When you Believe that Pressure is a Privilege

Today is the 15th anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson. Every year, it is an emotional day, especially around 15:27 hours or 3:27 pm when US Airways 1549 headed straight into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, as I was sitting in seat 15A.

Over the past two months, I have been privileged to be interviewed on many platforms around the world about that day and what I learned from that life-changing experience. After I was interviewed for a documentary being produced in Germany to be shown on 1/15/24, I was connecting to a flight to Toronto, and I was camping in the Admirals Club. It’s amazing who you meet when you are at an airport waiting in a club.

At the LaGuardia Admirals Club, I sat next to a professional soccer player from Canada. He and I struck up a conversation. I wanted to know the mindset of a professional soccer player, and he wanted to know about my experience of the Miracle on the Hudson.

As we spoke, I wanted to learn the strategies that it takes to become a professional athlete in a sport I have never played. What I learned was some distinctions that I used to not only bounce back from my experience on the Miracle on the Hudson but also create opportunity out of uncertainty.

  1. Having more is not better, but being better is better– One of the things I have seen as I transitioned out of my corporate career is that the people who are growing and thriving are the ones focused on investing in themselves before they invest in the things that supposedly represent “you have made it.” He told me that the athletes he played with often were more consumed with their own significance than growth. That is why the first lesson my mentor taught me in 1984 was to make a personal development goal and budget every year. Being better is better.
  2. Pay attention to take care of yourself first- Recovery and self-care should be at the top of your list. He told me the older he gets, recovery is fundamental; he looks for incremental growth, and focusing on this approach helps him stay active in his sport and be a consistent achiever. That is why on a plane they instruct you to put your mask on first before helping others. After the Miracle on the Hudson, I was not paying attention to taking care of myself. Once I realized that if I didn’t make this a priority, I was not going to be around long enough to fulfill my goal of living to 139. Pay attention to taking care of yourself first.
  3. Daily Disciplines- He shared with me that the grind is consistent. You have to be able to learn how to process the good days and the bad days and you have to learn how to respond to those realities. As I wrote in my blog, “Everybody Needs to go to The Train Station,” one of the ways I processed those bad days and good days was every morning, I take yesterday to the “Train Station,” a place where no one lives or knows about and never comes back from. Some of the people who were on the plane that day with me, unfortunately haven’t gone to the “Train Station,” and set a daily discipline to do that so what happened on 1/15/09 stacks on top of other challenges in their lives. A way to start creating opportunity out of uncertainty is to install daily disciplines so every day you set yourself up to start the day in a winning way.
  4. Own your mindset, don’t rent it- He told me when he started growing through the ranks in soccer to becoming a professional, he learned that he had to motivate himself and not count on anyone else to motivate him. He said the coaches that exposed him to “owning his mind” were the ones who had the most impact on him. He wanted his coaches to hold him back and not have to push him to excel. One of the most important things I learned during my experience with Tony Robbins was that you have to own your mindset or someone else will. One of the ways I bounced back from my experience on 1/15/09 was that I had built a mindset of resciliency and drew on the moments in my life when I had to step up and be resourceful. It’s not about the resources you don’t have but being resourceful with the resources you do have. You need to own your mindset.
  5. Maintain a 39000 foot view- Having a big picture view gives you a wider perspective of your life. He told me many athletes he is around think success is going to happen tomorrow and when it doesn’t they go into depression as most of their life they were told they were the best. In a recent interview, I spoke about one of the biggest learnings I have had and has helped me not only bounce back but create opportunity out of uncertainty is understanding that so many people live in the gap of what they should be instead of looking at the gain of the progress they have made and have gratitude of how lucky they are just to be here right now. They start having a life of fulfillment and happiness. For many years I lived in the gap when I looked at things from a 1000 foot level and I wasn’t good enough or deserved what I achieved. Take a big picture view and divorce the thought of measuring forward and marry the progress you made, you can look at your life at a 39000 foot view and start to create opportunity out of uncertainty.
  6. Individuals win races, Teams win titles- I wrote about this in my blog, “A Chance is Everything You Need.” My new soccer friend told me something similar. He said the most successful teams he has played on hinged on having a “team-first mentality.” One of the reasons January 15, 2009 turned from massive turmoil to triumph was this. Everybody checked their ego at the door. When you are going down in a plane to total uncertainty, it doesn’t matter if you are black, white, straight or gay, a CEO or a janitor, everyone is the same. You become a team and succeed because of togetherness and getting everyone on the same page. I have seen this in the companies I have been associated with. When we understood the mission and navigated towards it together, we succeeded when we remember that it’s not about me; it’s about what we do to be better together. Individuals win the race but teams win the titles.

As we finished up our conversation, we discussed one more perspective that helped him become a professional athlete and how I started to create opportunity out of uncertainty.

Pressure is a privilege.

Standing on a pitch waiting to kick a penalty in overtime is pressure-packed. Just remember a few months ago with the USA Women’s Soccer Team succumbed to the pressure in overtime in the World Cup. Or when your plane loses both engines and all you see is a bridge and water.

My new friend told me that when he changed his mindset to thrive on pressure, he was able to execute in those moments.

I wrote my book “Moments Matter” to share the mindset I learned from all the defining and pressure-packed moments in my life that served me on January 15, 2009. It served the captain and crew likewise. As I build my business, it serves me as I approach those challenging moments, knowing that I have put enough checks in the bank for one big withdrawal when I need to.

Today is a special day. Fifteen years ago, was a day that suddenly went from routine to turmoil. But in a matter of about six minutes, turned into a triumph. And that triumph happened because we had the right crew, the right passengers in the right places with the right team coming at the right moment.

I am honored to be here today and grateful for everyone who contributed to that Miracle.

Today is not just about the crew and the passengers; it’s about the heroes who focused and focus each day on serving others first. Thank you for allowing me to be able to have another day above water.

Remember, a pathway to create opportunity out of uncertainty is to change your perspective about pressure as it is a privilege to be in a position to have it as you will see the best come out of yourself.

Thank you to NY Waterway, firefighters, public safety, EMTs, military, healthcare, and public officials who turned a potentially fatal plane crash into a miracle and showed

Hope abides.