Enjoy this excerpt from our new book, Healthy Leadership.
Charles Plumb was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, one of the original Top Gun pilots, and a pilot in Vietnam. On May 19, 1967, during his 75th combat mission (five days before the end of his tour), his plane was shot down. He ejected and parachuted into enemy hands, where he spent six years in a Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now speaks to share his lessons learned from that experience.
One day, Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant when a man came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”
“How in the world did you know that?” Plumb asked cautiously and curiously.
“I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”
Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If that chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
That night, thinking about the man, Plumb couldn’t sleep. He thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully folding the silks of each chute, holding someone’s fate in his hands.
Plumb later said, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform—white hat, bib in the back, bell-bottom trousers. I wondered how many times I might have seen him and not even said, “Good morning, how are you?” because, you see, I was a fighter pilot, and he was just a sailor.”
We all have someone who supports our success the way that sailor ensured Plumb’s survival. Focus on each person and their individual contributions, not their titles. Remember, at the end of the day, your success is based more on what your people do than on what you do.
So, who’s packing your parachute, and are you making them feel appreciated?