The Playbook

Last week, I was en route to speak for an event that brings disabled veterans and first responders together in athletics with the opportunity to compete with their children. I was honored to be invited to be with this special group as I have an affinity for those who have served to protect our freedom and liberty.

As I boarded the plane to Los Angeles, I was excited and was rehearsing my message. One thing that Tony Robbins taught me was don’t take notes onstage and always, speak from the heart. My plan was to rehearse my special message a few times on the plane and then again the next morning. As the plane took off, I did my usual routine, no big deal. I’ve done these hundreds of times before. Just like I did on January 15, 2009, another routine flight.

About an hour into the flight, an elderly man, two rows up from me started to have convulsions. The passengers in the row in front of me jumped up and started to support this man. The purser called out for a medical professional. Three medical officials responded and as the man passed out, one of the medical professionals thought he had a heart attack so she started procedures to comfort him and diagnose the situation and the flight attendants supported him with the emergency resources they keep on the plane ( which is why they do not want anyone to put their luggage in those bins).

The Captain notified the passengers that the plane was being diverted to Atlanta. We were over Nashville, TN, and at first, I wondered why he didn’t go there to get on the ground as soon as possible.

I spoke with other passengers as some were getting a little “excited.” My goal was to support the situation by trying to keep the surrounding passengers from getting too emotional. As I learned from my experience on US Airways 1549, one of the key reasons that a potential tragedy turned into a miracle was the passengers didn’t get too emotional and worked together as a team.

As we approached Atlanta, the Captain did a masterful job of getting the plane down with almost a full tank of fuel. The first responders were ready and on board immediately and took the elderly man off the plane quickly.

I was in first class and the purser came back and thanked the passengers for their support. She came to my row and personally thanked me for helping keep the passengers in the back couple of rows calm. I thanked her and her crew for their professionalism and told her I had been involved in an emergency situation on a plane before. She asked me about my situation and I told her. She was shocked and thanked me again. I told her it was no big deal.

We waited for 90 minutes to make sure the plane was checked out. As we were getting ready to taxi out, the Captain came on the mic and told the passengers that we were heading back to the gate because he and the first officer had ‘timed out’ and could not fly.

Some of the passengers were extremely annoyed. I understood but also understood that the Captain had no choice. He was required to stop and get his rest. As I was exiting the plane, the purser asked me to speak with the Captain. The Captain wanted to speak with me and I wanted to thank him and the first officer. As we spoke, I noted his expertise in landing a plane in an emergency situation with almost a full tank of fuel. He thanked me and told me the reason he went to Atlanta was that was the closet airport with a longer runway to get the plane down, all he did was follow the playbook.

When I got into terminal T in Atlanta Hartsfield airport, the line to speak with the agents was about 150+ people deep. I knew that we were not going anywhere at 1 am in the morning so I went to my playbook and called the 800 number to get my itinerary changed. Unfortunately, the next flight to Los Angeles did not leave until 1 pm ET the next afternoon and I would miss my speaking engagement. I notified the meeting planner and we both agreed, not to incur any more cost or time and that we would make it up next year.

As I spent the night in the Atlanta airport, I started to recreate the events of the hours earlier. As I was thinking, a couple of things jumped out.

First, as the situation developed, all the key players had their playbooks on how they needed to respond. The Captain, the purser and flight attendants, the medical professionals, and even me. My playbook came from my experience on US Airways 1549 and learning that the passengers had a role to play during a traumatic experience, keeping their heads while all things around you are going sideways.

Second, and probably most importantly, in most if not all challenging situations, remember that you are connected to everybody else involved and everything that is happening is connected.

I have learned that some people think they are not a part of the ecosystem at hand and the way I contribute is to hook those people back up into the ecosystem.

Like most people, I have had to navigate many complex and tough situations and have grown. What I learned is that when I speak with people who are in stressful situations and/or suffering, it’s because they have lost connection with who they really are. They become incongruent which causes stress and suffering. My goal is to show people how to grow through these challenging times by not getting disconnected from their values and turning their stress and uncertainty into their DISTINCT ADVANTAGE.

The past few years have made it perfectly clear: there is a bigger need now to navigate stress and uncertainty.

Don’t be uncertain about HOW to grow in times of stress and uncertainty. There is a playbook on how to turn stress and uncertainty into your ultimate TRIUMPH. If I can help you, please let me know and always be creating your own flight plan for your future!

Dave Sanderson is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, philanthropist, and survivor of the Miracle on the Hudson. For more than four decades, he has been a top producer for some of the largest sales teams in the world. More than 250000 people have enjoyed his business and personal leadership events’ warmth, humor, and inspirational message.

He shows how to “turn your stress into your DISTINCT ADVANTAGE. ®”

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, considered to be the most successful ditching in aviation history.

He is an author and contributing author of three internationally bestselling books, including Moments Matter, Brace for Impact, 1 Habit for Success: SmartFem Summit Special Edition, and his latest book, From Turmoil to Triumph.

 After thirty-five years in sales and sales leadership with roles in companies such as ADP, Peoplesoft, KPMG, and Oracle, Dave founded his executive coaching and personal leadership firm Dave Sanderson Speaks International, on January 15, 2014. As a sought-after international speaker, he works with established and emerging leaders and entrepreneurs to help them find their DISTINCT ADVANTAGE, aligning with their passion and purpose by employing their leadership skills and igniting their performance through focused execution, resourcefulness, and gratitude.

In addition to his 35 years in sales and sales leadership, he was the Director of Security for Tony Robbins for over ten years and was recently named one of the top 100 Leadership Speakers in

Dave has spoken at countless fundraisers that have raised over $14.7M for the American Red Cross.

He is passionate about raising money for the GIGO Fund, supporting those veterans who have fallen on hard times by going back into the Hudson River and swimming with the elite Navy Seals.