When it’s Time to Step Up

When my family moved to Virginia in 1973, I arrived after them as my Little League baseball team was trying to qualify to go to the regionals to qualify for the Little League World Series. Unfortunately, we lost in the state semifinals. That night, my coach drove all night to take me to my new home in Winchester, VA.

I started seventh grade the next week, with a new school and no friends. Eighth-grade football tryouts were the next week, and I made the team, starting at center and punter. I found my tribe.

A couple of weeks later, I encountered my first test. No, not a school test but a test of my character. There was a boy, nicknamed Captain John Smith. He was mentally and physically handicapped. He was getting bullied, and no one was standing up for him. One thing I learned early in my life from my parents is you stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves, you step up. I stepped up and took the punch.

Ultimately, I did not get disciplined by Assistant Principal Fisher or my football coach, Funk. That episode not only showed my classmates how I was brought up but also reinforced that there are times in your life when you have to step up, especially when you are out of your comfort zone.

On January 15, 2009, everyone on US Airways 1549 had to step up. First, the Captain and First Officer, then the crew and passengers, and next, the first responders. Few know what happened inside the plane but the movie Sully, depicted it pretty well. The crew member who was supposed to manage the exit door on the right was injured on impact and she had to be evacuated out of the front left entry door so the right side of the plane had to be managed by passengers who had just gone through a plane crash and had zero training.

I went out the right-side exit door at 10F, held the life raft so it didn’t float out into the Hudson River, and was inside the plane waist-deep in 36-degree water for over seven minutes. All the passengers did what they had to do that day to turn a potential tragedy into a miracle, and on the right side of the plane, the passengers came together as a team quickly. Every passenger did what they had to do so the unspoken mission of the day could be achieved, “No one dies today.” We all stepped up at a moment shortly after we survived a plane crash in a most uncomfortable time.

Last week, I had the honor to swim and be with our national heroes in San Diego at The Honor Foundation Special Operations swim. As you may know, I returned to the Hudson River the previous two years to raise money and swim for our Navy Seal heroes. It has been an honor to meet over 300 of our heroes, not counting the hundreds of additional service people I have met since the Miracle on the Hudson. One thing that I have learned and stays with me when I am with these folks is they all have a couple of things in common.

First, they all love the United States and what it stands for. They committed their lives to make sure the next generations have the same or better opportunities we have had since 1776.

Second, they have had to step up when called to duty. Many of these special operations members stepped up shortly after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. They saw a bully trying to destabilize their loved country and had to do something. They took massive action. They stepped up when duty called.

I spoke with many of them who were on raids doing the dirty work no one ever wants to talk about to ensure we could do what we did last weekend.

One of the main reasons I wanted to swim with the Navy Seals and Special Operations is to show how you can step up, do something totally out of your norm, face your fears, and create opportunity out of uncertainty.

I have told people the two biggest regrets I have had in my life were stopping my journey to getting my Eagle badge in Boy Scouts and not enlisting to serve my country after college. Those moments were significant as I did not step up when I should have. But I remember them to this day as when I get faced with a decision that could impact me, my family, my country, or my character, I never vow not to step up again.

My time with Bill, my first mentor, Tony Robbins, on his security team, and my current mentor, Don, have reinforced that those who step up when it is the most uncomfortable will be the leaders and those who will have the most impact. They will give others the certainty that it can be done when others face uncertainty and you step up and take massive action.

Swimming in the Hudson River and Coronado Bay are uncomfortable. The training to swim in the Hudson River and Coronado Bay is extremely uncomfortable. Going through a plane crash is mind-blowing, uncomfortable, and standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, taking the punch for them, is physically uncomfortable.

But stepping up when you are uncomfortable turns tragedies into miracles and a fulfilling life.

A couple of years after the Miracle on the Hudson, I spoke to a young lady who was one of four to survive an avalanche. She was struggling. As I spoke with her, I found out she had survivor guilt. I understood, and though I shared with her, now is the time to step up and honor those who lost their lives. Share her story as she will impact someone who is struggling. Get it out of your body and into the ether.

She stepped up and did that and now is living her life for others. She turned a most uncomfortable moment into a moment that matters.

When you step up you begin the process of creating an opportunity out of uncertainty.

Today, look at a part of your life where you are the most uncomfortable. Financially, emotionally, physically, or in a relationship, take massive action and step up. Do something to start to turn the uncertainty of that situation into an opportunity, and you will begin to

Create opportunity out of uncertainty and creating your own flight plan for your future!