The Joy in the Suck

Most people who know me or follow me know that last year, I swam with my wingman, Suzanne, in the Hudson River Seal Swim, and Run. I hadn’t swum for over 40 years but when you have a huge goal that moves to your mission, miracles happen. Suzanne and I completed the swim and run and we raised a lot of money for those veterans that have fallen on hard times.

About a week after the swim, I went back to the pool and my MSA fellow members. At that point, my goal was to REALLY learn how to swim and learn all the strokes. As I eased back into the pool, I was still in “Seal Swim Training Mode.” I did the drills and worked on building my endurance. But as I did that, my form improved a little and I struggled to learn the breaststroke and butterfly. I kept at it but it didn’t come easily.

In April 2022, I met with Bill Brown, the leader of the Hudson River Seal Swim, and committed to going back into the Hudson River again, this time with a year under my belt. I had a new swim buddy and now I was off on a new mission. I left the drills at the pool and focused on endurance and beating my time of the previous year. A new mission.

If you followed my journey, this year’s swim was tougher with rougher water but I beat Suzanne and my time from the previous year by ten minutes. I was exhausted but hit my goal and raised money for a worthy cause.

As I had done in the previous year, I went back to the pool and MSA about a week after the Seal Swim with the goal to resume my learning and improve my catch, kick and breathing while learning the new strokes. But this time it was more difficult. I was regressing. I had the endurance but my form suffered and I still struggled swimming without fins. I felt lost and got demoralized when I got to the pool. I shut down and focused on why I wasn’t improving.

Last week, I was on the road at our first event that I co-hosted with Darrell Amy and Larry Levine. The energy was electric and the participants were well served. I had the opportunity to meet my friend, Holly Dowling, for the first time face to face and interacted with everyone in the room. But there was someone in the room that became an instant connection.

When I met Cheryl, we talked at the event, and then she, her former teammate, and I went to dinner. At dinner, I learned about what was driving Cheryl. She had given up her secure sales position to become an entrepreneur and innovator of a new technology that would serve the healthcare industry. Since I focus on the healthcare industry, I was intrigued and had many questions. Cheryl was struggling to get noticed and get the message out but her attitude was positive and persistent. She had many reasons to get down and demoralized but she had joy in the suck.

As I flew back to Charlotte, I thought about her and how she invested a day of her life to be with us. If nothing else, she was around positive energy that gave her the energy to keep going. I committed to keeping in touch with her as not only did she have a unique technology that could improve how healthcare organizations improve patient care but I was reminded of the time when Bill and I met and he saw something special in me. I saw something special in her.

When I went back to the pool this week, I was still struggling with re-learning how to swim without fins and the other strokes. On one of the laps, I thought of Cheryl and how she had joy in the suck of the pursuit. It was time for me to move from having a “wishbone” to having a “backbone” and have joy in the pursuit. Coach Patty and I spoke after that lap and she also reminded me that it’s a process and I can excel on stage but when you go into a foreign environment, you will suck. It took me thirteen years with Bill and another thirteen with Tony, I’m not going to be Michael Phelps in 18 months. I have to have joy in the suck.

If you are struggling, a part of turning turmoil into triumph is to find joy in the process. Most of us don’t want to go through the pain to get to the promised land. But anyone who has been successful has had to go through turmoil. The question is:

As you go through your turmoil, can you find joy in it?

One way I learned to find joy in the process is to reframe the meaning of the suck. As Tony taught me and teaches, the meaning you attach to something produces the emotion of your life and emotion is your life. The suck is the suck but if you reframe the meaning of the suck, you will find joy, which will ultimately turn into TRIUMPH!

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 are fighting their personal battle with cancer so they create their own flight plan.


 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.