Playing my own game

A recurring pattern of the people who I have reached out to me lately is they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They see the opportunity they have and understand that there are strategies that can help them compress the years it usually takes to get their goals into days but they have not taken action. I share the lessons I learned from having mentors in my life and how that has compressed the time what I have been able to accomplish. But something seems to be standing in their way. And it’s something that I struggled with as I was growing up throughout my business career.

When I first went into sales in 1987, I started producing quickly. My mentor Bill recommended I start investing in myself as the sales training I was receiving was more product training. During that first sales position, I had a manager who really didn’t buy into what Bill was telling me. He was focused more on the tried and true method of how to sell copiers door to door. He discouraged me from taking my time to read self-improvement books and listen to cassette tapes. He told me I would not be a high-producing copier salesperson if I didn’t do it his way. About a year after I started that position, I resigned after a heated discussion. I shared what happened with Bill over a clam dinner at Howard Johnsons. He gave me a tremendous lesson that evening.

He told me that the person who said it cannot be done is usually the one standing in your way. Many times in my life I’ve had people tell me I couldn’t do something or why even try. My mother always told me that I needed to play my own game. No one could ever tell you couldn’t accomplish something unless you tell yourself that. Bill reinforced that.

Last year, when I was approached about going back into the Hudson River to swim with the Navy Seals, I had many people tell me that in a few different ways. You are too old to do that. Why do you want to go back into a place that almost took your life? You haven’t swum for over 40 years, why would you think you could do it? Those people I believe had my best interest at heart but also were the ones that have never done something that forced them to expand and grow outside their comfort zone.

One of the things I struggled with for many years was allowing people to try and keep me from taking that next step. I would have some success and then a manager would do something to either keep me from making the income I could or force me into a decision to make a move to another company. In my new book “From Turmoil to Triumph,” I share a couple of these stories and the lessons I learned on how to overcome these challenges. It started with having a mentor who would share his similar experience and the lessons he learned. This is the power of having a mentor who has walked their talk. But if you whittle it down to the real lesson, it is the real achievers are the ones who don’t live in the gap between what they have accomplished vs their ideal situation, they live in what they have accomplished or their gain.

I initially learned this 30 years ago but it didn’t come to life for me until my current mentor, Don, shared it with me. He learned it from having a mentor from Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan.

One of the reasons the most successful people are successful is they always have someone they can go to level set them. They play a different game. They live in what they have accomplished instead of their perfect ideal. It’s nearly impossible to perform perfectly but you can always strive to perform skillfully. And those are the lessons that I have learned and now sharing with the people who I mentor and coach. You need to play your game. Be happy with what you have accomplished which gives you the energy to keep striving for that next mission. You need to create your own flight plan!

The reason so many people I speak with are currently stuck between a rock and a hard place is that they see what they think is the “perfect ideal” and think that is the only way they can be happy. They see someone or something they want but have people in their way reinforcing their limiting beliefs.

One of the most impactful things I learned from my time with Tony was the Six Human Needs. The need for significance or importance is so high on so many people’s radar they live in the gap, the ideal they want but only a few people have attained. If you are living in the gap, you most likely live in consistent frustration, not happiness.

Invest the time and resources to find a mentor or coach who has walked their talk, and who will take the time to share their wisdom with you. Take massive action on the lessons they share with you as when you go off course, they know the line you need to be on to get back on course. I still do and always will invest in mentors and coaches and more importantly, my mentors and coaches also invest in their own mentors and coaches and that is the secret sauce.

After I swam the Hudson River last year, I was humbled to do some interviews about my experience and why I did it when I didn’t have to. It came down to this.

In life, you need to play your own game and always leave on your terms, no one else. You create your own flight plan for your future. If you do that, you will have happiness because your Creator lives in the gain, not the gap.

Please check out my new website at for additional resources on how you can use your personal leadership skills to create your own flight plan and turn whatever turmoil you may be going through into your TRIUMPH!

If you would like a personalized signed copy of my new book “From Turmoil to Triumph, ” go to A portion of every signed copy will go to charity to help those who have fallen on hard times, get back on their feet and start to create their own flight plan.

 Treat the TURMOIL of 2021 as your year of preparation and 2022 as your year to TRIUMPH!


 Dave Sanderson is the President of his firm, Dave Sanderson Speaks International, based
out of Charlotte, NC. On January 15, 2009, Dave was one of the last passengers off the plane that crashed into the Hudson River, best known as The Miracle on the Hudson is considered the most successful ditching in aviation history. He has built a career as a motivational speaker, mentor, and author.  Dave was recently named one of the top 100 Leadership Speakers in

Dave averages over 80 speeches a year for major corporations.