Sometimes all of us are so caught up in the never ending treadmill of work that we fail to appreciate the small things that our team mates do for us. This is an inspiring true story about a US Navy pilot shot down in the Vietnam War, who had a life changing experience, which made him much more appreciative of all people who, in ways small or big, contributed to his success…
Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience!
“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.
“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 your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.” Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.
Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?” Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory — he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.
Inspiring story, isn’t it? Yet, in its simplicity hide useful lessons for teams and businesses. How often do we take time out from the hectic rat race, to pause and think about contributions of our team members, who toil endlessly for our success? Just like film credits, which rarely do justice to the endless hours put in by the army of technicians who contribute in no small means to the final movie, we rarely find time to appreciate the things that our team mates do for us. After the recent Ashes test win, England’s leading batsman Kevin Pietersen stated that the current England team is different from the one which took a drubbing in the hands of the Aussies 4 years ago. In his words, “The feeling walking into the dressing room now is a very special feeling. Individual performances add to a team victory, and I think the team victory today is incredible. That’s the best feeling, no matter who takes the wickets or gets the runs.” Clearly not mere rhetoric, considering that 6 members of the winning team were also part of the team which got a pasting at the hands of the Aussies in the earlier tour down under. So next time your team delivers a successful project, wins an all important business deal or delivers a stunning fiscal year performance, remember to take time out to thank all the people who contributed, not only the very visible “stars”, but also all the people who made it possible, by pitching in their bit from behind the scenes!