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Situational Awareness


This program focuses on the key aspects of why people and organizations do or do not reach their ultimate mission. In this program, Dave not only shows the key reasons but also creates strategies and tools to help your participants make significant progress toward their ultimate purpose.

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Learning Objectives:

  1. A key leadership strategy that was employed on the "Miracle on the Hudson" and how your team can achieve the same results.
  2. A skill set that allows you to bring all your team members up to playing on the same level.
  3. A new approach to communication to create instant rapport.
  4. A unique tool for achieving your mission.

Webinar Transcription


But before we start I just want to give you a little background on how this whole thing really came about and was generated, and why I found it important, and why I teach and talk on it now.


Back in 1999 I was asked by Disneyland to help them with a problem they were having, and the problem they were having is their Worker's Compensation insurance was going sky-high in their character department because characters were getting injured. Subsequently it got into the press, and once it got into the press they had a lot of negative media. So whenever something gets like that, you got to take pretty quick action on it. Since they knew that I had been with Tony Robbins and leading his security team, I had the skill sets that would equate to be able to help them fully understand what was going on, but hopefully reduce the incidents around the part.

What was happening is the characters were getting either accosted either by mal-intent or just by people were excited. When that happened, characters were getting injured. When characters got injured the compensation went up, so there was a big issue. So they needed to have a strategy and understand why it was happening, number one, but two, how could characters who don't speak be able to help defend themselves and put themselves in a better situation not to get injured, and that's how this program called Situational Awareness came out. There's four key things that I'm really going to discuss today and talk about today about how you can improve some of the strategies you're using to communicate and why people do what they do, but also hopefully give you a success model to understand why and how you can improve on what you're doing in your business and your personal life.

The first thing I want to talk about is a leadership strategy that was employed not only that day on the Hudson, but you can also achieve and use in your business. The second thing I'm going to share with you, the second item we'll talk about share is a skillset that allows you to bring all your team members to play at the same level, which may seem like impossible, but I've been on teams that raised their standards and raised their levels. They'll play on the same level and you achieve outstanding results. We're going to talk about skillsets that allow you to do that.

The third thing we're going to discuss is an approach to communication to create instant rapport, and once I realized this, this changed not only the direction of my business life, but changed my entire relationship with my wife and my family. So we're going to talk a little bit about what that approach is and how you can use that in your business and your personal life. The fourth thing is I'm going to share with you a tool to help you turn not only—not only help you, whether it's external customers or your internal associates into raving fans of you and what you're doing. Those are the four things, the four outcomes we're going to try to take away from today.

The Miracle on the Hudson

Before we start on that, I wanted just to give you a little background about not only what happened that day on the Hudson River and how I employed some of these strategies and tools that day to not only help me but hopefully help some other people that day achieve an outcome that went from a potential tragedy to a miracle. As you may know, the Miracle on the Hudson was the plan that crashed into the Hudson River. The movie Sully was made based on what happened that day in Captain Sullenberger's life.

A couple key things about that day, I was not supposed to be on the plane that day, I was supposed to be on the 5:00 flight, but I caught an earlier flight because we started our day in the warehouse in Brooklyn at about 5 a.m., so we got done about 10 a.m., and I travel over 100,000 miles a year, so any chance to get home to my wife and kids a little earlier, I usually try to take advantage of that. So that's why I got on the plane, an earlier flight, which was 1549, the Miracle on the Hudson. There was nothing extraordinary about the day. It was 11 degrees and snowing, and I was one of the first set of passengers to board the plane that day, and about 60 seconds after we took off is when I heard the explosion on the plane, and it was a loud explosion. I had never heard anything on a plane like that before, so it sort of got my attention.

When I looked up and looked out the window I saw fire coming out from underneath the left wing. So I knew something had happened - - planes lose engines. So I really didn't know until as we crossed over the George Washington Bridge, he only cleared the bridge by about 400 feet when he said his famous words, "Brace for impact," to how dire the situation was. Once Captain Sullenberger said those famous words, if you saw the movie Sully, you know what I'm talking about, is when I think everybody realized something negative was probably going to happen on that plane. But as the Captain skillfully glided the plane and got it into the Hudson River in one piece, that was part one.

Part two was getting out of the plane. I was in seat 15A; I was towards the back of the plane, so when he hit, water started coming in immediately from the bottom and the back of the plane, and by the time I stood up, water was about knee-to-waist deep from where I was on the plane, and I became the last passenger out of the plane, and it wasn't by design, and I'll share later how that happened, but as I got out of the plane I was looking to get on the wing like everybody else, but there was no room on the wing or the boat for me, so that's why I was inside the plane roughly for seven minutes waist-deep in 36-degree water, and handling the situation on the ride side of the plane.

So there was a lot of things that happened which I'll sort of share the stories and details of some of those lessons and strategies from that day, but it wasn't my intent to be the last passenger out, but by circumstance and the way things played out, that's how I became the last passenger out. A lot of things were done on the right side of the plane that I'm going to detail here in a few minutes.

State Management

The first area we're going to talk about is probably one of my favorite subjects; it's called State Management. Now, what is State Management? You may have heard this term before in a lot of different ways. Most of the time when you hear the phrase State Management it means how do you manage your mind to get it to the appropriate place in a situation? That can be joy or happiness or hope; it can be any kind of state that you want to be in, but how do you do that? How do you put yourself in that state when you need to put yourself in that state?

See, one of the things I've learned over my life, depression is a state, just like joy or happiness or hope, and any state can be changed. See, if you want to be happy one moment, want to be sad the next, you can change it just like that. There are three ways that you can do that. The first way to change anything, the way you change your state, the way you focus on things, is your physiology. How do you move your body? Your physiology, and that's the easiest and fastest way to move anybody's state. So if you get up and move around, all of a sudden you've engaged what's called endorphins in your body, and all of a sudden you've changed your state.

The second way to manage or change your state is what you focus on, and that's how Captain Sullenberger managed his state that day. See, he couldn't get up and jump around and move his body around in the cockpit. He had to sit there and he had to focus on the outcome. See, a lot of people go into a negative state, focus on something called "why is this happening to me" syndrome. They get so deep into it and they can't dig themselves out, so they get to that depressed state but they don't know how to get out of it. By the way, by managing your focus and what you focus on, you can change that depressed state into a state of joy and happiness by just how you focus on what you're focusing on in that moment in time.

The third way you manage your state is through what's called your language or your internal dialogue, and that's how I managed my state that day on the plane. It's all about the questions you ask yourself, your internal dialogue, and I asked myself that day different questions because I couldn't get up and move around. I didn't know what to focus on, but I knew how to manage my state by asking myself different questions, and one of the questions I asked myself that day was, how can I add even more value and enjoy the process. Because I knew something—I was going to enjoy it either up in Heaven or I was going to enjoy it back on Earth.

But I kept saying that positing question in my mind, and that's how I managed my state that day during the plane crash, and that's what I did in business situations likewise. When I got to a business situation or any interpersonal situation with my family, I always would want to focus on how to get myself in the appropriate state. Do I need to be in a state of excitement, a state of happiness, a state of hope? What kind of state do I need to be in for that situation? That's one of the things that I think changed not only the way I managed my business but how I became a top producer and became the head of security for a gentleman named Tony Robbins.

I took this little article out of Entrepreneur Magazine because it sort of tells in the article how Captain Sullenberger managed his state that day, and if you notice here in bold it says "create calm in yourself and in the situation." He had to manage the state by focusing, and this is how he did it when he lost both engines and he had to have startled that one moment. And if you notice, if you saw the plane in the movie Sully you notice how Tom Hanks handled that. He did a brilliant job of when he said "my plane" and started to focus on the outcome. He says here, turn down the volume, lower your voice, take a deep breath, and mentally hit the reset button, start focusing in on. So the three ways you can manage your state in any situation is through your physiology, through what you focus on, and the language or your internal dialogue, the questions you ask yourself.

The need for certainty

The second thing that happened that day which helped me not only in the plane crash, it helped me in business, is understanding why people do what they do. I became fascinated with us. I learned this back in 1994 when I first went to a seminar and I heard this for the first time, and it really started resonating with me. Because all of a sudden I understood why I did what I did, why the people around me did what they did, and it helped me analyze and be able to be more in sync with not only my family, but the people I was associating with, and understanding why they did what they did so I could either encourage it or not encourage it.

The first primary reason people do what they do is the need for certainty. It's our need to feel in control and know what's coming next so we can feel secure. If the need for basic comfort, the need to avoid pain and stress, but also to create pleasure. Our need for certainty is a survival mechanism. It affects how much we risk and what kind of risks we're willing to take in life, in our jobs, in our investments, in our relationships. The higher you have the need for certainty, the less risk you'll be willing to take, and we're emotional bare. By the way, you've heard the term "risk tolerance"; this is the need that's driving that; is that a risk I can handle, I can tolerate.

The second primary reason people do what they do, or primary need, is the need for uncertainty, or better known as variety. So let me ask you a question. Do you like surprises? If you answered yes, you're kidding yourself. You like the surprises you want; the ones you don't want, you call problems. But you still need to put some muscle back in your life. You cannot grow muscle or character unless you have something to push back on, and the need for variety does that. The interesting thing about the need for variety, though, is the opposite of the need for certainty. What happens is, people get so much certainty in their life they have that mid-life crisis you may have heard of, when they need to do something different. So now they go out jumping out of planes and climbing mountains and buying their sports cars.

They have the need for variety because they've had so much certainty. But if you've got so much variety in your life, sometimes you just need to hunker down, and that's one thing that really was noticeable in my relationship with my wife. My wife's primary need in her life, her world view is based on certainty. She wants to be in control. My primary driving need right now at my age, I'm 56 years old, is the need for variety. When you go through a plane crash you have a lot of blessings. You're like, wow, I really want to live now. I may not have another chance.

When you have somebody who lives in a world of certainty and one person who lives in the world of variety or uncertainty, sometimes it can cause a challenge in your relationships. So then you have to really look at how can I give that person certainty and live in my uncertain world, and that's what happened when I left my job of certainty I had for 30-plus years and to go to a life of entrepreneurship. I had to give her certainty, so that's one thing I realized. So the first two primary needs are certainty and variety.

The need for significance

The third thing we know is the need for significance. We all need to feel important, special, or unique, or needed. How does somebody get significance? How do you get it? Do you get it by earning millions and millions of dollars, or by collecting different academic degrees, or distinguish yourself with a Master's or PhD? You can build a giant Twitter following, like a lot of people do, or you can go to The Bachelor, be a housewife of Orange County. You can do a lot of things and seem significant, but you think spending a lot of time on money can make you feel significant - - spending very little. But we all know people who constantly brag about their bargains or how they feel special about how much money they make or the homes they have, or all these different things.

Some very wealthy people gain significance by hiding their wealth, like the late Sam Walton. I talk about Sam Walton a lot. The founder of Walmart, for a time the richest man in America. He drove around in a pick-up truck around Arkansas. No one would ever know that he was the wealthiest man in the world. He had his private fleet standing by when he needed it, but he didn't want to project that out there. So significance is also a money-maker. That's where people like Steve Wynn have made his fortune. The need to feel significant is one of the primary driving needs everybody has. Everybody wants to stand out. Everybody wants to be the leader. Everybody wants to be the person - - here, I did it.

The need for connection

But the fourth primary need is the need for connection, or the need for love. Love is the oxygen of life, and that's what we all need and want most. When we love completely or connect completely we feel like we're alive, and when we lose that connection the pain is so great, most people just don't know what to do with themselves; they crumble. If you can get that sense of connection through intimacy or friendship or walking in nature, if nothing else works, some people just go get a dog because they need that connection. So the first four needs are what I call the needs for your personality, the things that everybody has. We find ways to meet these whether by working harder or coming up with a bigger problem or creating stories to rationalize them.

The need for spirit or spirituality

The last two needs we'll talk about is the need for the spirit or spirituality. These are rare. Not everybody gets these needs, but everybody has these driving passion for these. The next need is the need for growth. If you're not growing, you're dying. If your relationship's not growing, if a business is not growing, if you're not growing, it doesn't matter how much money you have in the bank or how many friends you have or how many Twitter followers you have or the people that love you. You're not going to experience that real fulfillment in life. The reason we grow is so we have something of value to give.

The sixth primary need, and the second what I call the spiritual need, is the need for contribution. It may sound really corny, but the real secret to living is really giving. Life is not about me, it's about all of us. You can see that right now, what's going on in Texas. Neighbors taking care of neighbors. Strangers taking care of strangers. It's all about a bigger purpose. - - call somebody you love and you want to share it. It enhances everything and all about your experience. See, life is really about creating the meaning around your life, and meaning does not come from what you get, it comes from what you give. Ultimately it's not what you give which makes you happy long-term, but rather who you become and what you contribute, will. So these six primary needs are what people drive for in their life, and everybody has these primary needs.

So you look at an example, and I'll give this as a negative example, but it shows you why things happen in your life. I use this example in the area of terrorism and ISIS, and people ask why do these kids grow and want to be in Al Qaida or ISIS or commit terrorist acts, and the reason is because they need all six of their primary needs of their life. Just think about it; if you're a young man and you find out that you can go be a part of this group, you have certainty, you're part of a group, you're part of a clan. You get certainty by being part of a group. But you also get a lot of uncertainty or variety because you don't know what we're doing to do next. Are we going to blow up somebody's car? Are we going to fly a plane into a building?

So variety, we don't know what we're going to do next. Of course you're going to feel significant; you're going to be in the news every single movement of every single day. Everybody is looking at you. Everybody is focusing on you; you're totally significant. But you also have connection because you're connecting to your greater being and the greater mission of what's going on. You're possibly growing because you grow in your organization you're with or the assignment you get, and then you're contributing to what's the greater good, or getting my big quan—what they call quan—up in Heaven. So if you looked on why what's going on in the world of terrorism and why these young men are attracted to this type of terroristic mindset is because it meets all their needs. Just like what's going on in Texas right now.

People, the reason they're flooding to Texas, literally flooding to Texas, is because it meets all of their needs. They can meet every one of these needs and have contribution and growth and connect with people and seem significant because they're on TV. Variety; the floods are coming, they don't know what it's going to do, and they have certainty because they're a part of a group that's helping. If you can identify, you can see pretty much why people do what they do based on the needs that they're approaching and going for.

If anybody has three needs out of any situation they're obsessed about it, that's why people are attracted and that's why people do what they do, is based on these six primary needs. Everybody's got their own primary need out of this need. What do I mean by that? Well, I'll give you an example. Like I told you earlier, my wife, her primary need out of these six needs is the need for certainty. Above all these other ones she needs that certainty before she has love, she has connections, she has significance; she wants certainty. Right now my primary need is the need to contribute and the need for variety. So I base everything that I do based on those values, that's how I make my decisions.

So once again, using the six needs, identify with your spouse, your relationship, your significant other, your teammates at work; what is the need they're driving for, and how do I want to help that need, or do I not want to help that need? There might be times when you have people at work where all they want is their own personal significance and not looking at the team. So they need to readdress their primary need. Once again, this is probably one of the most important things, and you can see how passionate I am, I talk a lot about it, because if you understand how to identify the needs, the primary needs of somebody, you can understand what drives them and how to communicate and effectively move and negotiate within the most effective manner.

Communication skill

The third skill set that we talk about is the communication skill that I learned many years ago and I used not only that day on the Hudson River, but I used it in everything that I did in my business and in my personal life, and it's called Sensory Acuity. What is Sensory Acuity? Well, everybody has five modalities that they have in their life. Number one, they have vision, they can see. Second, they have auditory, they can speak. Third, they have kinesthetic, they can feel. Fourth is they have olfactory, they can smell. Fifth, they have gustatory, they can taste. Everybody has these five modalities unless you have a physical or health condition which prohibits you from having it.

So everybody has these, but the top three, visual - - where people primary communicate in. You can communicate and taste and also smell likewise, but the three primary modalities people communicate in are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. I'll give you a very extreme example. I'll talk about my wife again. My wife's primary modality, I didn't realize this, we've been married 30-plus years, I didn't realize this until the 15-year mark, but at the 15-year mark we were having some challenges with our relationship. Cannily, it was one of those times where we just weren't communicating effectively.

I didn't know what she was thinking, she didn't know what I was thinking, and it wasn't going well until all of a sudden I started understanding this strategy on how to communicate through sensory acuity. I finally figured out that my wife's primary modality she resides in is auditory. My wife loves to talk. My wife can get on the phone and talk for 30 minutes and never take a breath, and if you interrupt her she gets very upset, because she needs to communicate her thoughts and wants to tell you everything that she knows through speaking. Well, here I am, I am a visual communicator. I'm a high visual. If you show me something in 15 or 20 seconds, I pretty much got it. I visually see it, I can design it, I can do it, and I can execute. I don't need 30 minutes of discussion on how to do things.

So that would also challenge me in business meetings, because sometimes you get in business meetings and you have an auditory presenter in a business meeting who wants to show you and tell you everything about what you need to know, and they show you a picture and you got it. It's like, I got it, why do I need to sit here for another two hours? That's why a lot of people are challenged in business meetings, is because you have the way that people are communicating is not the way people are receiving it. So if you can understand if you have a visual communicator and an auditory communicator in a relationship, you can see where some challenges were had, until I realized I had to go into an auditory mode when I communicated with my wife. I had to back off the visual, communicate auditorially, let her speak, and feed it back to her.

Once I started doing that I started realizing our relationship changed 180 degrees. I started implementing that in my business, so now I'd go to a business meeting or a negotiation or a sales presentation, whatever I was involved with, I would identify who was in the room, what modalities were in the room, and I would speak to each modality when I would present. I still do that today when I go on stage when I speak all over the world, because I know in that room you're going to have auditory, visual, and kinesthetic people. So my presentation and if you've ever heard me speak, you'll notice I do a visual, I do an auditory, I do a kinesthetic. I connect with every one of the modalities because I want to be in sync and connect on peoples' level. This one technique in my communication skills changed the entire way that not only my relationship went, but how my sales and production went in my business, just by learning this.

So I'll give you a very visual example. We'll talk about Disneyland. I mentioned Disneyland before because that's where I did this study and I implemented some of these strategies we're talking about today. So put yourself, if you've ever been to Disneyland, or even Disney World, but Disneyland is probably a better example. Just think if you're at Disneyland and you pull up in the parking lot, and the first hitting you see in Disneyland is the big Disneyland logo on the fence right there as you're walking in. You see it, so you've got that visual going. Now you get that feeling of what you've had all your life, hey, I'm in Disneyland, this is going to be an unbelievable experience; this is Disneyland. And all of a sudden you hear the sounds, it's that music playing.

Anybody ever been to Disneyland or Disney World and hear It's a Small World over and over in their head? That's by design. So now you've entered the gates. You've paid your $125 for your ticket, you're in, and you're walking down Main Street, USA, whether that's World or Land. You've got the visual, you see the castle in front of you, you hear the music playing, you got that feeling going, and what do you do? You smell that cinnamon smell that comes up. And why do smell cinnamon smell? Because Disneyland is piping those smells in. Each one of the different entrances in the park have a different smell; it's because they want to engage you on that because if they engage you with smell they'll engage you on taste, which is gustatory, so therefore you'll go buy something to eat. You'll get the cotton candy or you'll get a big cinnamon roll.

So immediately, within the time you paid your ticket and walked through the gates, Disneyland has figured out the strategy of hitting you with every one of the modalities, because they do not know which modality is your primary modality, which one do you reside in most in your life? So that way the average ticket price is going to be $125 or $150 for the day quadruples. That's why the parks do such a great job not only servicing their customers but also driving revenue, it's because they hit you with all the modalities. Just like Coca-Cola does in the commercial, just like Pepsi, just like Budweiser, just like car dealerships, like Chevrolet. They hit you with the different modalities, and the modality they want you to reside in. So that's a very visual example, Disneyland, of what I'm talking about.

If you've ever been to Disneyland and/or Disney World, there is a park inside the park called Critter Country, and Critter Country basically is the story of Pooh. Now, why do I take this story of Pooh? Because this really stands out on a sensory acuity on what they do to make sure you connect with the characters in the park. If you notice me, that's me actually standing there with Tigger with my thumb up. That was the day that I actually went into character mode and was walking with the characters that day to see what was happening.

So you look at the left, you see Eeyore. Look at the color of Eeyore; he's gray or very pale blue. Eeyore's got his hands up, his eyes are down. All you ever see Eeyore, Eeyore; Eeyore's very depressed all the time, he's always looking down. So if you notice he doesn't have that connection, he doesn't have that kinesthetic connection with anybody. He doesn't have the auditory, he doesn't really have the visual. But people love Eeyore because he's always down and they want to hug somebody who's depressed.

Then you move over to Pooh. Pooh, if you look at the colors of Pooh, Pooh are yellow and red, a little brighter colors. Pooh, people love to hug Pooh. Everybody loves to hug a bear. Pooh also in the comics, in the strips, talks. So Pooh has that connection. Honey, honey, honey. Honey, honey, honey. So he not only has an auditory connection, but he also has a kinesthetic connection.

Then you look at Tigger. Tigger is orange. Tigger's got his thumb up. Tigger's always bouncing around on his tail; that's what Tigger do. So Tigger gets the modalities of not only visual, because he's a bright color, he's moving around, you have to watch what he does, but he's always bouncing around. He's got the auditory because he's—boing, boing—you hear the spring of his tail as he's bouncing around, and also the kinesthetic. People love to hug Tigger. So what Disney has done here in every one of their parks, so the next time you go to a Disney park look at these different characters. Look how they're positioned, look how they're put together so they hit every one of the modalities, and that way you'll connect with the characters.

Know that, like I mentioned, everybody's got their primary modality. I would question what is your primary modality? What modality do you reside in most? Are you primarily an auditory person? Do you need to be told things to get things accomplished? Are you visual? If I show you something can you pick it up pretty quick and run with it? Or are you kinesthetic? Do you need to sort of touch your way around and feel your way around it? One of the ways you can identify how your team members, what modalities, primary modality your team members are in, are ask them a question and see how they answer it. See if they answer it, like I see what you're saying, I hear what you're saying, I feel what you're saying. Based on that response you'll get a pretty good idea of what primary modality that person resides in, so now you can communicate in their modality. So if someone says I see that, I see what you're saying, feed it back to them.

So now you've built connection and rapport based on being in the same modality that person's in. It's one of the greatest rapport-building tools around. You see the kinesthetic people come up, they want to touch you on the shoulder or give you a hug. Auditory people will always say, hello, thank you, welcome. They'll always be speaking first before they connect with you on a different level. So just think, what is your primary modality? What are the people you surround your self's primary modality is, and try to communicate. Then go home tonight to your significant other or your spouse, try to find out what their primary modality is, speak in their primary modality to see how much more connection you may have just based on changing that one thing. How to communicate more effectively in the other person's primary modality.

The success model

One of the most exciting things I love to talk about is why do people get success and why people don't get success, whether it's their jobs or in their lives. I've learned this, it's called a success model, and I learned this many years ago when I had the opportunity to be with Tony Robbins. I was asked to be with him when he got invited to speak to the Washington Capital's NHL team in Washington. The Capitals had lost many games in a row. They were in last place. They were not going any place. Tony was brought in to really help them get motivated and inspire them to hopefully resurrect the season. I was in the back watching as this was going on.

So you have to remember, you have a bunch of multi-millionaires sitting in there who think they know everything, who have accomplished a lot to get to where they're at, so who's going to tell them how to do succeed in hockey? Hey, this guy doesn't even play hockey; he probably can't even spell hockey. It was spell-binding because it taught me why I always succeeded or why I didn't succeed. So if you look at this model, it's called the Success Model, and if you think of your business, just think of a team. Pick out your favorite team. Let's pick out the Chicago Bulls when they were winning six championships. How did somebody - - one championship win multiple championships were the Golden State Warriors, were the New England Patriots. Pick out a championship team, and this is the model they followed.

First thing is, is every team when they start a year has potential. They think they know what they have on their team, and they have potential, but until you take action with step #2 you really don't know. Why do you see the preseason going in on football right now? They really want to run everybody through and take action and see what they can do on the field. Once they take action you get results out of that action. Are they positive results or are they negative results? Once you have the results you have either more certainty or uncertainty based on those results, which means now you go back to potential. Now I know what potential I have, now I can take action and change that and get some different direction, different coaching, as we talk about, whether it's a Bill Belichick or anybody coaching business.

Take some different actions, get different results, get more certainty. Change more, get more potential, change - -, it's all to say you start this cycle. Then once you start getting some success like the Bulls did, one, two, three, then Michael Jordan left. When Michael Jordan left they lost that potential, they didn't take the action they needed to. They got negative results. They didn't have the certainty. They didn't win until Michael Jordan came back. They had more potential and took more action, got better results, got more certainty. This one area, if you want to fix your team through this, then identify what potential do you have on the team to get the outcomes you're looking for? What actions do we need to take?

Test those actions. Take those actions. Document those results. Once you document your results you can see what kind of belief system or certainty you can have out of that, saying I got this result before; if I did it a little bit more, how much more, if I do more actions and results, how much more can I get out of it? That's what happened to me back in the early 90s when I went to my first seminar. I went to my first seminar, I took massive action, I lost 25 lbs., I was the top sales producer that year in my company. Also I got great results, I had gone certainly the next year, I went back to another seminar, because you know what? I did it once, I can do it again. So the whole cycle started, and that's how I became a top producer, and ultimately became the head of security for Tony Robbins, because I took massive action, I got great results for it, and he got more certainty in me.

So I built this whole cycle up. This is how great teams, great organizations, become not only great, but stay great. While you see some organizations who don't stay great, and one right now you can target is Uber; Uber's having a real difficult time now. They've had some negative results from some very negative actions, so they don't have a lot of certainty. They got rid of their CEO so now they're starting over again with a new CEO to take some more action. You can see it at successful companies, you can see it from people who have gone down the other direction. The success model; take it, apply it to your organizations, apply it to your team, and understand this model, and you'll see how you can start getting success and getting the results you're looking for in your business and in your personal life.

We talked about certainty in the last two sections, because certainty is the one thing people are looking for right now. One of the reasons the United States is going through what it's going through, because there's not a lot of certainty going on right now. There's a lot of dissatisfaction, so people don't have certainty. That first shows up in the stock market. You notice the stock market went down this morning in the United States because of the actions that were taken last night in North Korea, so now it's about uncertainty. So therefore they don't know what they're going to do, so the question I always the companies I work with, what are you doing for your customers and associates to give them certainty? I'll use my personal example. The day of the plane crash I was in the hospital. I was one of two people that stayed the night in the hospital, and that night in the hospital, I only received one phone call, and that was from Tony Robbins.

My company, who I was on business for, who I was on a three-day business trip for and selling business for, didn't call me. And they didn't call my wife. So when I got back to Charlotte the next day, I didn't know they even knew that I had been in a plane crash. So I went by the office and the first question was asked to me by one of the regional managers, you are going to Michigan next week, aren't you? And that told me something. Number one, I figured out I was just a number. I had been driving revenue for a multi-billion-dollar company all these years and when things got tough I was just a number. I had no certainty with my company.

But that Saturday was just the next day; at our house we had a big box of food and toys from the company that I had just visited up in New York as a way to say thank you and supporting me and helping me get back on my feet. That gave me total certainty of what I was doing with my customer was right. So I tell people, if you want to make a raving fan out of somebody, be their advocate. Go out of your way, do whatever you have to do for your customer. Sometimes at my company I was the black sheep because I'd always take my clients' point of view and perspective, because I felt I was their advocate. They knew at 2:00 in the morning they could call me and things could get done, and that happened plenty of times. That's how I turned a potential client into a raving fan.

You can do that not only with your clients, but you can do that within your team, you can do that also within your family. I would say, if you have anybody on your team that goes through what I call a "personal plane crash" in their life, which everyone on this phone will have a personal plane crash in your life, which might be a fire, a flood, a health scare, a hurricane, a tornado, whatever it may be for you. Everybody here is going to have something; be there for them on your team. Step up; if they need something, make sure they have the support.

They will become a raving fan of you and the company. My company where I was with, I could have become the biggest raving fan if they had just taken care of me a little bit. I'd still be with them today. I'd be advocating for them today, and I'd be the greatest spokesperson they ever had, if they had just taken care of me. Unfortunately they didn't, so that's why I left the company a few years later, because I didn't feel anymore connection to the company. I had no more certainty.

Mission-focused leadership

I love talking about mission-focused leadership. People ask me also, what's mission-focused leadership? I'm going to share a little story on how this came about and what it is and why it's important to what you do not only in your personal life but also in your business. Back in 1999 I had the high honor and privilege in escorting a gentleman by the name of Gerald Norman Schwarzkopf, a four-star General. The General of the Central Command, the General who won the Iraq war in world-record time. And I had the opportunity to escort him for the day.

Now, I don't know if anybody here has ever been around or with a four-star General, but it's quite intimidating, and I was pretty intimidated. When I was with him, as I was driving him from the airport to the hotel, I asked him, can I ask you a question, General? He looked at me and said, are you just asking or you really want to know? And it sort of put me back for a second. I'm like, whoa. I have one question. He says, go ahead. I said, how did you win the war in Iraq so quickly? And he looked at me and gave his standard pat answer. Now, everybody who's of that level has their standard pat answer. You get good after about 1,000 times, you get it down pretty well.

But then I did something that he wasn't expecting. I said, sir, can I ask you another question? He goes no one ever asks a General a second question. He looked and he said, well, go ahead. Are you just asking? Yeah, go ahead. I said, how did you really win the war in Iraq? And he looked at me like this kid's pretty audacious. No one's ever asked me that. No one ever asks me a follow-up question. He goes, I'll tell you how I won it. He said, every day I go into the theater. People would come to me with their problems. People would say women had to cover their heads and women couldn't drive the tanks. They had to pray five times a day. I kept reminding my troops, how did this contribute to kicking Saddam out of Kuwait? He said that's all I did every day, I reminded everybody of the mission, and all of a sudden I realized maybe that's why he didn't go to clean it up, because it wasn't his mission.

Fast forward 10 years. I'm the Green Room of the Early Show on CBS with Captain Sullenberger and a lot of the other passengers. I had not talked to the Captain up to this point. This is probably three or four weeks after the plane crash. But I go up to Captain Sullenberger for the first time, I got up to him and said, Captain, man, you've got to tell me; how'd you pull this thing off? And he looked me in the eyes and said, I had a mission: to get the plane down with zero fatalities. So I was like, wow, so I start putting two and two together. I'm thinking of all these people that I've talked to, all these leaders, some of these great leaders even, and a common trait between all of them is they were focused on the mission.

They kept reminding the team of the mission. They had to course-correct at times, but they checked their egos at the door. They let the people who knew how to do the mission do the mission, course-correct if they needed to, but keep peoples' eyes on the ball. So that's the mission, and that's why I developed this program called Mission Focused Leadership. Because I can now teach some of these strategies on what these great leaders to do help people identify the mission, help people keep focused on the mission so they can get the outcome of the mission.

You see a picture from the plane crash that day. You'll see guy with a bald head under the S hanging out of the plane, that's me. The first picture released on Good Morning America was me, the bald-headed guy hanging out of the plane. As I mentioned earlier, when I got to the door, I was looking to get on the wing or the boat but there was no room on the wing of the boat, they already filled up. So that's why I was on the plane about waist-deep in the 36-degree water for about 7 minutes. You notice I'm not on the lifeboat, and the reason why is this; the Hudson River's got a very fast current. The plane actually floated down the river about a half-a-mile in 24 minutes, so the lifeboat kept going in and out from the plane.

And they were screaming, "Hold on, hold on" so that's why I held on to this lifeboat waist-deep in 36-degree water, as close I could to the wing, so I had an exit out. But I want you to take a better look at this picture, especially if you've seen the movie Sully. If you've seen the movie Sully this will really validate what you saw in the movie, to help explain what I'm talking about leadership. So if you look at this picture closely, what you will not see in this picture is any of the crew. All the crew went out the left side of the plane. The right side of the plane was managed by passengers.

People had zero skill sets in this. People had zero training. People were just going through a traumatic life event who had to step up and manage a situation they had no business managing, but that's what happens when you have leaders step up. What you'll realize in life, one of the takeaways from this talk is this: the person with the most certainty in uncertain times becomes the leader. It does not matter whether you're the CEO of the company or you're the janitor. That person gives certainty in that moment of time because it's a leader, and that's what happened on this side of the plane. Because you look at this, no crew, people who had to give certainty gave certainty with people so they could get things done and get people out.

I'll give you a perfect example, I'll bring all this together in one story about sensory acuity, state management, and leading at the same time. - - this picture, if you look mid-way up the wing was a lady, she was holding onto a baby. In fact, she had two kids on this plane; she had a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old she was holding onto, and she wasn't moving, she was stifled. The first thing I thought, was man, if she tries to get on this lifeboat with this child - - into the river, because you've got to remember, not only is it 36-degree water and the wing's under water, but you've got jet fuel, which is slick. So I thought, I've got to do something for A, either me to get out of here, or people get out who are on the boat, so I yelled at her.

I yelled, throw the baby, throw the baby. Candidly, I didn't think she was going to throw her baby. I didn't think that was going to happen, but I got her attention, and I broke her pattern. So what I just did is something that I learned about sensory acuity and state management. She was in a focused state at that point, nothing but focusing on how am I going to hold onto my baby and not go into the river? I had to break it. The way I broke it is through an auditory command. Throw the baby. Now, that's something—one of the ways you do this in business, if you ever get into a team meeting and people are sitting around the table and no one's doing anything and everybody doesn't have the answer, you've got to do something radical to break them out of that state.

So yelling "throw your baby" to a lady who's holding her baby who is scared will get her attention, and she looked at me, and she was like, what? But if you look at the picture, the lady with her head turned to the right, she's a mother of three from Knoxville, Tennessee, she heard me yelling at this lady, told her to give her the baby. She gave her the baby and got on the lifeboat, and people started walking down the wing. So in that, just a few seconds, I used some of the skills that I learned through state management, through sensory acuity, go into a modality that I can resonate with, breaking the pattern. I went totally against the modality and she was in a kinesthetic modality.

She wasn't visual, she wasn't auditory, but I had to get her into an auditory modality because it was loud going on. I had to break that pattern, and all of a sudden leaders stepped up. I gave her certainty in a time of uncertainty. So this picture really represents to me a lot of different things. I get very emotional when I see this picture. It also brings together pretty much what happened on the right side of the plane. Just think: 155 people who did not know each other and are terrified of each other pulled together to something that had never been done in the history of aviation, who had zero training, zero experience, and did something that never had happened in the history of aviation, just by using some of these skills and strategies that I've shared with you today.

Last thing I'll share is this: I had the privilege last year of attending a seminar. It was led by one of the coaches who won the Super Bowl recently, and it was an amazing seminar because this coach is not really well-known for his communication skills, but he was giving a seminar, giving a little talk, and I was there. One of the things he mentioned was this, and I thought it was fascinating when I heard this, that's why I adopted it, I installed in my life, and I teach it now, especially to youth and the business people. He said the first day of training camp when they come in, the first day, what he does is get everybody in the room.

You have all the rookies, all the free agents, all the veterans together, and as he's talking, before he starts going into anything significant, he asks everybody to get out a piece of paper. He says, for the next minute, I want you to write on this piece of paper what kind of person you need to be to win a championship this year, and some people get very confused. They say, well, I've got to do 5,000 push-ups, 5,000 sit-ups, I got to do this many reps, I got—it's not about what you have to do, it's what kind of person do you need to be? What do I need to be persistent, do I need to be aware, do I need to have faith? What kind of person do I need to represent and raise my standard to be able to win a championship?

After a minute he tells everybody to put your paper down and get their mobile phones out, whether it's Google or - - it really doesn't matter. He said, get it out, go to the alarm section, notification section, and take what you just wrote down and put it in there, and set your alarm to three times a day, morning, afternoon, and night. So three times a day for the next season, now to the end of the season, you will be reminded of what you just committed to be a champion for this team, and three times a day, that little alarm goes off and you start looking at it, yep, you're right. On August 1st I committed to be a team player, be persistent, be aware, be faithful, be focused. All of a sudden it gets in your brain, you raise your standard. And everybody on that team raises that standard, so that goes back to the success cycle we talked about.

When you get that certainty you get the potential, you get the action and results, you keep getting it, all of a sudden it gets in the cycle and you have a chance to be a champion. Take that tool, not only use it for you, but share it with your team that you work with right now. Share it with those folks. Have everybody do this. Now, everybody get a piece of paper out for the next meeting. Write down what kind of person do you need to be, not what you have to do, what kind of person do you need to be? Put it in your cell phones and make sure you hold people to that standard. When it goes off, you look at it, take it in really quick, say you know what, that's what I committed to, I've got to do it. I'm not playing at that level so I can't win and I can't help the team achieve the outcomes we're looking to achieve. It's a tremendous, tremendous tool.


So I just want to do a quick recap before I do Q&A. I hope some of this information is beneficial to you. I love talking about this. The Miracle on the Hudson was an experience that was really a business case wrapped up with so many different lessons. Hopefully I shared something with you a little bit about some leadership strategies that were employed that day that you can use about how to give certainty to people. Skill sets about bringing your teams to play on the same level, about understanding why people do what they do. How do you sensory acuity to communicate more effectively, not only in your teams but also in your relationships, and how do you use this tool I just talked about, about being able to set yourself and set the standards for your team and yourselves, and hold people to that so you can see the outcomes much quicker than you anticipated.

I think if you do these four things and - - for these things you can make massive progress, and that's what life is all about. It's not about getting the outcome, it's about making massive progress every time you do something, it's about taking that first step. I want to say thank you, thank you very much for having me today. I'm blessed and honored to be here, especially what's going on as we know in Texas, there's a lot of people affected; please keep them in your thoughts. Doing a lot of work with the Red Cross right now, and Rick, I'd be more than happy to take any questions that anybody has of me right now.

Questions and Answers

So what was it like getting on a flight again after the Miracle on the Hudson?

D. SANDERSON: Yeah, I appreciate that question, because the next day I went back and - - I was being told what to do, I was being moved, I had a handler. My person's name was Doreen. I did pretty much anything Doreen told me to do. But the following week, as I mentioned, I went to my office and my manager asked me if I was going to Michigan next week, I agreed to do it. I was put on Delta because it was less cost, and there's nothing wrong with Delta, but don't be bought. I was a rock star on US Airways; no one knew me on Delta.

So when I got on the plane I was a little bit shaky. Number one, I was by myself again on a plane. I didn't know anybody, I didn't know if anybody knew who I was, until someone recognized me and the Captain finally came back and he gave me some certainty as we were flying to Michigan, but that was the toughest flight, but I tell people, you have to get back on the plane.

There's still people from the Miracle on the Hudson who have not gotten back on a plane yet, and I didn't know that until I was on Oprah with that lady with the baby. I was talking to her and she still has not gotten back on a plane yet. They put her on a train from New York to Chicago, and that's when I realized, a lot of people still haven't gotten back on planes yet. So my recommendation to people was, if you face a personal traumatic experience, whatever it is, you've got to face it, you've got to do it so you don't have that fear going forward. It was a tough time in the next week, Rick.

So the next question is, can you comment, please on post-traumatic growth syndrome?

DR. SANDERSON: This topic sort of came to me about two years ago when I started and did a Ted Talk on post-traumatic growth syndrome, and what is that? What it is, is how do you grow from a traumatic life event instead of going into a depressed state? And I didn't know what this was until AARP Magazine asked me to do an article, an interview, and I knew nothing about it, and even if I was too young for AARP anyway, but they explained what it was - - talked to, but they found out that I helped the American Red Cross raise over $12 million.

They wanted to understand the strategies I used to grow from this instead of going into a depressed state like so many other people had, and so I agreed to do this and they shared this post-traumatic growth syndrome strategy with me, and I all of a sudden started realizing that's what happened. Because after the plane crash, guys, I had so many people come up and say you're going to be depressed, you're going to need therapy, you're going to need to have all this, you're going to need a psychiatrist.

But I didn't, and I kept saying, what's the difference between me and some of the other passengers, and I realized it's on how I process this and the meaning I attach to it compared to other people. If you saw the movie Sully, you noticed that Sully went into PTSD, depression, and we knew something was going on with him, the passengers, because we were around him a lot, but no one knew exactly. But now you know in the movie, Sully the movie, he had PTSD, where I had PTGS. So I went the opposite direction because the meaning I attached to it was totally different than the meaning he attached to it. That's exactly like—you could have the same experience with somebody else and you could attach two different meanings and have two different experiences. That's what PTGS is, growth after a traumatic life event.

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