Why the “Miracle on the Hudson” was No Miracle After All

Do you believe in miracles?

They called it a miracle. But was it really? 

On January 15, 2009, the sun rose like any other day, and 155 people awoke, packed their bags, said their good-byes, and headed to the airport expecting nothing unusual—like most of us do, on most of our days.

Lucky for them, they buckled in for the flight of their lives. Even luckier for them, their particular pilot would soon be touted as a hero on the evening news.

Everything started out rather predictably—the spiel from the flight attendants about wearing the oxygen masks in the case of an emergency, the reminder to fasten their safety belts, the semi-awkward attempt to greet the stranger in the adjacent seat. Minutes later the plane raced down the runway and became airborne, along with musings about the day that now lay spread out for the seizing.

Like clockwork, the clock worked the way it should, bringing routine right along with it. Fortunately, this particular routine proved to be exceptionally routine, creating potential space for reading, writing, and even dozing for a few sleepy souls.

But only ninety seconds into the flight, the pilot noticed an unexpected obstacle. Or more accurately, unexpected obstacles.

Kiss routine good-bye

Birds suddenly filled his view. Lots of birds. Lots of big birds.

In his book Highest Duty, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger explains that the Canada geese with six-foot wingspans, weighing eight to eighteen pounds each, sounded like large hail pelting the plane. Moments later he felt what every pilot fears—double engine failure resulting from a brutal bird strike.

Routine had suddenly been blown to pieces—along with the birds.

The plane lost thrust and, given its low speed and low altitude over New York City, one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, Captain Sully knew he sat front and center in a seriously challenging situation.

Despite the fact that he had never requested this experience, in that instant, life sought his response. And 154 people prayed that Captain Sully’s response would prove to be the right one.

Your defining moment awaits you

We all have at least one defining moment in our lifetime. Many of us have a handful more. You can’t predict them. And you can’t create them—at least not easily.

But defining moments are coming for you. They’ll hunt you down and find you. They’re not for you or against you. They simply are. They’re a mirror, a complex combination of circumstances, impressions, tones, shades, vibrations, and events meant to do one solitary thing—reveal you.

You were going to see Captain Sully on the evening news that January day. Regardless of the pilot’s actions following the unlucky bird strike, his number had come up, and life had decided to snatch him from semi-anonymity and thrust him onto center stage.

Through a series of events he couldn’t avoid, Captain Sully faced his defining moment. Life happened and he didn’t have time for anything except an immediate response. But this is precisely what made Captain Sully a hero. And he didn’t need a bird strike to tell him that.

Many dismiss January 15, 2009 as a fluke or an example of luck in its purest form. Many prefer to label the whole experience as a miracle. And that’s just what they did, referring to this event as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

For the record, I do believe in miracles. But it wasn’t a miracle Rather, this successful emergency landing on the Hudson River resulted from a series of decisions determined long before.

As Captain Sully told CBS news anchor Katie Couric:

For 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal. 

Sully’s secret was simple. He was ready for that unforeseen emergency. He had mastered the art of flying glider planes before his life—and 154 other people’s lives—depended on it. He knew Life had an uncanny ability of revealing people. And he wasn’t about to let that revelation spring up on him. Sully used the present to prepare him for the future.

When you prepare for the moment, the moment is prepared for you. (Tweet This | Share on Facebook | Post on LinkedIn).

Don’t wait for a miracle in your life

Successful people don’t sit around waiting for their miracle to fall from the sky. Instead they go out and make their miracle happen everyday with intentional effort—especially regarding their Dream Jobs. Brace yourself. Many will attribute your success to luck and chance. They don’t see the small regular deposits you make. They’d rather accept the lie that you’re lucky and they’re not. It’s an easier pill to swallow.

Society prefers this myth because then it can blame lack of success on lack of luck—rather than lack of effort. The first step toward my Dream Job began in 2003 when I started writing my first book The Journey Toward Relevance published by Relevant. It took nearly 10 more years before I went PRO and turned my passion into my full-time gig. There were millions of small deposits along the way. And because I prepared, the moment was prepared for me.

Five years after that courageous landing, we can rejoice that Sully didn’t wait for a miracle. January 15th, 2009 proves that—sometimes—God chooses to use prepared people too.


QUESTION: Do you believe Captain Sully’s landing was a miracle?

(Please comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you know someone who needs to read this, please encourage them by sharing this post)

Based on the audio and video from the flight, what can you tell about Sully? How does that apply to your flight in life?