3 things I learned while my plane crashed: Ric Elias on TED.com
Ric Elias had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River inNew York in January 2009. What went through his mind as the doomed plane went down? AtTED, he tells his story publicly for the first time.
Why you should listen to him: Born in Puerto Rico, Ric Elias came to the United States for collegeknowing little English, as he writes in his online bio. So what did he do? "I adjusted my schedule andtook only classes that dealt with numbers my entire first year," he says. "I'd always been decent atmath, and things like calculus and accounting were non-lingual. I was able to buy some time toimprove my English skills." His facility with numbers has led to a wide-ranging career in business andfinance.
Elias is the CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures, a firm that helps large service companies acquirenew customers online. He began his career in General Electric Co.'s Aerospace Division, thenworked at the marketing services company CUC International (later known as Cendant). Prior tofounding Red Ventures, Ric served as president of Spark Network Services, a promotion and datacompany held by Cendant.
Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3,000 ft. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine anengine going clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. It sounds scary.
Well I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1D. I was the only one who can talk to the flightattendants. So I looked at them right away, and they said, "No problem. We probably hit somebirds." The pilot had already turned the plane around, and we weren't that far. You could see Manhattan.
Two minutes later, 3 things happened at the same time. The pilot lines up the plane with the Hudson River. That's usually not the route. He turns off the engines. Now imagine being in a plane with no sound. And then he says 3 words-the most unemotional 3 words I've ever heard. He says, "Brace for impact."
I didn't have to talk to the flight attendant anymore. I could see in her eyes, it was terror. Life was over.
Now I want to share with you 3 things I learned about myself that day.
I leant that it all changes in an instant. We have this bucket list, we have these things we want to do in life, and I thought about all the people I wanted to reach out to that I didn't, all the fences I wanted to mend, all the experiences I wanted to have and I never did. As I thought about that later on, I came up with a saying, which is, "collect bad wines". Because if the wine is ready and the person is there, I'm opening it. I no longer want to postpone anything in life. And that urgency,that purpose, has really changed my life.
The second thing I learnt that day - and this is as we clear the George Washington bridge, which was by not a lot - I thought about, wow, I really feel one real regret, I've lived a good life. In my own humanity and mistaked, I've tired to get better at everything I tried. But in my humanity, I also allow my ego to get in. And I regretted the time I wasted on things that did not matter with people that matter. And I thought about my relationship with my wife, my friends, with people. And after, as I reflected on that, I decided to eliminate negative energy from my life. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better. I've not had a fight with my wife in 2 years. It feels great. I no longerry to be right; I choose to be happy.
The third thing I learned - and this's as you mental clock starts going, "15, 14, 13." You can see the water coming. I'm saying, "Please blow up." I don't want this thing to break in 20 pieces like you've seen in those documentaries. And as we're coming down, I had a sense of, wow, dying is not scary. It's almost like we've been preparing for it our whole lives .But it was very sad. I didn't want to go. I love my life. And that sedness really framed in one thought, which is, I only wish for one thing. I only wish I could see my kids grow up.
About a month later, I was at a perfmance by my daugter - first-grade, not much artistc talent...yet. And I 'm balling, I'm crying, like a little kid. And it made all the sense in the world to me. I realized at that point by connecting those two dots, that the only thing that matters in my life is being a great dad. Above all, above all, the only goal I have in life is to be a good dad.
I was given the gift of a miracle, of not dying that day. I was given another gift, which was to be able to see into the future and come back and live differently.
I challenge you guys that are flying today, imagine the same thing happens on your plane - and please don't - but imagine, and how would you change? What would you get done that you're waiting to get done because you think you'll be here forever? How would you change your relationtships and the negative energy in them? And more than anything, are you being the best parent you can?