Boeing 757-300, United  making sheets of condensation in dawn light, adjusted

My Dad refers to participating in air travel as being in the vortex. He has rules for the vortex. He refers to the vortex in conversation. He sends text messages with vortex status updates.

I’ve always taken for granted that other people know about the vortex and its three simple rules, but as I observed on my flight to Portland a few weeks ago, most other air travelers simply do not get it.

What is the vortex?

The vortex refers to the time and space in which air travel takes place. Practically, you enter the vortex as soon as you cross through airport security to the terminal, and leave it when you arrive at your destination.

And now, the rules of the vortex:

1. Time does not exist in the vortex.

Practically, this means that once you enter the vortex, any concept of time that you may have can be disregarded. Flights can change, get rerouted, rescheduled, delayed, and cancelled.  Your arrival time shifts from 12:30 to 4:30.  Don't allow delays to bother you, because time does not exist in the vortex.

2. The vortex is omnipotent.

No amount of complaining, calling, yelling at friendly gate agents, or nail biting will alter your path through the vortex. Once you enter the vortex, you are powerless to change anything.

And now, the most important rule:

3. You must yield to the vortex.

Since the vortex is omnipotent (see: rule 2), you must accept where it takes you. Therefore, there’s no reason to get stressed out, or be mean to others. This especially means that you cannot act like an entitled brat when Delta’s plane has an electrical malfunction and you are re-routed to another city that’s completely out of your way.  The vortex has you, and you must yield to the vortex.

I think my father’s world view (and mine as well) are much less fatalistic than this. However, when it comes to air travel, keeping the rules of the vortex in mind can really help you relax. You can’t do anything to change it and therefore, why get all worked up?

What if we were to apply this view to learning and dealing with technology? Does it hold up? What lessons does the vortex have to offer?

I’ve gone ahead and tweaked the vortex rules so that they can apply as a technology world view. Here goes:

1. Time does not exist on the internet

From a productivity standpoint, this rule holds true. Really, really true.  Once you get sucked into purposeless web browsing, time will start to flow without your knowledge.  Facebook leads to Pinterest leads to Amazon leads to eBay leads to Etsy leads to a Google search leads to a whole new rabbit hole. My brother calls this “the facebook loop”.

Practically, if you’re trying to get shit done, you need to be surgical about it. I recommend only focusing on one task at a time, otherwise known as the Pomodoro technique. Also, you should keep track of all the things you need to do away from your computer screen, so you have something else to look at.  I’m a big fan of a method called Kanban.

Whatever you choose, choose to be mindful, so that you don’t get trapped in a time-free internet browsing experience.

Addicted to the Internet

2. Technology is not omnipotent.

Have you ever heard the saying garbage in, garbage out? In the context of technology, I think of this as a way of saying that pilot error is usually the cause of your problems.

The computer does not know what you’re trying to get it to do. So when it does not do what you want it to do, getting angry at it does you no good. Rather, learn to ask the right questions and you will receive the help you need.

3. You must yield to …. nothing.

Rather unlike the vortex, I believe that there is no technology problem that cannot be solved. Be it another piece of software, the proper training, or the right person to help you, there is always something else to try when the first thing doesn’t work.

Challenge your assumptions

Building frameworks for understanding the things around us is a natural instinct. However, the frameworks that we build through observation and experience are not always the most ideal or efficient means of experience.

In the comments- I’d love to hear about a framework that you find particularly helpful (for air travel, technology, or otherwise).

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