Dropping the Pilot


1     Literal Meaning

When a ship approaches and leaves port a pilot is taken aboard to guide the ship safely through coastal waters.

When a ship reaches open water after leaving port the pilot is dropped and the ship sets out on its voyage.


2     Metaphorical Meaning

The phrase dropping the pilot can be applied to any situation where someone knows enough, and has the ability, skills and confidence to manage by themselves, independent of teachers, managers, trainers and mentors.

It is the true goal of all profound and lasting learning, development and education.


3     Psychological Meaning

Most of us have voices in our heads telling us to do things and not to do things. Voices which comment on our actual performance, our imagined performance, on our successes and failures.

Sometimes these are the voices of our parents, loving and critical, sometimes they are the voices of others important to us. As we grow older these voices, unconsciously, become our own voice.

The voices in our head are driven by how things turned out for us in the past and our hopes and fears about how they might turn out in the future.

In this sense dropping the pilot is used to describe the process of silencing and re-programming these voices when they are negatively critical and impede our action, performance, development and ability to try new things in new ways.

4     Therapeutic Meaning

The ability to resign, to let go of obsolete responses, of exhausted relationships and of tasks beyond one's potential is an essential part of the wisdom of living.

In your own life you have a clear, and continuous choice to make: will you choose, day-to-day, to be at Cause in your life, or at Effect? That is, will you initiate and then take responsibility for what ensues, or will you adopt the role of a victim where others, or The World, initiates and you just react. It’s your choice.

Maturity can be defined as the transition from environmental support to self-support i.e. dropping the pilot. The buzz-word for this is empowerment, which no-one can do for you. It cannot be bestowed by diktat or Company Mission Statement. Only I can empower myself.

Resistance to maturity is great because we have been conditioned to manipulate our environments for support rather than use our individual personal power as a source of strength. Dropping the pilot requires courage, strength of purpose, a willingness to engage with the unknown and take risks.


5     Developmental Meaning

Used in a developmental sense, dropping the pilot, means to deliberately jettison the thinking which keeps us doing things in the same way, sticking to the tried and tested route, always using the same channels.

Many of us carry a trusted pilot with us, even when we are nowhere near coastal waters.

It is developmental to take calculated risks, to do things in new ways, to tackle the unknown.

Generally speaking, it is most likely you will need a pilot at the beginning and end of a voyage. If you keep the pilot on board the whole time it becomes less a voyage and more a ferry.


All our work follows the principles implicit in the definitions above