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Beating the Odds

How to Save 155 Lives

Today marks five years since “The Miracle on the Hudson,” in which Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger landed a disabled US Airways airliner in the Hudson River, saving 155 lives.

Sullenberger is now retired, but memory of his feat can inspire not only pilots but people anywhere who want to get good at what they do.

Asked about the landing, Sully pointed to preparation: his own, his crew’s and the entire aviation industry’s. He had done so much work BEFORE the crisis that he was ready FOR the crisis.

“One way of looking at this might be,” Sullenberger said, “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.”

An October 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal explains the factors that molded Sullenberg. Among them were the suicide of his father, a high-profile crime, and admiration for Charles Lindbergh.

All three factors pointed Sully to making sure he did everything as well as it could be done. He engaged in deliberate practice, a tough discipline that involves a conscious effort to improve. When a bird strike killed his engines on a takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Sullenberg was ready.

Your moment is coming. It likely won’t be as dramatic as Sully’s was, but maybe you’ll have to come off the bench in a big game, or give First Aid, or attempt a game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl. Mine came when an earthquake struck while was covering the 1989 World Series. (I had to suddenly switch from sports writer to news reporter, and wish I could have done a better job.) When your moment comes, will you be able to say that you have practiced as well as you could?


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