Michael on October 16th, 2009
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As I wrote earlier this week, I recently suffered a concussion.  Fortunately, this was my first head injury.  I now hope it is my last.  In the grand scheme of things, I was very lucky. There will be no long-term damage and the main impacts were limited to lost sleep, lost money (hospital bills), and a bit of lost pride.

You: Lost pride?

I received a concussion as a result of my head colliding with the head of one of my volleyball teammates.

You: Ouch.  Volleyball’s not supposed to be a contact sport.

Definitely not.  But there has been some upside to the experience.  Notwithstanding the primary side effect of the anti-brain swelling medication keeping me up to all hours of the night, I’ve had plenty of time to think.  In the last few days, I’ve even been able to read.  Obviously, I’ve avoided the super technical stuff.  One of my favorite reads of the past few days was What We Can Learn From Sully’s Journey.  Written by Jeffrey Zaslow, the co-author of Captain Sullenberger’s soon to be released book of his landing of the US Airways plane in the Hudson River last winter, this article really hit home for me.

Numerous times.

If you’ve seen Captain Sullenberger interviewed, you’ve probably been struck by his authentic humility.  He sees himself as anything but a hero, frequently pointing out that he didn’t choose to fly a plane that would lose both of his engines. Rather, he was simply the pilot of the one really unlucky plane that happened to have those facts.  The entire ordeal lasted but a few minutes, compared to an aviation career spanning his entire life, yet it is for those few minutes that he will be forever judged, and in some circles, worshiped.

While I can’t help but be incredibly impressed by Sully’s talents and personality, I have come to agree with his conclusion: he is no hero. Quoting a letter he received after the events of last winter from Paul Kellen of Medford, Mass.:

“I see a hero as electing to enter a dangerous situation for a higher purpose,” he wrote, “and you were not given a choice. That is not to say you are not a man of virtue, but I see your virtue arising from your choices at other times. It’s clear that many choices in your life prepared you for that moment when your engines failed.

“There are people among us who are ethical, responsible and diligent. I hope your story encourages those who toil in obscurity to know that their reward is simple—they will be ready if the test comes. I hope your story encourages others to imitation.”

Well said, Paul.  We can all be an inspiration, even if we will never know if anyone is even watching.  Long time readers of my blog may recall I was moved by the events of Flight 1549 immediately.  I hope you’ll take a minute to read my previous post: Lessons from Flight 1549 (Note: these are personal finance lessons from the days events, based on the crews and the passengers actions.)

Thank you for your patience during my recovery. Next week, I’m off to Vegas for a speaking engagement.  The irony of visiting the least mainstream place on the planet is not lost on me.

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One Comment to “Learning From The Same Accident”

  1. Agreed. Based on the description, he was definitely no “hero” in the sense of those words, because he just did what he thought should have been done.

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