Never Sleep On Your Parachute

Unique Leadership Axiom: Never let personal comfort endanger your life.

As a student at Caltech I was a member of the Air Force ROTC.  Back in the day, some of us cadets were flown to The Firepower Demonstration at Eglin Air Force Base.  In the plane we sat on canvas seats and bare aluminum structure.  Backpack parachutes were stacked in the corner, so to say.  All of us cadets were uncomfortable sitting in the canvas seats.  One cadet pulled out a backpack parachute and lay down on it.

The crew chief, a grizzled Master Sergeant, jerked the parachute pack out from under the cadet.  The sergeant gave us all a lecture that I shall never forget.  It was physiology and physics and survival all rolled up in one.

The sergeant told us about another flight with young cadets.  On that flight, a cadet had also taken a nap on his parachute backpack.  When something went wrong with the airplane the cadets had to put on their chutes and bail out.  They all landed safely except for the cadet who had been taking a nap on his parachute.  His chute ripped when it opened.  The cadet was killed.

The sergeant reminded us that everyone sweats.  He even quoted the amount of sweat produced by a normal weight male in an hour.  The cadet had been sleeping on his parachute for about three hours.  In doing so, the cadet had soaked his chute with sweat.

The Sergeant said that when you bail out of a plane at high altitude the outside air temperature can instantly freeze water (30 degrees below Zero at 25,000 feet).  He told us that when parachute fabric has ice in it, the fabric loses its flexibility.  And when it loses its flexibility it rips.  That young cadet had traded temporary comfort for his life!

Maybe this story really happened.  Maybe it was just a mythical training aid.  Either way it trained me.  Over the years I have at times chosen comfort over the right thing to do.  I am overweight.  Look around to see how many other Americans are also overweight.  Comfort food endangered their lives, as it has mine.

Some decisions pit comfort against survival.  When the alarm wakes you in the morning you may decide to hit the snooze button.  That is a decision to be comfortable. Most days, that will work out all right.  Some days, that that decision will lead to disaster.

  • If choosing to be comfortable causes you to fail the team, will you survive?
  • If you fail to face your health problems as directed by the doctor, will you get well?
  • If you are the family breadwinner, will you budget your family’s money carefully or spend big bucks “keeping up with the Jones”?

Leadership focus: Anytime you choose to be comfortable instead of facing a problem, be suspicious! Your decisions define your character.  The old saying, “The coward dies 1000 deaths, the hero only one” should inform all your decisions.

My Take: I don’t know your life.

  • I don’t know what the biggest threat to your survival is.
  • I do know there are threats out there.
  • I do know that meeting them is not comfortable.
  • I do know that the consistent winner faces the threats head on!

You must decide whether to be comfortable or to survive.  It is up to you!

This entry was posted in Winning, Winning Beliefs and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Never Sleep On Your Parachute

  1. Conor Neill says:

    Found your blog via Roger Parker’s site. This is a great post. I am doing NaNoWriMo and have a target of 2000 words/day… this post was just what I needed first thing in the morning to kick start the day (and kill my procrastination lizard brain). Thanks for sharing.

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