A Leadership Lesson To Create Opportunity Out Of Uncertainty

Last week, I spoke for the American Red Cross at their headquarters in Washington, DC. If you have followed my talks, interviews, blogs, website, or social media, you know that I have a strong affinity for what the Red Cross stands for and its mission: to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

I was with over 150 Red Cross development officers and spoke about creating their own flight plan by creating opportunity out of uncertainty. The Red Cross lives in “uncertainty,” and my talk was well received.

After I was done speaking, I interacted with many of their associates, and one person asked me what were the key things I did to create my flight plan, leaving a corporate career and finding that opportunity.

I had to take a moment to think about how to decipher it down to the action steps I took. There were many things that I did but I boiled it down and shared with her this.

I have noticed that those struggling and not making the progress they desire to settle for what they have. They get comfortable. I wrote about this in my last blog. The first action you need to take to create your own flight plan is to be determined not to settle. When you settle, you are not alive. It starts by directing your energy to your mission. When you settle, you don’t have the energy focused on your flight plan.

So first step, you can’t settle and be alive; when you are not alive ( or have energy), you don’t focus on creating your flight plan.

Next I shared four things I learned and started to put into action shortly after the Miracle on the Hudson.

FYI, when I was developing my TEDx talk, “Bouncing Back, PTGS ( Post Traumatic Growth Syndrome), I was going to share these four learnings but needed more time to include them.

  1. As Jackson Kiddard says, “Anything annoying you will teach you patience.” There were many times when I would get quickly annoyed. When I got annoyed, my focus went there instead of serving my mission. When my regional manager asked me to go to Michigan the day after the Miracle on the Hudson, I was annoyed. I stayed annoyed for a couple of days. But I realized the longer I stayed annoyed, I was not focused on serving my client, my family, my company, my mission, or my Creator. I learned the art of patience by asking a different question which is one way to change your mindset.
  2. Anger is the part of yourself that loves you the most; you must learn how to forgive others and forgive yourself. I wrote in my book, ” From Turmoil to Triumph,” about a Regional VP who forced me out of my job at ADP. For many years, I held anger towards him. But when I learned that when I give anger up to forgiveness, the heaviness of that left me. I realized he was living in my head for many years and I was focused on revenge. But when I told myself, if he didn’t let me go, everything I have had the opportunity to learn and do since would not have happened. I would not have experienced the Miracle on the Hudson, met the Red Cross or have the opportunity to fulfill my mission. I moved from anger to forgiveness which allowed me to grow.
  3. Time means nothing; Character means everything. Once you go through a traumatic life event, you realize that you have focused your time was on things that were not that important in the long run. That was a significant realization, as I said in an interview with Jeff Pegues on CBS. “I was focused on making money.” I realized that I needed to focus my time on what was most important, which changed everything in my life. Being around people with character helped me create opportunity out of the uncertainty of a plane crash by showing me by being my authentic self will help how to go about fulfilling my mission.
  4. Accept people as they are, but place them where they belong. I have spoken about the most significant learning from the Miracle on the Hudson: to drop being so judgemental and learn the backstories of the people I met to understand where they came from. But it was when I realized that some people had their own agendas I knew I had to set up boundaries, and I put together my top 40, my farm club of 100, and my acquaintance’s segments, and that is when I started to make significant progress toward my mission.

After I shared this and after we got to Reagan DCA Airport, I told her that, like her, I was on a mission and I was not planning on slowing down. A part of creating your own flight plan is waking up.

I told her what CEOs and leaders ask me to do is help their people ” wake up.” I help people Wake UP!

If you want to create your own flight plan, wake up and don’t settle. Then, learn patience and forgiveness, hang with people with character, and accept people but place them where they belong, and you will be on your way to creating opportunity out of uncertainty!