I wanted to write on this first day of 2015 about what a great time this is for the CEO to be engaged in planning. I had planned to offer a few comments on the value of strategic planning, a discipline many of us resist.
But a couple days ago I saw the movie Unbroken. I had read the book of the same name by Laura Hillenbrand about a year ago.
Let me explain why this changed my blogging plans. The subject of this movie, Louis Zamperini, served in World War II as a bombardier on a B-24 in what was then the U.S. Army Air Forces. His plane went down in the Pacific Ocean 850 miles south of Hawaii. He was one of three crew members (out of eleven) who survived the crash. They had no fresh water, little food, and a life raft. He was afloat on the ocean for 47 days before reaching the Marshall Islands, where he and Russell Phillips were captured by the Japanese. (The third survivor, Francis McNamara, had died at sea on the 33rd day afloat). Zamperini was held captive by the Japanese, brutally beaten and generally mistreated, until the war ended in August of 1945. He had been assumed dead and, in 1944, his parents had actually received a formal condolence note from FDR. (His actual death occurred 70 years later, in 2014.)
Many CEOs I know have faced extremely serious struggles with their businesses as well as in their personal lives. Some have faced life-threatening illnesses and business-threatening near-collapses. Many have downsized significantly. For the most part, these challenges are not quite in the same league as surviving a plane crash, then a month and a half drifting on the open sea, followed by two years of brutal captivity by a wartime enemy. But the parallel is legitimate. Running a business can be brutal.
There are many stories of survival that inspire. I am in awe of the Louie Zamperini story. And I’m also tremendously inspired by the survival of so many businesses that have been through something akin to a plane crash.
Maybe this is your story that I’m telling. Or maybe you know somebody who has lived this scenario. Someone who has been through hell personally or professionally but was not quite broken. If so, I would urge you to begin 2015 by celebrating their (your own?) survival.
Quickly thereafter, get your strategic plan together.