5 Remarkably Powerful Lessons I learned From a Flock of Canadian Geese

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in”. ― Haruki Murakami

US Air Flight 1549 was on its initial climb out of New York’s La Guardia Airport on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina.

3 minutes into the flight, it struck a flock of Canadian Geese causing a complete loss of thrust from both its engines.

In what later came to be known as The Miracle On the Hudson, the crew successfully glided the plane to a landing in the river, safely evacuating all 150 passengers and 5 crew members.

Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger was able to calmly and confidently guide his crew and the passengers through this crisis.

Lessons to be Learned from the Miracle On the Hudson

Throughout our lives, many of us will be fortunate enough not to face a crisis of this magnitude.

However, regardless of the size of the potential problems we will face, we can can take away several lessons from the actions of Captain Sullenberger and his crew in coping with and coming safely through our personal crises.

Here are 5 take-aways we can use.


1. ANTICIPATION AND PLANNING

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Striking a flock of birds and losing engine power is a potentially possible event for an airliner and its crew.

The probability of such an event is high enough, that it makes sense to have documented this potential crisis, such as in a crisis checklist, and work through and even practice mitigation.

For us, this might mean thinking about what we would do if we lost our jobs.

It would make sense to put together a plan that included a cushion of 3 to 6 months worth of salary in the form of cash savings to carry our families through while we landed the new job.

2. DECISION MAKING

“It’s not about making the right choice. It’s about making a choice and making it right.” ― J.R. Rim

When a crisis presents itself, concentrate on facts, sift through the emotions and drama, seek points of view from Voices of Value, check back to mitigating strategies, and focus attention and energy on making the right decision.

During their crisis, Captain Sullenberger focused and worked his crew through their checklists in evaluating and deciding what to do.

3. DECISIVENESS

“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.” 
Theodore Roosevelt

Making a decision is only the first step. Once you have made a decision, act decisively to execute your strategy.

At first, Captain Sully and his crew decided to attempt a landing at a nearby airport, then requested and obtained permission to land there.

For us, this is all about moving ahead quickly and efficiently, and not neglecting to do the things that are required to exercise our chosen strategy.

4. FLEXIBILITY

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein

This step is all about the constant evaluation of how the crisis in unfolding and how well your decisions are working out. It is essential to recognize when a change is needed and a different course is required.

Captain Sully and his crew re-evaluated their position, realized that they would not be able to land at the small regional airport, and instantly decided to execute a water landing.

5. LEADERSHIP

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.” ― J.K. Rowling

Leadership? Yes! The entire crew of US Airways Flight 1549 lead all the way through the crisis, with Captain Sullenberg setting the overall leadership tone. They refused to be victims.

With the right plans, effective decision making, decisiveness, and flexibility, we can and should lead ourselves (and our families, departments, or companies) through any crisis, refusing to become victims.


We can never know with any kind of certainty what our future holds. But we can develop habits and the mindset, including implementing the above 5 lessons, to assist us in surviving what life throws at us.

We can get through our own flock of Canadian Geese safely and securely.

How could you have used the 5 lessons to get through some of your past personal crises?