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From Obscurity into the Limelight

January 15, 2009. A day that started out as a normal day for Captain Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III ended with him being propelled from obscurity into the limelight. He was the captain of flight 1549 that ditched in the Hudson River in New York, USA.

What Happened?

The plane’s two engines were disabled after an unexpected bird strike which led him to make a split second split-second decision to land on water. He saved 155 lives!!

The Reaction

People all around the world including me were in awe as the event unfolded on live television. It felt surreal to watch a man pull off such a stint with poise, grace, and humility. Shortly after the incident, he appeared on many live shows and news channels to share his story of how he miraculously saved 155 lives.

Preparation Precedes Success

On the surface and to most people, it appeared that Captain Sully landed on the water by chance. However, the deeper I dug deeper, the more I discovered that Captain Sully had diligently prepared for a day like that. He was an experienced pilot who submitted himself to several trainings to hone his skill including practicing how to ditch a plane that suddenly loses its engines. As of the day of the incident, records show that he had flown nearly 20,000 hours over the period of 40 years. Read that again – that’s 40 years of consistency, practice, and experience! His preparation preceded his success and ultimately his celebrity status.

Lessons from Captain Sully

Captain Sully was and is still an inspiration to me and many people around the world. I love his maturity, diligence, and resoluteness toward the things he believed in. He devoted his time, energy, and resources toward honing his skills and perfecting his craft until the time God was ready to announce him to the world.

His story of “preparation” is similar to that of biblical David who as a shepherd boy focused on his fighting skills while tending to his father’s sheep in the wilderness. The bible recorded that David killed a bear and lion with his bare hands. Killing a lion and a bear with bare hands is no ordinary feat – this shows that David was prepared to take up and overcome greater challenges. When he killed Goliath with a single shot sling, he was propelled from obscurity into the limelight instantly.

How are you preparing for success? Do you carve the time to hone your skills? As you wait for God to “announce” you to the world, are your skills half-baked or fully baked? What is your attitude to the challenges of life?

Your answers to these questions will determine whether or not you are a candidate that is ready to be propelled from obscurity into the limelight.

From Obscurity into the Limelight

When Captain Sully’s plane engines were disabled by a birdstrike, he had no prior notification but he rose to the occasion in confidence and overcame. That was far from being magical. Instead, it was the result of diligence, determination, and preparation. These helped propel him from obscurity into the limelight. As you set different goals for yourself and have big dreams, here are three things to keep in mind:

1. Sharpen your skill in obscurity: As you think of a great future, put your hands on the plow and sharpen your skills in obscurity. Sharpening your skills in obscurity helps to avoid distraction. When you sharpen your skills in obscurity, it helps you to shine brightly when the spotlight is on you.

2. See challenges as opportunities: If you truly want to be great, you must start embracing challenges instead of avoiding or retreating from them. Challenges help with character-building, problem-solving, and skill enhancement. The more challenges you resolve and overcome, the more you solve problems with ease that would otherwise drown others.

3. Be patient: As you work hard to be successful, please always remember that real success takes time and therefore you need to be patient. It took Captain Sully 40 years for him to be catapulted from obscurity into the limelight and while no one prays for it to take 40 years to get a breakthrough but it’s always good to put things into perspective so you’d refrain from putting yourself under unwarranted pressure. Be patient – your time will come and your light will surely shine.

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