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Turning TURMOIL into TRIUMPH | Dave Sanderson | The 2%

Eric Partaker


Have you ever wondered what it’s like to survive a plane crash? Join Dave Sanderson (Speaker, Author of ‘How To Turn Turmoil Into Triumph’ and Survivor of the 2009 Hudson River Plane Crash) and Eric Parker as they discuss how to be bold in the face of uncertainty, and how anyone can succeed and triumph over adversity. 


Everybody Has A Story – Judge people on the content of their character, not what you see. Don’t judge people until you know their backstory.

Every Adversity Has A Benefit – Stress builds strength. The problem isn’t stress, the problem is how you view stress and deal with it. Don’t try and avoid it, embrace it because that is how you will level up in life and become a better version of yourself.

Triumph Over Adversity – If you’re going to have any triumph, you have to overcome some adversity. Everything worth having, comes with trials worth withstanding.

Your Ability To Succeed Is Related To Your Ability To Adapt  You can have a blueprint in life, but when life hits you, and your strategy goes out the window you need to be able to problem solve quickly. The people who are most resourceful and the ones who are thriving.

Be Bold In The Face Of Uncertainty – Strength does not come from winning, your struggles develop your strength. Real strength doesn’t come from certainty, it comes from how you can handle uncertainty.

Who’s In Your Inner Circle?  Expand your network. Put yourself around outstanding people who will stretch you consistently every day. Are the 5 people around you right now keeping you in your comfort zone or pushing you to better yourself?



Dave Sanderson: Because when the captain came on and said his words, “This is your captain, brace for impact,” you knew at that point it was serious. If you want to face your turmoil, go back and face it. Leave on your terms this time, not their terms. The real strength doesn’t come from certainty. It comes from how can you handle uncertainty?

Eric Partaker: All right. Welcome to another episode of The 2%, where as always, we’re interviewing top performers, peak performers in all walks of life. Why? To give you the strategies, tips, and tools that you can use to close that gap between your current and your best self, to migrate away from the 98% and join the 2% of people estimated be operating at their full potential. And I’m super excited to have on the show as a guest today, Dave Sanderson. Welcome to the show, Dave.

Dave Sanderson: Eric Partaker, thank you for having me. Excited to be with you today. Thank you.

Eric Partaker: Now you have a very exciting history. You’ve been recognized as one of the top 100 speakers, leadership speakers, inspirational motivational speakers by [Inc 00:01:07], and I know you have a great book coming out called Turmoil into Triumph very soon. Might actually already be out by the time that this airs. And you have a fascinating history and I remember this film. It was an absolutely epic film as we well, The Miracle on the Hudson. Of course, the plane that was ditched into the Hudson River on January 15th, 2009, a date that I know you remember super well. And you were on that plane. I think that’s a very interesting place to start. Who were you on that plane? Why are you on that plane? What happened?

Dave Sanderson: Yeah. Thank you for that question because I was just the every ordinary sales guy going up and down, tried to make a living. I was end of a three day business trip starting in Sarasota, Florida. And then second day was in Petersburg, Virginia in a manufacturing plant. Like sales people, do you go out, make calls. That’s what you do. And third day we were in Brooklyn, New York working in a distribution center. So I was just one of those guys that was just trying to make a living doing the best I can. I was always a top producer. In 2009, Eric, I don’t know if you remember that, but it wasn’t a very pleasant economic environment. It was very challenging. So you had to work hard to get your number, as they would say in sales.

Eric Partaker: So you board the plane that day. You obviously have no idea that you’re about to become a plane crash survivor, which is pretty crazy. I mean, we read about and we see plane crashes all the time. I think most people when they’re on planes, even if they don’t admit it, they think in the back of their head, “Oh geez, I hope this plane doesn’t crash.” Yours crashed. So what happened that day? Take us through that.

Dave Sanderson: Well yeah, first I wasn’t supposed to be on the plane. I was scheduled to be on the 5:00 flight, but as I mentioned, I was working in a distribution center that day and I don’t know if anybody who’s listening has ever been or worked inside of a distribution center, but they open up early. This one opens up at 2:00 in the morning because the trucks start at about 5:00. So we got in about 5:00 when the truck started because we wanted to be there right when all the action was happening. So that’s why our day started early and we got done early. Like most sales people, end of a business trip, man you want to get home. You’re tired of traveling and I called our travel agent at 10:00 that morning and she put me on flight 1549.

I gave up a first class seat and for seat 15-A. So I went back to coach and that’s fine. I was just happy to get home. But like most people, Eric, I didn’t pay attention. Who pays attention on a plane? You know everything, right? I mean, you fly 100 times a year. What could go wrong? You know everything. So nothing unusual. It’s 11 degrees and snowing that day in New York, but that’s not unusual for New York. In the middle of the winter, so that’s nothing unusual. And the flight was delayed at LaGuardia. That’s not unusual. That happens every day in LaGuardia, but it was about 60 seconds after we took off is when I heard the explosion. That’s not usual. You don’t hear explosions on a plane and especially in New York City. That’s I think [crosstalk 00:04:37] and put that dynamic together.

Eric Partaker: And what was the explosion?

Dave Sanderson: The explosion turned out to be a flock of wild Canadian geese. I tell people, I would say, “If you heard one explosion and it’s on your side, but you go, ‘Planes have multiple engines.’ So you’re going back to the airport,” but what made this the most unusual of any of these kind of flights is that the bird strike happened simultaneously. So on both engines and knocked both engines out at the same exact second. Because I tell people, “I think if people would’ve heard, boom, boom, then you’re probably thinking something different. You’re in New York City, you’re probably thinking it’s maybe a terrorist attack, something’s going on.” But you heard one boom. So this plane was filled primarily about 90% solo business travelers. And so, we’re going back to the airport. We’re not getting home early today, but that’s not what happened.

And so, after we heard the explosion, all of a sudden I looked out the window because I was on window and the plane was banking, so you’re going, “Okay, we’re going back to LaGuardia,” but you look out the window and all of a sudden you see the skyline of Manhattan that’s right there. And it’s like, “I’ve never seen that before.” And all of a sudden you sort of look out a little bit further and you see this big bridge coming very quickly at you. It’s like, “Haven’t seen that one before.” So at that point, that’s when the captain came on and said his words, “This is your captain, brace for impact.” You knew at that point it was serious. Something’s going on and most likely it’s not going to be a good outcome because you’re just clearing the bridge by roughly 400 feet.

The bridge is 600 feet up and the plane was 1,000 feet at that point in time and descending. So you’re only clearing the bridge by 400 feet. And I tell people, “What was one thing that was amazing, because I looked out the window to see what was going on and you could see people’s faces.” That’s how close we were. They were looking up from their windshields looking up and you’re looking down. It’s like, “Whoa. These people are right here.” So you know it’s probably not going to turn out to be a very good outcome.

Eric Partaker: And I can imagine the question in everyone’s minds right now is, what happened to those birds?

Dave Sanderson: Yeah. As they found later on when they finally got the plane out of the river, I think they found five Canadian geese in one engine and two or three in the other engine.

Eric Partaker: Wow. Okay.

Dave Sanderson: [crosstalk 00:07:05] So yeah, they were destroyed.

Eric Partaker: And the engines are typically, I understand they’re able to handle say one bird, for example, going through, but not so many at once. Right?

Dave Sanderson: Yeah. It was a flock and they estimated… Now once again, no one counted, but estimated about 25 birds were heading to the plane because if you look at the front of the plane, the front of the plane was hit. [inaudible 00:07:27]. The windows were shattered. They came in, in a V. So the outside birds got the engines. [inaudible 00:07:38] closer in, they got the plane. So if you look at the plane, which I’ve had the honor to not only speak at, but also give people tours of the plane, they could actually see up close and personal, this was not just the engines. It was pretty much the entire plane, front of the plane got hit.

Eric Partaker: So you hear those words, brace for impact. Embrace. Embrace the impact. Brace for impact and what’s going through your mind then?

Dave Sanderson: Well, what happened to me is I prayed immediately, because at that point in time, you hear those words, you never heard them before. You don’t know what to do. So I just prayed. It’s like, “Man, just get me down in one piece. Just get me down in one piece and just God, forgive me for whenever I’ve sinned. Because if I go in a different direction, I want to have that door cleared for me. [inaudible 00:08:32].” I’m like most everybody in the world, I’m not perfect. So I wanted some clearance, so yeah. And then you put your head down because at that point in time, you’re trying to brace. You don’t know how to brace. Who reads the instructions? I mean, I do now. Most definitely, I read the instructions now, but who knows how to brace? And so, you’re 60 seconds away from potentially dying. 60 seconds from crossing the bridge to the impact of the water. It was not that much time.

Eric Partaker: And for those not familiar with the story, of course, this is just a quick recap. The plane has taken off in New York City, is on its journey. The birds go into the engine, both engines go out, and the plane is forced to try to get back to the airport. But then of course the pilot realizes that we’re not going to make it back to the airport and he’s in the middle New York City and needs to decide where to land this plane. So take us from there. Where does he decide to land it?

Dave Sanderson: Yes. Good question. Because after you debrief, after you go through the whole thing, looking back the captain had four options. That’s what I tell people, the decision making that has to happen in that time period, you better be able make a decision. Because the first option was going back to the airport. If you saw the movie, that was the one that some pilots thought you could get back. Really wasn’t an option because if [inaudible 00:10:07] going into the Bay. Second option was the ocean, because the ocean was right there, but no one to rescue you.

Third option was [inaudible 00:10:18], small airport in New Jersey. He probably could have made it, but those big buildings around Northern New Jersey, he may have clipped them. So fourth option was the Hudson River and that was the option he took, and he hit it at the right time because the impact was at 3:37 PM Eastern time. At 4:00 the ferries run to take people back and forth from Jersey to New York. So the ferries start their routes about half an hour, 20 minutes or so from impact. So the positive thing was the boats were queued up and there weren’t that many boats into the river. There were boats in the river because commercial traffic, but it wasn’t that many where he was going.

So fortunately, everything lined up and if you look at the… I’ve got the video from it. If you look at it, the river lines up like a runway. So he could at least line up, but now you’re going into hard water. So it was a hard hit. I tell people, it wasn’t a nice general landing in the water. No, it was a severe impact because when we hit, I went back in my seat. It was a jarring hit.

Eric Partaker: Did you get injured from that impact at all?

Dave Sanderson: No, I didn’t. I thought, if I made it, if you make it, I was probably going to get pretty torn up. But fortunately, I didn’t. I went back and forward and opened my eyes and I saw light out the window. I’m like, “Wow. Man, I got a shot.” But now you got part two. Water’s coming in immediately because of the impact. There’s holes in the bottom and someone tried to open up the back door, which they probably read the brochure, go the closest exit, closest to you. So I don’t blame whoever tried [inaudible 00:12:15]. I don’t blame them because they probably did what they were instructed to do. But you learn ultimately, you don’t go to a back door when the plane’s in the water. [crosstalk 00:12:26] tried to open the door, so water’s coming in immediately. So now you got another issue you got to deal with. This plane’s going down.

Eric Partaker: Yeah. You’re basically at the back of the plane, right?

Dave Sanderson: Yeah. About three quarters of the way back. Yep.

Eric Partaker: Okay. And then you take on an interesting role during all of this. So take us through that.

Dave Sanderson: Yeah. My game plan, right before an impact, I kept saying in my head, because I’m a business guy. I’ve always got to have a strategy and what am I going to do? Was aisle up out. As I kept saying, “Aisle up out, aisle up out, aisle up out.” Because that was my strategy. I was like, “Okay, if I get to the aisle, I get up, I get out.” But when it was my turn getting in the aisle, something happened that changed everything. It changed that strategy. 180 degrees. I heard my mom start talking to me in my head and my mom passed away in 1997. But she was saying in my head something that I heard her tell me when I was a kid just popped into my head and it was, “If you do the right thing, God will take care of you.”

And I tell people, “After analyzing that,” I mean, in the moment I wasn’t analyzing. I was like, “Okay, what do I do now?” But my mom made me make a decision. And one of the greatest things my mom taught me, which helped me in business, it’s helped me really accelerate what I’m doing is she made me make decisions when I was a youngster and have consequences for those decisions. I say, one of the things I wish I had done for my kids is make them make more decisions because that served me and always served me that day, served me in my life, because especially what happened to me last weekend. So the decision I made was I was fine. I was mobile. The back of the plane was already underwater. So I climbed over the seats to see if anybody needed help and things were moving pretty well. People started moving.

Because now the water’s about chest level deep, 36 degree water. So people are moving. So I just got behind everybody else, Eric, and started making my way out and luggage is floating in the water because of the impact. You’re trying to get your way out and it’s dark because it’s late afternoon winter in New York. So I started making my way out and I saw light on the right side of the plane, like, “I’m out of here. Time to go.” But then I get it stuck my head to get out and all of a sudden you look out and there’s no room on the wing of the boat. It’s already filled up, but people are already being rescued. And I tell people, that’s the miracle. Within two to three minutes, people are already being rescued.

Eric Partaker: That’s amazing. That’s amazing.

Dave Sanderson: That’s amazing.

Eric Partaker: And so, the plane emergency lands on the river. Everyone’s getting off and you emerge from this plane crash and you emerge with a mission.

Dave Sanderson: Yep.

Eric Partaker: You word this mission as encouraging others to do the right thing. I get the sense that that’s your purpose now. So talk to us about that.

Dave Sanderson: Yes, thank you. So yes, so I mean my life changed immediately. Of course immediately just trying to recover from hypothermia, you got media all over you. You’re in New York City. It’s game on. But yeah, I emerge in this with a new mission. There’s a lot of things that I learned and doing the right thing serves you more often than not, but I think one of the biggest learnings I had on this, Eric, and it happened about two weeks later actually, but it was a result of the plane situation. I was in the green room of Good Morning America with other passengers and the crew. We just got done doing the interviews and I saw a fellow passenger who got irate. He was irate. He was mad and he started just yelling and screaming and saying, “I never want to see you people again.”

I’m looking around like, “What’s wrong with this guy?” We’re on national TV. We survived a plane crash. We’re on national TV. I mean, how bad can it be? But then when I found out Eric, he lost his job and he was going through a divorce. What all of sudden I realized is this, is how many times in my life have I judged somebody that’s cost me a job, money, a relationship, whatever? I said, how many times have I done that in my life, quickly judged people before I knew their backstory? And that became the mission. If I could become less judgemental and do like Martin Luther King said, “Judge people on the content of their character, not what you see.” How could that change my life? And that one distinction changed everything in my life. And all of sudden, I’m speaking at the Supreme Court, I’m doing things and interacting with people because I became less judgemental. And that, doing the right thing to me [inaudible 00:17:13] becoming less judgemental, which has changed the direction of my life.

Eric Partaker: I can totally relate to that. I have my wife actually to thank for that, because there’ll be times when something happens in the course of the day or you get pissed off with somebody and you’re upset about their behavior and she’ll be one of the first to say, “Yeah, but you don’t know what’s happened on their side. You don’t know. Is that just a superficial issue that you’re experiencing?” That you experience as a primary issue, but it’s just a knock on chain reaction from other things.

So you’re in the business now of helping inspire people, helping motivate people, but more specifically helping people, especially when they experience turmoil. You got your new book coming out, Turmoil into Triumph. Right?

Dave Sanderson: Right.

Eric Partaker: So how do you translate darkness into light? How do you translate turmoil into triumph? I would love if you could give us some practical ways or frameworks or anything that people can use to do that because we’ve all experienced darkness.

Dave Sanderson: Thank you. I’m very fortunate, Eric, in 1984 to have a gentleman come into my life. His name was Bill. And for 14 years he mentored me. He owned 80 movie theaters and restaurants through the Carolinas. But he grew up, he built his business during the Depression in the 1930s. I was very blessed to have someone like that [inaudible 00:18:56] to give me these insights and these lessons and these distinctions because he grew a business during a time where there’s a depression and now a world war is starting up. So he had a lot of different ways to… And the stories he would tell me to teach me these distinctions. And then after he passed away in 1997, I was very blessed to have Tony Robbins take me on as head of security. I got to be with Tony for 14 years and learn other distinctions on top of those distinctions.

So, I’m very honored to be around people who not only experienced turmoil or turbulence or whatever you want… traumatic life or whatever it is, because everybody in life goes through a traumatic life event. No one goes through life without something happening. I mean, I don’t care who you are. You could be the Queen of England, something’s going to happen. And so back about five years ago, this is how it all started and I’ll share with you some practical insights. Where I’m sitting today, I got a phone call from a gentleman who wanted to interview me for AARP Magazine. I’m like, “Dude, why do you want to talk to me?” AARP, that’s for old people. What can I teach old people? He said, “Well, there are two universities, UNC Charlotte and North Dakota State University were doing a study on me about what’s called PTGS, post traumatic growth syndrome.”

How did I grow from a traumatic life event where so many other people went a different direction, even the captain? How did you turn into a different direction? What were the strategies you used? So I did this interview and I shared strategies that I did to grow after a traumatic life event. And then I was approached to do it TED Talk. I did a TED Talk on it, which exposed me even more about this topic about PTGS. Now when I go out and speak, I not only speak about leadership and personal leadership, because I think it all starts with leading yourself first. But how do you grow from a traumatic life event? How do you grow from something like a COVID or social justice questions or have cancer? How do you grow out of this? I really share five different strategies, but I’ll share one with you right now that it really is the essence.

It is the meaning you attach to something. Because the meaning you attach to something produces the emotion of your life and emotions your life. I share with people and I help them identify what meanings are they attaching to this? And then I help them reframe those meanings. And that’s how I initially did it. I started reframing meanings that I was attaching to things. I started talking about being less judgemental. I started attaching a different meaning to being less judgemental and all of a sudden it opened my life up. So what really triggered all this, Eric, was an interaction I had with a neighbor, two neighbors actually. I’m sitting where I am. I’m writing my second book, Moments Matter, get a phone call from my wife. Says, “There’s a neighbor that needs some help [inaudible 00:21:50].”

Now, I don’t know where you grew up. I grew up in a small town USA where you always helped your neighbors. Especially if they’re elderly and these were two elderly ladies. So of course, I’m going to go out and help them. Go out and help them and it wasn’t that difficult. They say, “Would you stay for milk and cookies?” Now I love milk and cookies. I don’t about you, I love milk and cookies, especially from older ladies who can probably bake. I’m all in. So they’re getting milk cookies and I’m in their parlor. You got to remember, these are two… They have parlors. They’re down south now. And so they have a coffee table with all these books. I’m looking through the books and very cool stuff about World War II, and I love World War II history. And they came out and I said, “Where’d you get this book?”

They both looked at me and rolled up their sleeve and showed me the numbers and letters down their arms. They survived the concentration camp. And I said, “Whoa.” I said, “Let me record this story.” They wouldn’t let me record it, but for two plus hours, they told me the story about how they survived the concentration camp and it blew me away. I wrote about this. I called my person who was helping me with the book, I said, “Cindy, I got it. [inaudible 00:23:06] all these moments in our lives really do matter.” And if people started looking at these moments in their life and I could help them reframe their moments, the negative moments always have something positive. Because I learned from Bill, I learned from Napoleon Hill. Every adversity has a benefit. If I can help people turn that around and show them how to turn that turmoil into triumph, I can help them. And so that’s what I started doing and that’s what my new book’s about. [crosstalk 00:23:36] I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Eric Partaker: Yeah. No, no. I just love it. Turmoil into Triumph, it really rings with me. I always talk about stress builds strengt and that the problem isn’t stress, the problem is you, so to speak. So for example, people are running around trying to avoid stress, trying to avoid the stressful things that happen to them. But I equate it to when we go to the gym. So if you go to the gym, when’s the last time you went to the gym? And you said, “Can you please point me in the direction of the most comfortable weights?” We don’t do that. One of the things I’m always trying to stress to people is that they get these concepts that you’re talking about, that I talk about with stress builds strength, because they get it physically.

They know that physically I need to go stress my body in order to make it stronger. And if they can then get that and embrace what they already know physically to be true, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, then if they lift those weights, then they become stronger as a result as well. And so I think we’re really, really speaking the same language and that leads me to my next question, which is, do you think turmoil is necessary for triumph?

Dave Sanderson: [crosstalk 00:25:05] great distinction. Great question because I think if you’re going to have any triumph in life, you got to have some adversity. You got to have something pushing you. I tell people, I mentioned earlier, everybody in your life has some turmoil. I mean last year, one of the things I did, Eric, which helped me really illuminate this was when all this stuff was going down around COVID about March, April timeframe, I said… I was in my office here. I was bored out my mind. So I started calling five people a day just to check in. I said, “How are you doing?” And what I found is this, is last year it wasn’t just about COVID. It was about social justice questions. It was about police. It was about that election that just kept going on and on.

And all this turmoil just kept stacking on people. So what happened was, and I did my first live event back in my hometown in Northern Virginia, the principal asked me to speak to the students. He said, “They’re having a rough year. Will you speak to the students? Do some inspiration, but really talk more about leadership and personal leadership, and how to do this.” I said, “Okay.” So I reconfigured my talk overnight in the Turmoil into Triumph. And I started sharing with these students about how they could turn this last year into something really special.

And all of a sudden their eyes started widening up. And all of a sudden I was getting a lot of response. I’m like, “Okay, I’m onto something because people are in such pain right now.” And especially youth are in pain because they’ve never had to face adversity. I mean, I don’t know when you grew up, I grew up in the sixties where you had the Vietnam War, you had the social justice questions going on in 1968. This is not new news to me and my generation. We’ve seen this before. The Black Panthers and all that stuff, burning down Chicago, burning down Watts, seen it. You know how to handle it. These kids haven’t had to handle anything because this generation was born right around 9/11, but they were two young for it.

Eric Partaker: Again, super resonate with what you’re saying. I think what we’re both agreeing on is that for the person who’s thinking, “Okay, but do I need turmoil in order to triumph?” The answer is, yes you do. Because if you didn’t, going back to my analogy, it would be the equivalent of, again, walking into the gym and expecting to get bigger and stronger and faster, lifting no weights. Which is not going to happen. You need to lift the weights, whatever those weights are. I didn’t realize this. I came across this recently. So we’ve all heard of IQ and then EQ. I just came recently across AQ, adversity quotient. Have you heard this?

Dave Sanderson: I’ve not heard of this one, no.

Eric Partaker: Yeah. So this is fascinating. I thought you might like this if you hadn’t heard about it. I did a genetic test recently as well, and it actually shows genes correlated with IQ, EQ and AQ, adversity quotient. And the adversity quotient is simply your ability to handle adversity, but like anything, you have a genetic side of it, but then you have an environmental side, which you can grow and develop. So on that note, the plane crash that you are on is an incredible event. It’s so incredible that it’s like… I’m trying to draw another analogy where somebody says, “Well, I have no chance to be as athletically gifted as you, because you were in the Olympics and you had access to all this incredible stress and training. And so people can look at you, Dave, and say, “You know what? It’s great. You talk about how you got to turn turmoil into strength, but you had the ultimate test. You survived a plane crash.” So what do you say to them?

Dave Sanderson: Thank you for opening that one up for me, because I think I just… I’ll share a story of what just happened recently that’ll hopefully give some insight to that. So back in early April, I was actually in New Jersey at the airport, Newark, looking at the Hudson River where I went in and I got a phone call from a friend. Her name’s Suzanne and she said, “How would you like to get redemption from that river?” I said, “What are you talking about?” She goes, “Would you like to swim with the Navy SEALs in the Hudson River?” And I said, “Okay, I’m open. Let’s have a call.” So she introduced me to one of the top SEALs, name is [Scuba 00:29:55]. I said, “Anybody named Scuba I got to talk to.” So I talked to Scuba. He said, “Come out to this pool two days from now. I want to see you swim.”

He put me in the pool and I could get to the other side, but I was winded. I was not proficient. He said, “You know what?” He says, “I’m not going to take you out of this, but you’ll take yourself out.” First challenge. First challenge. One of the things my mentor always says is, “You got to humble yourself for preparation so you’re really to have the confidence to execute.” So for the last 15 weeks, Eric, I humbled myself. So this is the answer to the question. I humbled myself, went back in the pool, learned from scratch on how to swim 3.1 miles from New Jersey to New York with the SEALs, the elite of the elite. I humbled myself. So I think to answer your question, I think sometimes people say that to me, I’m like, “Yeah, but have you ever humbled yourself? Have you ever gone back down to the bottom? Because you got a big challenge now.”

I’m going to leave the Hudson River this time on my terms. Last time I didn’t get a vote. I had to deal with all that stuff that you don’t know I had to deal with. Now I’m putting myself back in the same situation because I want to leave on my terms. In life, I want to leave on my terms. So for 15 weeks I humbled myself and went in at 5:00 every morning to swim with these guys and gals. So last weekend, I went to New York City and New Jersey and swam 3.1 miles with the SEALs in the Hudson River with the waves and the currents, with my wing man, Suzanne, who introduced me. And I tell people, so when you tell me that, “Yeah. He went through a plane crash. He’s got a platform.” I do. But do you know what? I also went back to humble myself, so I could leave on my terms.

Eric Partaker: Love it.

Dave Sanderson: And now, the SEALs gave me a code name. My code name’s Miracle and I’ve earned respect. I tell people, so you can’t… Some people think you can just get respect by going to… No, you got to earn respect in life. You got to put yourself out there. My dad always told me, “Your word is your bond. You say it, you better be able to back it up.” And I said it back in April. I had to back it up and I had to humble myself. So yeah, people say that to me sometimes. I’m like, “Okay, well if you want to face your turmoil, go back and face it. Leave on your terms this time, not their terms.” But you got to humble yourself. You got to go through, like you said, that adversity. You have to. I mean, it was no fun swimming, 5:00, hour and a half every day just to get myself so I could go back in a place where it almost took my life and swim at the elite level and do 100 pushups at each stop.

Eric Partaker: What an amazing experience too. [crosstalk 00:32:56].

Dave Sanderson: Yeah. There’s so many lessons out of that. Now I’m going to talk about it. I’ll leave you one lesson that I just wrote about yesterday in my blog, because you’re a business person likewise and business people, and we talked about this earlier, I always put strategies together. Tony always said, “Have a strategy. What’s your strategy? Be a strategist.” That’s where it’s at. We had a strategy to, how are we going to attack this thing, in the Hudson River? Then all of a sudden you got a bunch of Navy SEALs jumping over a bridge, 13 feet up in the Hudson and that ain’t part of the strategy. My strategy’s blown up. That’s part of life.

In life, you can have all the blueprint strategy you want to face your turmoil, but when life hits you and you strategy goes one way, a different direction, you got to be able to problem solve quickly. And the key skill right now, I tell people for anybody, right now the key skill you better have is resourcefulness. You’d better be resourceful. The people who are the most resourceful now are the ones who are thriving. The ones who sat around, didn’t do anything for a year who are not resourceful are dying right now.

Eric Partaker: Who do you think really represents this well that a lot of people might be aware of or could identify with? Who represents well the idea of turning adversity into triumph, of being resourceful?

Dave Sanderson: I tell you what, I don’t know if they’re alive. I don’t think they’re alive, but you need somebody like a Mother Teresa, who has so much adversity. Now people don’t know the adversity she had in her life. She all of a sudden changed her mindset to gratitude. All of a sudden her life opened up. She turned that adversity she had into that. You look at this one lady from Afghanistan who survived the Taliban originally. And all of a sudden is now a national speaker about women’s empowerment. She turned that adversity from the Taliban into triumph. She was raped. She was beaten, but she turned that diversity into triumph.

So there’s so many people out there, so many examples, but it starts with the mindset. You got to have the mindset that, like Tony says, “It’s not a commitment. People commit all the time. It’s a resolve.” And that’s what I tell people, it’s the difference in April with me with the swim, the difference with people who make that 2% shift, is they have a resolve. It’s done. Now we just got to figure out how to do it. It is done. People commit all the time. They’ll commit. I’ll pay you the $100 I owe you and you never see it because it’s not a resolve.

Eric Partaker: Right. Right. And a lot of people hold themselves back because the moment adversity appears, they don’t know how to process it, handle it. They shy away from it. What do you think those people who are not stepping into adversity, those people who are not stepping into challenge, those people who are not stepping into discomfort, what do you think is holding them back?

Dave Sanderson: Well, here’s a thought. There’s six primary human needs everybody has. And the primary need for the people who you just talked about are what’s called certainty. They got to have certainty. When they don’t have certainty, they don’t know how to deal with uncertainty. The second [inaudible 00:36:10] need is uncertainty. And that’s why you see people in life, they’ll be jumping off mountains and climbing up sides of mountains with their hands because they want uncertainty in their life. Because the more uncertainty you can handle, the more stuff you can handle when stuff hits you. So the real strength doesn’t come from certainty, it comes from how can you handle uncertainty?

Eric Partaker: So the person who’s in the certainty camp and who naturally backs away from all the uncertainty or the challenge, how do they develop their uncertainty muscle?

Dave Sanderson: It comes to a point in time where that fresh stone hits, where I’ve had so much certainty. I go to Vegas, I always win. I’m winning. I got a lot of certainty because I go up, cha-ching. I’m going to win something. But after so much time you get the same outcome, you get bored. So there will be a threshold point. It’s like, “You know what? I need some…” That’s why [inaudible 00:37:03] wants to talk about guys in their fifties in that midlife crisis.” They have so much certainty. They have their wife, they’ve got their kids. They come home, they’ve got their money. I got money. I’m bored. I need to go jump off a mountain. I got to go swim, do something crazy. I need something to jive me, to jazz me.

So there’ll come a time. So this last year everybody got locked in and they’re in their offices. They’re not going any place, but they had certainty. I’m not going to get COVID if I do this, this, this, and this. Well, there’s a lot of people that went out the other direction. You know what? I’m going to go out, I’m going to live my life. I might get COVID, but I’ll deal with it. And all of a sudden, now that’s the shift that’s going on in this country right now. They’re trying to put people back in the mask and all this, and all of a sudden people are like, “I like it [inaudible 00:37:52] out here right now. I can deal with this. Let me assess my own risk.”

So yeah. But something with the Marines, I know a gentleman who’s a Marine and he asked me to be on his show. It’s called Embrace the Suck. That’s what you have to do, you have to embrace the suck. It’s going to be bad, but people who can embrace it are the ones who are going to thrive. The ones who can’t are the ones who are going to shrivel up.

Eric Partaker: And what do you think about all the… You’ll hear this talk about, try to do something uncomfortable or challenging every single day. What are the tactics or the practical things people can use so that they don’t have to wait until they become 50 years old? They don’t have to wait until coronavirus. How do they go to the adversity gym and strengthen the muscle tomorrow?

Dave Sanderson: I think one of the things that personally I’ve done is I’ve expanded my network to put myself around people who are already in that situation who have to stretch me. It’s one of the reasons I did the SEAL swim. I was around a group of people. One of the things I’ve always thrived about, Eric, is put myself around outstanding people. People who are much better at a lot of things than I am. And so I have to stretch myself. I have to put myself in uncomfortable situations. So when I was around the SEALs, I mean, I’m better at them at some things, but they’re really good at a lot of things. I had to be stressed. So I think one of the strategies I’ve always used and Tony taught me this, I was around Tony. Heck, Tony one night took us all out in the middle of a jungle in Fiji to jump off 100 foot bridge into a river, float out to the ocean.

And you’re by yourself in the dark. It’s like, “Okay.” But he put us all in that situation to stretch us. If I could do this. If I could do this, how can I get my mind to work when real adversity hits? Oh, by the way, my kids got cancer. Well, by the way, my mom’s dying. So all this kind of stuff is a stretch of… The strategy I use is put myself around outstanding people who will stretch me consistently every single day.

Eric Partaker: Perfect. I think that’s super practical, because somebody listening or watching right now can easily ask themselves, “Are the five people around me right now, are they keeping me in my comfort zone or are they pushing me in some way?” And obviously we don’t mean pushing you in a bad way to do bad things. Obviously we mean stressing you in a way that pushes you to a higher plane, that gets you from your current to your better self. [crosstalk 00:40:39]

Dave Sanderson: Well right now, Eric, you can get just about anybody on the internet, LinkedIn. You can get just about anybody. That’s why I call five people a day. I found people who are stretching me and some people who needed to be stretched.

Eric Partaker: Yeah. One of the most powerful questions I’ve been using lately is, you speak to those close to you and you say, “Hey, you know me well. My goals are this and if I were to fail those goals completely in a year’s time, I haven’t achieved any of them, based on what you know about me, why would I create my own failure? What is it that I would do or not do?” And people tell you. They have so many insights right around you, but people don’t typically tap into this. I think that’s great. I think it’s super practical. So thank you. Now, last question.

Dave Sanderson: Yep.

Eric Partaker: If you could only share one success secret with the world, something that would help people unlock their potential so they can become part of that estimated 2% of people who are operating at their full potential, what would that secret be?

Dave Sanderson: I wrote about this is my upcoming book. So I’ll share a little bit. I have a chapter about this and it’s something my mentor Bill and I had a deep discussion about because he was a visionary back in the thirties. He told me one time, “You have to have a vision for an alternative future. You have to be able to vision something bigger than yourself that’s alternative to your future.” I’ll give the example of you watch Marvel movies with like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse. There’s all these Multiverses out there, that world. Right?

Eric Partaker: Totally [crosstalk 00:42:25].

Dave Sanderson: There’s alternative futures. Bill always told me, he said, “You got to have a vision for that alternative future.” I never really realized what that was until all of a sudden, after the plane crash and I all of a sudden saw a whole different world for me that opened up. I think this is what he’s talking about.

If I could envision that earlier in my life, where would I be right now? Because I was so locked into my job and I had to make money. This is the strategy to get to [inaudible 00:42:51], but that’s not, because I’ll leave you with this. And that really resonated when I was with Tony, because when I was with Tony, one of the things that I would do is I would pick him up at the airport or helipad or wherever we were going. It was my job. One of the first questions, Eric, he would always ask me is, why are you still working for that company? When are you going to start working for yourself? You’ll never have freedom until you do that. I always came up with excuses until there’s no more excuses. There’s only so much you can BS until you’re called out.

Until one day he called me out in 2012 after the plane crash. He called me out and that was the moment I made the shift. That was the alternative future he was talking to me about. You have to be able to see something bigger. You’re going to have some pain making the transition. You will have pain. I had pain. My wife didn’t want the pain. That was part of the problem. I didn’t prep my wife for the pain. I should have. That was on me. But that’s what he was talking about and that’s what Bill was telling me. You’re going to be a real success and you’re going to have growth in your life and be the person you really are meant to be that top 2%. You got to have a vision for an alternative future. I’ll leave you with that.

Eric Partaker: Love it. Love it. Dave, it’s been absolutely awesome to talk to you.

Dave Sanderson: Same here.

Eric Partaker: I was so inspired by, admittedly, I wasn’t even aware of the plane crash until I saw the film, but after I saw the film, I just was just blown away by it. I was really excited when it came through that we were going to be talking because I was like, “Wow, somebody who was there, somebody who experienced it, somebody who played a role and turning that turmoil into triumph on the day, making sure everyone was safe.” And I just think it’s hats off to you for helping others do that. Stress does build strength. No pain, no gain. All of these things are true and you’re living it and you’re helping others live it and yeah, hats off to you. I think it’s amazing. Thank you, Dave.

Dave Sanderson: Thank you. I’m honored to be with you and hopefully at least one person will hear this interview and take action and if they need any help, you’re there. I’m there. Just go to me on LinkedIn. Message me on LinkedIn. I’ll be more than happy to support you and check out my new book later September, Turmoil into Triumph. Hopefully you’ll get something out of that.

Eric Partaker: Turmoil into Triumph, your new book coming out.

Dave Sanderson: Turmoil into Triumph. Yep.

Eric Partaker: And your website is…

Dave Sanderson:

Eric Partaker: Yeah. So get in touch with Dave via his website, via LinkedIn, other social media. Check out the new book. We all have to turn turmoil into triumph. It’s our only chance to break free from the 98%, join that 2%. Thanks again, Dave. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

Dave Sanderson: Thank you, Eric. God bless, man. Thank you.

Eric has been named "CEO of the Year" at the 2019 Business Excellence Awards, one of the "Top 30 Entrepreneurs in the UK" by Startups Magazine, and among "Britain's 27 Most Disruptive Entrepreneurs" by The Telegraph.

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