Thursday, 17 November 2011

Whose parachute are you packing? a true story

Let this note find you among lots of well wishers who go out of the way and help you shine in life!!

I was referred to read two sports related books recently by a friend.
-       A shot in history – by Abhinav Bindra (first solo Olympic gold medalist from India)
-       OPEN – an autobiography by Andre Agassi

Both the books are master pieces by themselves. Written straight from the heart. I have practically zero sports background. But I could relate to what all goes behind to make a world class champion player.

Here is another of my favorite story from the book “The habit of winning” by Prakash Iyer. You may find this interesting!!
Whose parachute are you packing?

Charlie Plumb is an incredible guy. A decorated US war veteran, a navy fighter pilot. And a fabulous example of the indomitable human spirit.

He flew the F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft on seventy-four successful combat mission over North Vietnam. With five days to go to his return home, on his 75th mission, disaster struck. His plane was shot down. Luckily, Captain Plumb managed to eject out of the aircraft and activate his parachute. That saved his life. Unluckily for him, he was captured and jailed, confined to a tiny cell--8 feet by 8 feet. He spent the next 2103 days--that’s six long years--being tortured and humiliated as a prisoner of war before he could finally return home.

Charlie now spends his time sharing his story with others, helping people discover the strengths they need to tap into to overcome challenges in their own lives. He talks of the fear and the loneliness, the stench emanating from the bucket that served as his toilet, the darkness and the gloom in his cell. And he talks of surviving, of not letting the spirit take a beating, of never giving up.

But my favourite Charlie Plumb story is set in happier times. It’s not about the six years of misery in a Vietnam jail but about a calm evening in a restaurant in Kansas City, several years later. Charlie was enjoying his meal when he noticed a gentleman seated a few tables away. He had to notice him. The gentleman was staring at him.

Charlie didn’t think much of it until, a few minutes later, the man walked up to him and said: ‘You’re Charlie Plumb?’

‘Yes,’ replied Captain Plumb, standing up and extending his hand in greeting.

‘You flew jet fighters in Vietnam. You were on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down. You parachuted into enemy hands and spent six years as a prisoner of war,’ continued the stranger.

‘How in the world do you know all that?’ asked Captain Plumb.

He replied. ‘I was the guy who packed your parachute.’

Captain Plumb was left quite speechless, a sense of shock mixed with awe, even as the man continued with a twinkle in his eye, ’I guess it worked!’

Captain plumb thanked the man again, and again, and before parting, he couldn’t help asking: ‘Do you remember all the parachutes you packed?’

‘Not quite,’ came the reply. ‘It’s enough for me just to know that I have served.’

Later that night, as Captain Plumb tossed about in his bed, his mind flashed back to his days as a fighter pilot. He wondered how many times he may have passed by the ‘parachute packer’ without even acknowledging his presence. He wondered if he ever said ‘Good morning!’ or ‘How are you?’ to the man. After all, Captain Plumb was a fighter pilot and the other guy was just a sailor. He couldn’t have cared less.

We may not all be fighter pilots but we all have our parachute packers. People who build our safety nets, encourage us and, in their own small ways, make our successes possible. They remain unsung but somewhere inside, you know they made a difference. It could be that teacher from primary school, that salesman in a faraway town, that workman in the factory, that super-efficient secretary or that accounts clerk who always seemed to have the information you urgently needed…Through life’s challenges, through the take-offs and crash landings in your career and life, they were the people who made it all possible when the going got tough, they kept you going. They just did their jobs—but boy, they sure made you look good. Who do you turn to when the chips are down? So who is packing your parachute?

Unlike Captain Plumb, we aren’t always fortunate enough to come face to face with our parachute packers. So we often don’t get the chance to say thank you. Good idea then to think of the parachute packers in your life, and pick up the phone to thank them. Today. Now.

More important, it’s also good idea to ask the question: whose parachute are you packing? Who are the people you provide strength and encouragement to? Which people will put your name in the list of folks who made a difference to their lives? Real success and happiness often emerge not from the personal glory of winning but from the joy of having helped someone else win. Making a difference to someone—that’s really what makes the difference in life. Time to practice your parachute-packing skills!
Warm regards,

Rohan Singal

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