00:09 Ric Elias: Good morning, everybody.
00:12 Elias: I am quite humbled to be here. A couple of years ago, I was sitting right over there never thinking that I will be standing in front of you, talking today. I'm also quite humble following the speakers this morning. To be fair, the only thing I did was buy a ticket on a lucky airplane with an amazing pilot. Today, I wanna share with you what it was like to be on that plane. And I wanna share with you also something I haven't shared with anybody which is, what did it mean to the life of our company?
00:47 Elias: Imagine, as you climb through 3000 feet, a loud explosion. Imagine the cabin filling up with smoke, really nasty smelling smoke. Imagine the engine struggling, clah, clah, clah, clah, clah, clah. It was very scary, but I was very lucky. I was sitting on 1D. And for those of you who fly a lot, you know that's the seat that you can actually talk to the flight attendants. So I looked right into their eyes and I saw no fear and one of them said to me, "We probably hit some birds. We're heading back." I figure, we're not that far, Captain Sullenberger already turned the plane, we're just on our way back to La Guardia. For the next two minutes, as the co-captain, as we learned later, tried to restart the engines. Captain Sullenberger was making decision after decision, any which he makes differently, and there's a different speaker here today.
01:56 Elias: I learned a lot of things that day and I wanna share three with you. The first thing I learned was an immediate reaction of like, "Oh, my goodness, it's over." The thought of, it can all change in an instant just flashed my mind and I said, "How did this happen? This morning, I was playing basketball in New York City, I had lunch with a business partner, I had a couple of meetings, I had basketball to go, coach when I landed, I had plans for the weekend. And now, it was all over. It was all over." I had to focus so much energy on my calendar and my to-do list that I have the sense of, there's so many things I wanted to do that I never got to do. There were so many people I wanted to reach out. There were so many hugs I wanted to give. There were fences I wanted to mend. There were things I wanted to experience and I postponed them and now it's too late. And I felt like, "Oh, no. It's over."
02:57 Elias: After the flight, I decided I needed something to remind me not to wait anymore. And I've adopted a saying that I say all the time which is, "I'm a collector of bad wines." What that means is, if the wine is ready and there's somebody there to drink it with, I'm opening it. So you go to my wine room, I got a lot of bad wine that I never intend to open. But wine is just an example of the way I wanna approach my life. Quite frankly, when Inc., called and said, "Hey, we would like for you to come speak with us," 'Cause I have no business standing in front of you guys, speaking. And perhaps, in my pre-flight life, I would have said, "No, thank you." But you see, you know what? Why not? Why not take the experience. And that's an example of the thousands of things everyday that I now live differently. I live in the present moment. I live much more aware. I live much more connected to the things I wanna do. And I've had some amazing experiences in the last three years.
04:01 Elias: The second thing that I wanna share with you happened as we crossed... We went over the George Washington bridge and I could see it. I could see it right there. It wasn't that far. And I remember at that point, a thought of, "Gosh, why did I waste so much energy on things that did not matter with people that matter?" I remember thinking about, "Why did I waste so much energy with the person I love the most, my wife, on things that I can't even remember why I fought about? Why did I waste energy trying to be right? Feel offended by people, feel that someone had wronged me. It almost feel like I wasted so much of this precious life." So again, after it all happened, I needed a saying to remind me of this. So, I decided that every time I felt like feeling righteous, I was gonna say to myself, "I choose happiness over righteousness." And it's helped me immensely. Every time I have a friction with my wife, I am quickly to apologize. Half the time, I don't even know what I am apologizing for.
05:11 Elias: It doesn't matter. And I've had the greatest run in my marriage, any marriages ever have.
05:20 Elias: The third thing I wanna share with you from that day was, as the... For those of you who fly a lot, there's like a mental clock. You don't even have to look at the runway, you know what's coming. So it's 15, 14, and your brain goes on overdrive, right? You go into survival mode. I knew I was gonna die. And I said to myself, "Gosh, I only wish for one thing. I only wish I could see my kids grow up." Nothing else mattered. Not another deal, not another million bucks, not another nothing. I just really wish I could see my kids grow up. And after the plane landed in about six weeks later, I was at a school performance by my daughter who was in first grade then, and she's performing and I'm bawling. She's performing and I'm crying. I can't stop crying. The whole place is looking at me to please take that guy out of the room, right?
06:24 Elias: I am completely embarrassing my wife, everybody around me. And I can't stop and I was bawling not just because I was watching her grow up but I was bawling because it became crystal clear to me what my life purpose was at this stage in my life. I connected the two dots of wishing to see my kids grow up and watching them grow up and saying to myself, "Above all, this is what matters in my life now. Making sure that I do the best job I can as a dad and the best job I can, supporting my wife as a mother, and making my kids be all they can be".
07:07 Elias: I was given the ultimate gift that day, which is clear conviction that you are gonna die. When the pilot said, "Brace for impact," I did not need to talk to the flight attendants anymore. I knew at that moment, life was over. And I was given a chance with no suffering, no one died, it was the perfect near-death experience to be able to say goodbye to my life, to be able to be very truthful to myself about what mattered and didn't, and then have a chance to come back and do it again. There's a tremendous amount of responsibility in screwing this one up, I must say.
07:51 Elias: My biggest fear in life now is that I faced my death and I said, "I wasted such a unique chance." As weeks pass and months pass and the euphoria of the moment started going away, I realized that unless I change something or many things about myself, I was gonna go back to being the old person I was. And I was gonna fall in the old habits and at the old routines. And I was gonna end up in a place no different than I was before the plane landed in Hudson. And I thought a lot about it, I talked to people, I was relentless in figuring out how I could change from within, short of, quitting everything and just starting again.