Who’s packing your parachute?

This is the story of Charles Plumb. You can google Charles Plumb and download videos and lots of information.

But, here’s the short version:

Fighter pilot during the Vietnam war in the 60s. Flew 32 missions. Shot down. Captured. Eleven years in a Prisoner of War camp. Escaped. Made his way back to the United States where he became the hero of the talk show circuit. Ultimately became a motivational speaker drawing thousands to his events.

He was out for dinner one night after a speaking engagement, with his ‘entourage’ surrounding him at the table. He was a little irritated when a man approached him. Tentatively, shyly, the man asked if he was Charles Plumb.

Plumb was pretty impressed with his own success and turned to look the fellow up and down, assessing him. He turned away.

The man persisted.

“You were a fighter pilot during the Vietnam war.

You flew 32 missions before you were shot down.

You survived 11 years in a POW camp.”

Charles Plumb was becoming irritated with the intrusion and turned away from the man, looking back at his meal.

The man stuck out his hand, in a gesture to shake Charles Plumb’s hand, and then he said:

“I packed your parachute. I guess it worked!”

No time for this guy

Plumb makes the point that he would never have given this man any notice on the aircraft carrier that was home to them both. Because Plumb was a pilot and this man was a lowly sailor, the sailor would have not mattered at all to Plumb.

And yet every day, that sailor, working in the bowels of that ship, folding silk into a tiny pack, held Charles Plumb’s life in his hands.

As business owners, we must know who is packing our parachutes. Who’s your best friend? Who listens to your ideas for business activity? Who’s holding down a job and paying the bills while you start your dream? Who is the first person with whom you shared your business idea? Who would you call first if you scored a big order? What are the names of your kids? Who gives you encouragement? Who nudges you to be better?

It’s not a solo act

We never succeed in business on our own. There are many, many people who support us in many, many ways.

I believe that it is so important to recognize these people and what they do for us. I also believe it’s not done effectively in a tweet or an email or an e-card. When we take time to think about what that person does for us, as we take time to hand-write it into a real card and put a real stamp on it and send it to a real address, we achieve two things:

First, we sent a unique gift to our parachute packer. We all know how unusual it is to get a real card, one that we can prop up and enjoy and look back to.

Second, as we take time to really think about the person’s contribution to our life, we develop heightened awareness of the goodness that surrounds us. That awareness raises us to a new height, permanently. It becomes part of the goodness-energy that fuels our behaviours and reactions in the world.

Somewhere, on a sticky note in your smartphone, on your Outlook calendar, in the back of each month in your daytimer, somewhere record the parachute packers whose actions affect you this month. Take 10 minutes to write thank you cards.

It’ll matter. Believe me.