the end.

Need, Legacy, Mission

The early 2000s was the era of bankruptcy in the airline industry, and many pilots saw their wages cut by 50%. How do you manage a 50% pay cut? “Let’s see… I’ll eat on even-numbered days. I’ll use water on odd-numbered days. I’ll use the air conditioner in the winter!” As you can imagine, those pay cuts stimulated some conversations in our cockpits.

Now, there are two kinds of conversations. There are the conversations you have when you’re taking off out of LAX for London in the late afternoon. The sun is bright as it descends toward the Pacific Ocean; the jet is operating well, the weather’s good, the air is smooth. You cross the San Gabriel Mountains at around 25,000’ climbing to 35,000’, and you can see Las Vegas in the distance.

You finish your post-takeoff housekeeping tasks and start to relax into the 10-hour cruise. And before you know it you’re talking about the Dodgers and Rockies. Or the AVs. Or whatever your favorite team is for this time of year. Those light-hearted conversations take you over Denver and Chicago.

But somewhere between Chicago and the east coast the atmosphere in the cockpit changes. It starts to get more personal. You find out that your Captain has two kids. One has special needs, the other has the potential to be an Olympic athlete. Both are expensive endeavors. And you start to wonder how she’s making it with the pay cuts.

”As a success coach for a team of entrepreneurs, I am always looking for new books to share with my team. There is much in the way of personal development and “shelf help” that has been written. When “Symphony” came across my radar, after reading it, I realized that here was something refreshing.”  – Gordon Noice

Have you ever had a conversation that goes beneath the surface with a colleague? Is there someone you work with who really wants to know you on a deeper, more human level – beyond the platitudes? That’s the second kind of conversation.

And as you head out over the North Atlantic at 35,000’, it’s now the middle of the night. The passengers are asleep, the flight attendants relaxing on their jump seats. And you turn to your Captain and ask, “So really. How are you doing? Are you making it? Are you gonna be able to keep your house? Your car? How are you making it? Did you send your stay-at-home husband back to work to pay for that Olympic-level coach?”

Through the airline’s bankruptcy, then eventually into the Great Recession, those second-level conversations fell into two categories: the pilots who were making it, and those who weren’t. The latter category was filled with stories of personal bankruptcies, foreclosures, and divorces.

But the former category, those who were doing ok, contained similarities of a different sort. There were patterns of success among those who were restoring harmony during this period of historic hardship. Those patterns boiled down to simple ideas. Those who were managing were universally kind, they were doggedly determined, and they were looking for ways to help others restore harmony in their lives, too. Simple. Not necessarily easy.

During one of those second-level conversations, the guy I was flying with mentioned that he’d written a book as his attempt at getting independent of the airline and suggested I do the same. His book had taken him to the Hewlett-Packard annual meeting where he’d been paid a tidy sum for a 1-hour keynote and a couple of cases of books. Fair enough. I’m listening!

We continued that conversation over the next several months and thought together about what my new business could look like. During that period I became aware of Victor Frankl’s message that life is not so much a quest for pleasure or power as it is a search for meaning.

This idea became central to what I would build. I was determined to create a successful writing/speaking business that would replicate the lifestyle I had once enjoyed in the airline. But it had to be a meaningful business. I would do well while doing good! And the process of writing began.

“This is a book I did not want to end. Mark shares his experiences and lessons learned in such a way that is truly inspiring. Mark’s writing style is so “up close and personal,” you feel like you are sitting across the table from him with a cup of coffee!” – Pat Drake

By then the airline bankruptcy was a distant memory. Our paychecks were once again reliably clearing, so there was no real sense of urgency to complete the project. That all changed on May 18, 2012 when I was involved in a serious mountain-biking accident in Moab, UT. I went over the handlebars at 20 mph and broke my neck in 5 places.

A watershed event like that brings focus. And urgency. And 18 months later the book was finished.

The book’s message of encouragement is centered on the patterns I observed during the airline bankruptcy: people who were making it, who were successful in restoring harmony when their worlds were out of tune.

“One line (amongst many, many others) eggs me on these days: ‘You can, you just need to know you can’… And I have! And I am!” – Judi Hockenhull

Shortly after the book came out, someone asked what it meant to me and I had a bit of an epiphany. I became aware that the most important thing about having published was my kids now had me and the best of my wisdom forever. It had become a legacy, regardless of whether it was ever a commercial success.

Fortunately, however, it has been a success. The first printing is now completely sold out. We’re just about to launch a second, much larger printing. I’m excited about the possibilities going forward.

This is where the mission comes in. Everyone involved in The Symphony of Your Life is determined to become an ally as you fight your hard battles. Our best client is a business owner or meeting planner who needs speakers and workshop facilitators. We’ll come alongside you personally, your company, or your association, with coaching, keynotes, and interactive workshops designed to keep your people enthusiastically engaged in bringing your vision to life.

I look forward to your call to talk about how we can serve you as you plan your next meeting.

“Mark is AMAZING and CAPTIVATING… I was genuinely and deeply moved by Mark’s story about his daughter. You HAVE to have him at your next meeting.” -James Klingensmith

“Thank you again for presenting… I had a lot of members approach me after your presentation and comment on how much they enjoyed listening…” David H.

Complimentary Consultation Valued at $297

Contact Mark Hardcastle directly at 720.840.8361 or email for a complimentary 45-minute consultation ($297 value) on a topic of your choice, (goal-setting/achievement, business challenges, getting beyond issues slowing your progress, etc).

Must contact me before January 31, 2017 and appointment must take place before March 31, 2017.

Happy New Year and I look forward to working with you.


Mark Hardcastle



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Author: The Symphony of Your Life: Restoring Harmony When Your World Is Out of Tune 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  – Plato

Sabrina Risley

Sabrina Risley

Sabrina Risley is a master connector. She’s been hosting live networking events since 2004 and has welcomed 20,000+ professionals to those events. She shares her observations, insights and tips of how the top 2% of effective and magnetic networkers build their businesses. She also shares what NOT to do when networking. Get her complimentary e-book: Strategic Networking for Success.
Sabrina Risley