About 15 years ago, I challenged myself and my leadership team to get out of our comfort zone. I sensed that we were too risk averse, and we needed to be more comfortable trying new things. I decided to go to the extreme, and along with my wife, jump out of a perfectly good airplane at 15,000 feet. Let me correct the statement about perfectly good airplane. When we got on it, I was glad I had a parachute!
This was totally out of character for me, and to actually prove to others that I did this miraculous feat, I paid for another sky diving instructor to go with us and film the whole thing. While I was waiting to do my jump, which took about 6 hours, I found out that the person packing the parachutes for the instructor and me was his girlfriend.
Several thoughts immediately went through my mind. I began wondering how their relationship had been lately. Fortunately, after several minutes of dialogue with her, I felt I could check that box as being okay. In the end, the jump went fine. It was a great experience, and it literally did change my risk profile going forward.
Now let’s talk about a more serious illustration about parachutes. I read an article recently about Charles Plumb, who was a Navy Jet pilot during the Vietnam War. Plumb was shot down and spent six months in a Vietnamese prison camp. None of us can truly imagine or relate to that type of experience.
After surviving that ordeal, he began conducting lectures on what he learned through his experience. One day he was in a restaurant when a man came up to him and asked if he was Charles Plumb. Plumb said yes, and to his surprise, the man energetically said, “I packed your parachute.” Plumb was obviously taken back by this revelation, and the man pumped his hand in the air and said, “I guess it worked.”
Plumb couldn’t get this man out of his mind, wondering if he had seen him before or passed him in a crowd, not knowing the critical role this man played in his life. What if I had never met him? he thought. What if I had not been able to share my appreciation for his thankless task or express what it meant to me?
The question this month is this: How many people in your life have been involved in “packing your parachute?” Who are those people that have helped develop you, encourage you, support you, and have been there for you when you needed them? I hope you’ll give that question some thought this month and begin the process of reaching out to these people and thank them. And oh yeah, let them know- “It worked.”