You’ve gotta land the plane

US Airways Flight 1549 afloat in the Hudson River

I saw the trailer for the new Tom Hanks flick, Sully, last night during Olympic coverage. It’s the tale of US Airways Flight 1549 and its captain, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger. You know: The guy who landed the plane in the middle of the Hudson River?

How did the guy do it? That’s an amazing feat. Notoriously calm and cool, Sully once told Katie Couric:

One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.

In my first job out of seminary, I had an amazing boss. He believed in me, nurtured me, and invested in me. He saw things in me that I didn’t, at the time, see in myself. During a meeting one time he told me something I’ve never forgotten. “There are a lot of people who can fly the plane, Landon. They get up in the air and they circle around and around, and it’s amazing. But it’s not enough just to fly the plane. You’ve gotta be one of those people who can land it.”

Don’t get me wrong: I quit a surprising amount of things. I think winners actually quit a lot. There is no shame in being able to know that something may have looked good at the time, but it’s not worth the sunk cost now. But more often than not, continuing on doing the thing will have benefits you don’t see today because you’re making those small deposits into the bank of experience.

So in those moments when you’re at an important deadline, or trying to make good on a promise, or doing something no one else understands is valuable: You’ve gotta land the plane. No amount of circling is going to make you a hero.

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If you’re notoriously calm and cool like Sully, you might like my book.

One thought on “You’ve gotta land the plane

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