How Miracles Can Define You With David Sanderson

Many would agree that one great moment can change your life forever. In today’s special episode, Dr. Diane Hamilton interviews David Sanderson who is one of the passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 who lived to tell the ‘miracle flight on the Hudson.’ Through his book Moments Matter – How One Defining Moment Can Create a Lifetime of Purpose, he shares the first-hand experience of that miraculous moment. He also talks about reaching out to other survivors and how leadership had led to their miracle. Brace yourself as David gives us a front seat experience of that scary but amazing moment.

TTL 638 | Miracle At The Hudson


I’m glad you joined us because we have Dave Sanderson. Dave was one of the people on board at US Airways Flight 1549. We’ve all heard about it, the Miracle on the Hudson with Captain Sully. Everybody’s talked about it from the captain’s viewpoint, but it’s interesting to take a look at it from one of the passenger’s perspective. He has authored Moments Matter, which is a book about what he went through. He also has a workshop out there to help you create your personal flight plan that has some interesting things and perspective from the last passenger to leave the plane. I’m anxious to have Dave on the show, stay tuned and we’ll talk to Dave.

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How Miracles Can Define You With David Sanderson

I am here with Dave Sanderson, who is an inspirational speaker, podcaster and radio host. The author who channeled his life-changing experience onboard US Airways Flight 1549, the Miracle on the Hudson, into a mission to provide insight on the important facets of faith, conviction and leadership. He is the author of Moments Matter. He is a top speaker and I’m excited to have him. Welcome, Dave.

Diane, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be with you.

I have to fly, so I don’t know if this is great timing to talk about this, especially as I’m flying over water. When you went through such a horrific ordeal and everybody’s familiar with Sully and the story and different things associated with it but to learn it from your perspective is a whole different angle for me. I’m anxious to have that story told. Can you tell me what you were doing prior to this flight? What was your background?

I was in sales at that point. It was maybe 25 years at that point in time. I was in sales and I was coming back from a three-day sales trip starting in Sarasota, Florida then going to Petersburg, Virginia and then ending up in Brooklyn, New York. I was trying to get home, I called an earlier flight, that’s part of the story that a lot of people, they’ll understand. All of us who travel like you and I and the many people, we try to get home as quickly as we can and sometimes we try to get the earlier flight that’s available and that’s what happened that day. I gave up a first-class seat at 5:00 for seat 15A to be on flight 1549. I was on that plane for a reason.

I got little goosebumps when you said that, because you don’t know. I’ve done that quite often where you think, “I want to get home a little earlier.” You take a different flight. You’re sitting on this flight and you think it’s another day and it changes your whole life. It’s fascinating, what one choice can do in someone’s whole existence. Why don’t you walk us through what happened? You talked to many people about this and we’ll get into what you did based on what you’ve learned from all this. Can you share that day with us?

It was eleven degrees and snowing that day in New York, that’s not that big of a deal in the middle of winter in New York. The reason I share that is that the planes were backed up that day. That’s not untypical of LaGuardia in New York, but that had a lot to play with how things played out. I got to the airport early, to get on the earlier flight. The US Airways, I flew over a hundred times a year, so I had status. I was one of the first people to board the plane that day and back then, I didn’t pay attention.

I notice many people nowadays don’t pay attention when they go on a plane. They go in their little world, they get their magazine out as I did, and they don’t listen to the flight attendants and like I didn’t that day. You think everything’s going to be normal and there’s nothing that could ever happen on your flight. Nothing extraordinary, about to take off, we were about 60, 70 seconds into the flight and that’s when I heard an explosion. I’d never heard anything on a plane like that before, that got my attention.

I was on a window seat and I was four rows behind the left-wing, when I looked out the window, there was fire coming out from the left-wing. My initial thought was the plane lost an engine. I’ve flown where planes have lost engines before and I know they have multiple engines on a plane and that’s not that big of a deal. One of the things that are amazing is people didn’t freak out, I’m like, “No.” The majority of that plane was business flyers. They recognized that you have multiple engines and it happened on the other side of the plane, so no big deal.

As we all know now and from the movie and everything that’s been shared, that happens simultaneously on both engines. That’s part one of the fascinating things about that because I truly believe we heard two different hits. People probably saw a terrorist attack or something different but since there’s only noise, one explosion, people were, “We have another engine, we’re going to go back to the airport and get off the plane.” That was one of the saving graces, there was this one hit but that’s amazing to have. They pulled out over the 8 to 10 out of both engines, geese that hit the same exact time.

At that point, you start banking and I thought we were going back to the airport. As we were banking, I looked out the window and I saw something I’d never seen before, I saw the entire New York skyline up close and personal. We were descending, we were roughly 3,000 feet when this happened and we were descending quickly. I was looking at the New York skyline, I was like, “I’ve never seen that one before.” I looked a little bit further, I saw a bridge coming up and I was like, “Never seen that one before.” All of a sudden, you hear the captain come on and say his famous words, “This is your captain, brace for impact.” At that point, you know something is going on.

For a lot of us, I never thought about birds, geese or anything even being an issue. Did you even know that was a problem that you had to worry about geese when you’re taking off?

TTL 638 | Miracle At The Hudson
Moments Matter- How One Defining Moment Can Create a Lifetime of Purpose

I never thought about it. I’ve heard of birds before, primarily west in Denver because of the airport. You’ve been to Denver probably, it’s out in the middle of nowhere and all those big birds are flying, but never in New York. Later on, of course, you find out that Rikers Island is where a lot of the geese plan while they’re heading south. Now we know that Rikers Island right next to LaGuardia is a plethora of big birds.

I flew in LaGuardia in the past, I fly to JFK more often than not. If you go to New York, do you avoid LaGuardia now because of that?

No, I live in Charlotte, going to a hub to hub is a lot easier. I go to LaGuardia because it’s less expensive, candidly. I’ve flown in JFK but LaGuardia is easy for me to get into the city and in New Jersey. I still go to LaGuardia but if you flew out in LaGuardia, I’m sure people who are reading have, the runway extends out into the water. As you’re taking off, you go over water. All of the things are lined up that day.

I’ve heard that LaGuardia, they don’t have as many runways or something that you’re lined up more, if something happens you get backed up more there. That’s why I’ve never seen too many planes that come out of that location. I know I have come out of there and I do remember that going over the water and anytime you do that, it’s like San Diego or Hawaii, all of a sudden, you’re right there over the water. When you heard this bang, did Sully or anyone say anything immediately or the first thing that you heard was to prepare for impact?

No one said a word, that’s amazing because no one was losing it, no one was freaking out, everybody at that point was like, “What happened?” You heard nothing, but then you hear the captain come on, “This is your captain, brace for impact,” and then you heard his voice say, “Brace, brace.” At that point, you’re descending quickly. When we were heading towards the bridge, we cleared the bridge by roughly 400 feet, the bridge is 600 feet up, and we are roughly at 1,000 feet descending. I tell people, “When I looked out the window and I looked out, you see people’s faces, that’s how close we were to the bridge.” People are looking up from their windshields and you can see down, you can see their faces like, “We’re close to the bridge.” It was descending quickly, but that was an amazing part, how he got that thing over the bridge with zero power.

At this point, prepare for impact, was everybody quiet, screaming, freaking out? What happens at that point?

It was quiet, you hear a pin drop.

Everybody puts their head down and then what happened?

What I heard is some people started making phone calls, some people were texting. This is it, the game’s over, it was pretty much what I thought, the game is over and hopefully, I come back in one piece. I prayed, I was like, “I hope I cleared everything up quick.” I didn’t want anything between God and me at that point, we’re going down and I probably am not going to come back.

You thought that was it?

I thought that was it because you’re going nose-first into a river. One of the things I found out later, I didn’t know then, cold water is where the hardest surface is and the river was ice because of the weather. There’s one picture of one angle where you see the ice floating in the river around the plane. Some people were like, “This thing broke up the ice.” If you look at all the dynamics of that, and then all of a sudden, this happened roughly 3:37 PM. It’s getting dark, not dark yet but the ferry started running at 4:00, twenty minutes later, he probably wouldn’t even have an option because the ferries have been in the river and he would have taken out that.

If you look at another perspective, if he would not have aligned this thing perfectly, if he tips one on the wings, you’re either toppling through New York or you’re toppling through New Jersey in rush hour at the busiest time. You could’ve had an incident that could be unbelievable taking out many other things. Many things were happening, and when I share the story about this, I break it down for people. It’s not just people getting on a wing and all, there are many things that go into this.

I’ve seen the interviews with Sully and the movies, the different things they’ve made from all of this, they make a big point of how fast he had to make the decision of what he made. I want to focus on that time, it’s such a small amount of time. How much do you have going through your head in such a small amount of time? Does it make you appreciate his decision-making ability? How much time was it exactly?

If you look back, he had roughly six minutes give or take, from the moment of takeoff to the moment of impact. The decision-making that he and the first officer Jeff Skiles had to make was amazing. Having certainty in those decisions, because once you make a decision, at that point, you’ve got to go. You don’t have a chance to change it or make it, think about another way, you go. That’s one of the greatest learning experiences I tell people, “When you make a decision, you’ve got to have certainty in it.” If you don’t have certainty in it then the probability of things happening in a different direction, probably increases dramatically. It’s a great business lesson on when you make a decision to have certainty and go with it and you have a higher probability of getting the outcome you’re looking for.

I’m curious about how scared you were, was it more like a shock? You don’t have time to think about it because you said six minutes, it wasn’t that much time after the bang. How much time did you have after the bang?

The bang happened in roughly 60 to 70 seconds in it, we were roughly four-plus minutes at that point from all this happening. That’s why people don’t understand to compress time. I was walking in an airport, somebody asked me that same question, was I scared? I don’t think you have time to be scared. I gave the story about, have you ever been in a car, a hybrid, you stop at a stoplight and it stops and you’re like, “What’s going on?” What’s wrong with my car? All of a sudden you hit the accelerator and you go, that’s what happened. You stop at that moment like, “What’s going on?” You don’t have time to be scared but then you have to go and start making decisions. There was a point later on, what happened to me that I had more fear than I did at that point, because at that point I’m probably not coming back. Hopefully, my wife is going to pay off the mortgage and at least we’ll get that done and hopefully, we’ll be in a better place.

When you decide, you got to have certainty, otherwise the chances of things happening in a different direction increases dramatically. Click To Tweet

Did you think of making a phone call or it was too fast?

It was too fast, I was praying. I didn’t get my phone up. I’m shocked that many people had their phones in their hands. They were quick to call and that’s tremendous.

They probably already had it and people are never off of their phones if you think about it. I was thinking as you were saying this, one time I had gone off of a freeway and I felt like I was going to flip my car. You’re trying to keep a grip of what you’re doing at the moment that you’re not scared, you’re dealing in that situation at least. That’s how I imagined it would be in this situation. You don’t have the time to panic yet, but I imagine once it all sets in later. Even now when I think back to that, it gives me a certain sense of, “Oh.” You don’t want to even think about it, because it would seem like it could have been much worse.

Of all the training I’ve had and I had years going in sales but also my several years of being with a guy by the name of Tony Robbins and serving him as security director. Being around that environment learning, you go in that mindset, about the mindset of resourcefulness. What do I have around me that can hopefully help me get to the next step? Once we got down, that’s the mode I went into. At that point, part two of the story comes. We got down and the plane is sinking in 36-degree water quickly.

What was the landing like before it starts to sink? Did it feel like it was falling apart or you hit hard?

It was a violent hit. I thought the plane would break up but it didn’t. Of course, he hit it perfectly as we know. It was a hard hit, it jarred me. I went back and forth my seat at least twice, maybe more and it jerked me that hard. When I looked out the window and I saw a light, I knew I was alive but all of a sudden, you’ll look out the window, halfway up the window is water. You’re in the water, you’re looking out and you’re sinking, and I’m towards the back of the plane. People were standing on the wings, one in the front but if you look at the side angle, which I show on the cover of my book, Moments Matter, the back of the plane was already in the water. Most people in the back were already waist to chest-deep in water. Where I was, we were about knee to waist deep, and in the front was ankle-deep. You have a whole different situation, how are you going to get out of a sinking plane when all stuff is breaking loose?

How did the water get in? Because it broke open the plane? You would think it was sealed.

We have the plane here in Charlotte and when I do tours, I show people. I walk people around so they can see the big hole at the back that was caused by the impact. When somebody tried to open up the door in the back, which we learned now, I don’t blame that person because if you look at the little brochure, a little card, that’s an exit. We know now if you’re in the water, that’s not an exit. That’s good to know now. It’s one of the learning experiences we have. Water starts coming in from underneath and that back door, it was rushing in rapidly. The movie didn’t depict that like it was on the plane, and there wasn’t that light on the plane if you saw the movie. It was dark.

You’d think they’d make it more sinister in a movie, I wonder why they didn’t.

I don’t know why they didn’t, I had the opportunity to be part of it, I was honored. I didn’t ask that question to Clint Eastwood. That’d be a great question to Clint Eastwood one day.

I’ll have to have that discussion with him about that.

You have to get him on the show and ask him that question.

I would love that, I love Clint Eastwood. You got to work with him on that and talk to him and be part of this. Before we get to that, you’ve hit the water, the water is coming in, and then what happened?

On the way down, I was planning a game plan, if I survive what am I going to do? My game plan was “Aisle, up, out,” I kept saying that. Because I’ve broken down things in three’s, that’s the way I think, I can think in threes. I said, “Aisle, up, out.” My game plan was to get to the aisle, get up and get out. When I got up to the aisle, something happened that changed that game plan. I heard my mother start talking to me in my head. My mother passed away in 1997. There were some things she would tell me when I was a child and all of a sudden, I heard in my head. It was, “If you do the right thing, God will take care of you.” I told people after I started thinking about that later on years ago, I’m like, “One of the things about my mother is that she was brilliant on a lot of levels.” One of the levels she was brilliant on that I never thought about is she never told me what to do, she made me make a decision and I had to live with those choices. I tell people that’s one of the things that as a parent and some parents, maybe we don’t make our kids make decisions early enough in life. When they have to make them, they don’t know how to make them.

TTL 638 | Miracle At The Hudson
Miracle At The Hudson: The amazing thing about the incident was no one was losing it and freaking out.


That was a great gift my mother gave me. She made me make a decision and you have to live with your consequence. I went towards the back of the plane to see if they needed help because I knew I was alive. I didn’t know at the back what was going on. I climbed over the seats to get to the back and got behind everybody else. When I got in the back of the plane, the water was about waist to chest level, it was deep and it was coming in quickly. I was making my way out like everybody else. Some things, based on the impact, had popped. Some of the luggage was floating in the water, and you were getting your way through that. The first light that I saw was on the right side of the plane, and that was at 10F. I’m like, “Game over, I’m out of here.” I got to the door though I looked out, it was an amazing sight, it shocked me a little bit. People are already being rescued. We’re 2 to 3 minutes after the plane crash and people are already being rescued. It was the waterways, the New York ferries. You saw people standing on the wing and it was filled up.

The lifeboat that had popped open was filled up and I couldn’t get out. I didn’t have any room, that’s why I was inside the plane waist-deep in 36-degree water for about seven minutes, holding on to the lifeboat, keeping it close to the plane. Another thing, people, and you probably fly like I fly, who reads the instructions? No one does. Those lifeboats are tethered to the plane and they didn’t know that, they were floating out into the river, the current in the Hudson River is extremely fast. I was holding a lifeboat, waist-deep in 36-degree water inside the plane for about seven minutes, while all of this was going on.

Were you worried about hypothermia?

I didn’t think about it at that point. That’s one thing the EMTs can’t explain except for adrenaline, that’s the only way they explained it. I was already in the water previously, I was in the water seven minutes inside the plane and I jumped in the water and swam to the ferries. I was in the water head deep in the water. The only way they can explain it is I did have hypothermia, they all say it’s adrenaline.

It’s that lift the car off your baby thing, you don’t know what it will do to you. Your instinct is to go help people instead of trying to get out at the front where there’s less water, which is an interesting instinct. Were other people freaking out and going the other direction?

Most people were getting out. They did exactly what they were told to do, they did what they had to do. I did what I thought I had to do and see if there’s anybody needing help, and that’s why I did. I give credit to my mother. Candidly, Diane, if I hadn’t heard that, I probably would’ve gotten out like everybody else and there’d be nothing wrong with that but my instinct is to help people, and that’s what I did.

You were the last passenger to leave the plane because you were helping everybody get off.

I didn’t know that, Diane. I was on Good Morning America and one of the first pictures they showed on the screen, they put the little arrow in my head and they showed me aside from the plane holding on a lifeboat in the water. I’m like, “I didn’t know this.” I was in go mode, I didn’t know this. That’s how I found out.

As you’re getting off this plane, you’re the last one. You’re in the boat. Where were you at this point waiting to go? Where were they trying to transport you to?

I went to Jersey, New Jersey docks, where they had triage center stood up right there at the dock. I went out on the right side of the plane and the right side of the plane was facing New Jersey so I went to New Jersey.

How injured was anybody? Nobody died, right?

Nobody died. The most serious physical injury besides hypothermia was the flight attendant, Doreen, who had a severe cut in her leg due to some metal coming up in the back. The gentleman who I was in the hospital with, we were the only two to stay the night in the hospital. Barry fractured his sternum based on impact and I had hypothermia.

How did the airline handle this? Did they come to you immediately and say, “You can fly free for the rest of your life?” What was their initial making up to you?

Not quite, that wasn’t that way. US Airways wrote a book and I told the lady who was in charge of the whole program, I thought they wrote the book on how to do it because within 24 hours, my family, they gave us a reimbursement check that covers all the expenses of all lost items. I got a free club for a year. They took great care of me. I have said nothing but positive things about them because they wrote the book on how to handle this. Now we’ve seen from some other situations, unfortunately, especially in the Far East on how they handle it incorrectly and how damaging it can be to people.

Everybody has their personal leadership skills inside them ready for a trigger. Click To Tweet

They took great care of me, but the airline didn’t show up, candidly in New Jersey, until about 8:00 or 9:00 that night. They could find most of us. One thing is if you’ve been to New York, and I’m sure you have, that area, people start going home. New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, they were going home. Other people were going different directions and the airlines showed up roughly 8:00 or 9:00 that night with a representative from Newark who came to be with us until my liaison, Doreen, got there from Pittsburgh. She was a dream, she took control when she got there by midnight.

When you wake up the next day and you’re in the hospital, you’re pinching yourself like, “That didn’t happen,” feeling.

I didn’t sleep all night. I had hypothermia, it took them five hours because my body was cold and then my organs were frozen that they had to warm me up slowly. I was up pretty much the entire night. People were trying to get in the room and it’s a little bit chaotic at that point. The next morning, we were in go mode again. Barry, who was in the hospital with me, we’re doing all these Good Morning America shows in Fox and with all these shows.

How long did that last, all that attention?

It lasted several weeks. When I got home, you got to get back here and you see your family, you’re grateful, and all of a sudden, you’re getting to the escalator to go down to your car and wall-to-wall media. Some TV channels followed me home and they were following me through town. One went to my daughter’s high school basketball game that night to film me. I was shocked by them being around that, but I was blessed to have people who took an interest in what happened.

How did your family handle what you went through? How did it impact them?

Each one had a different reaction, from my kids to my wife. My wife won’t talk about it for many weeks, she wouldn’t want to talk about it. She was in shock and amazement. She didn’t say much about it and we didn’t talk much about it. My kids all had different reactions and it definitely changed my relationships with a couple of my kids, let’s say it that way.

I can’t imagine going through that. I know you’ve told this story many times, but it’s foundational to what you’re doing now to know the story because you have authored, Moments Matter, and you’ve got a workshop, the twelve resources to create your own personal flight plan. You speak, you host a daily leadership voice of personal leadership on Alexa, and you do many different things. What has this done to change your life and what’s the message you’re trying to get out?

It definitely changed my life. It has opened up opportunities for me to go out and do what I love, is impact people’s lives. You know this from what you do and your workshops, focusing on your Curiosity Code and things that you do, you can impact people’s lives. How I do it is I truly believed that everybody’s got personal leadership skills inside them, they’re there ready to go and something’s got to trigger them. One of the things I share with people is how do you trigger these personal leadership skills? When it’s time for you to take action, you could do something, you can be able to call on them.

My mission is to share these personal leadership skills and how to use them. The two key things leaders are supposed to do, be resourceful, optimize resources, and solve people’s problems, I help them do that. Also, one of the things I’m seeing in the marketplace now, and you’ve probably seen this likewise, a real trend in businesses if they want to turn their people now into leaders, but servant leaders. Focus on how they can serve people instead of being an autocratic type of leader. I’ve seen the most successful companies that I’m around, have a focus on how to be a great servant leader, not only to your customers but to your internal associates.

My real focus is to teach people these skillsets on how to do that and hopefully, they can be a high-level servant leader in their organization. The other side is I did in my TED Talk, what I found is there are many people who’ve gone through traumatic life experiences which go one direction and it’s usually PTSD or depression and I grew from it. Helping people who go through traumatic life experiences, showing them the pathway to growth instead of the pathway to depression. I’ve been able to do that and I’m honored to be able to help people who go through those situations. I’m curious, I love what you do about curiosity because I’m always curious on what are these distinctions and how I can help people bring these leadership skills out, what’s going to trigger it? I looked at how to do that and teach people how to do that.

TTL 638 | Miracle At The Hudson
Miracle At The Hudson: Leaders should be resourceful, should optimize resources, and see people’s problems.


It’s interesting to see how some people go one direction or another and you touch on a lot of things. I teach a lot of courses that deal with servant leadership in Greenleaf’s work and all that. Having been in sales for decades, your background in sales is like mine. You learn certain skills in sales that are foundational to dealing with things in general because it’s not the easiest path to take. You have to learn not to sweat the small stuff and figure out how to deal with tough situations, but not everybody’s going to take a traumatic life experience and not go into that PTSD direction. A lot of that ties into some of the work, not just the curiosity work I researched, but perception. Taking a situation and knowing how to see the positives that come out of it, that’s hard for a lot of people and I try to work with people on that. If you could work on your perception and not focus on the negative, but that’s a difficult thing, what skills are you teaching people not to do that?

That’s a great distinction, you call it perception, and I call it meaning. The meaning you attach produces your emotions, and emotions are your life. How do you help people understand the meaning they’re attaching is affecting them? It’s a skillset that we teach and helps people with. How do you reframe that perception or reframe that meaning? That’s some of the skillsets I try to help people with is, helping them change the meaning. This came out to me, I can’t tell you how it happened, it woke me up. I was in the green room of The Early Show and we were done with our interviews and with a bunch of us there, that’s great and all of a sudden, this one gentleman went into a rage.

Was he somebody from the flight or someone else?

He was on the flight, he was on the plane. Most of us, if not all of us, we’re all thinking, “What’s wrong with this guy?” We survived the plane crash and we’re on national TV, how bad can this be? What I found out a few days later is he was going through a divorce and he lost his job. The meaning he attached to that situation was his loss. This whole thing is about loss, I lost everything because of this. Instead of looking at it from a different perspective, I’m alive and now I have an opportunity to do something different with my life. My relationship is maybe where I am losing it, but maybe it’s for a reason and a purpose. I started thinking about the things I learned and jumped out a perception of meaning, “If I can help people change those meanings, is this one tool that I can use?” Whether it’s how to manage your state or how you arrange your meaning or if I called virtual references, these are things that I do to help people and to be able to change the way they associate.

You bring up some interesting points. In my research on curiosity, one of the things I found that keeps people back are their assumptions, which is that voice in your head. What you’re telling yourself and that ties into your perception or the meaning you assign because you’re telling yourself, “This is awful because of this,” or “I can’t do this because of that.” We have to focus on how often you’re saying certain things, it becomes more ingrained in you too. Also, as you’re talking about meaning, my half-brother who was a fisherman and he was on a boat one night that sunk out in the middle of the ocean when he was fishing. All he had left was his ice chest filled with fish and blood and everything in this ice chest and he had to get in it and he said, “There’s no atheist sitting in an ice chest, an igloo in the middle of the ocean at 2:00 in the morning in the dark, as sharks are circling.” I’m wondering if you had a change of faith or religious experience because of this.

One of the first interviews I did was with Rick Warren in his magazine, Purpose Driven Connection. He asked me that question and I said, “I always believe there’s a greater being, whether you call that Jesus, God, whatever you call it, but I do believe this was a strong reference for my faith.” It gave me a perspective of when things get tough, I’ve gone through something like this, if I have faith, know I can get through it. I said, “Interview my minister, and have him give you his perspective of me as we do this interview.”

Make a decision and live with the consequences. Click To Tweet

It was fascinating to see that interview come out with Rick Warren because a lot of people start questioning their faith, “Maybe it’s not working out for me right now. Is this stuff real?” I look at it from a different perspective. It goes back to perception and meaning. If I don’t have faith, how can I survive? Faith is all about giving hope and that’s why this story still resonates because this story is around hope. If you look back, you were around in 2009, there were always a lot of positive things happening in the country. All of a sudden, you have something like this happen in the busiest place, in the busiest time, and something positive happens. No one dies and everybody lives and it gave people hope. There are many lessons in this if we stick together and do the right thing. You will survive, you can thrive and things will get better. That’s why the story still resonates.

I’m also curious if there was any let down after this adrenaline wears off. Have you followed up with these passengers and where are they now? It was a positive thing, but now we have these Boeing planes that are having issues and all these things, what’s the update?

I’ve talked to a number of passengers. Some of the passengers have had challenges, some of them still haven’t flown again. Some of them have gone through financial or emotional challenges. I understand that because for fifteen minutes you’re on top of the world, everything’s positive and all of a sudden, you’ve got to come back to earth. I’ve even had some of the people say, “How can you do this? Why can you go out and speak? You’re doing the leadership stuff and you’re making money.” I said, “It’s because I have a different calling.” I have found my calling and I’m following it. Some people didn’t follow their calling and are now questioning why they didn’t. They’re going through a depressed and/or questioning state. Everybody has got to deal with it the way they deal with. I dealt with it by taking action and following through and see how I could help other people who’ve gone through traumatic life events by helping them bring out their leadership skills.

That’s admirable that you went in a positive direction. I was thinking about after 9/11, I was stuck in Dallas when that happened. They had closed the airports and all that. I remember, being 2 or 3 days before they opened up the flights and I was on the first flight from Dallas to Phoenix again. It was eerie, there was nobody at the airport. There were about five people on our airplane and we were flying home. That is a creepy experience for me. What’s that like the first time you fly after that?

It’s interesting that you say that because I was in Hawaii when that happened, and the same thing and I flew through Dallas. There was nobody at the airport, and I was the only guy on the plane from Dallas to Charlotte, and that was freaky. The first time I flew was the next day, candidly I was out of it, and people would tell me what to do. The next week I flew on business to Michigan and I flew on Delta. I love Delta and there’s nothing wrong with Delta, but I was a rock star on US Airways. I had no one on Delta who knew me from Adam. Fortunately, somebody recognized me from TV. He told the flight attendant, who told the captain, who came back and he and I sat down on the plane talking and he talked me through it because it was a rough experience for me. On the back row, I had nobody around me I knew and I’m flying and going to Michigan. Fortunately, somebody recognized me and the captain came back. We got a little one-on-one with the captain and that helped me. The first one was pretty rough after the flight home from New York to Charlotte.

Do you react to the turbulence the way you used to or you notice it a lot more now?

I’m aware. I tell people, I am aware of the plane right now. I watch people who are not paying attention, because I know if something does happen, they’re probably going to freak out. I pay attention to the flight attendants and become good friends with them because they don’t get enough respect and people don’t listen. I didn’t listen to that day, I could’ve gone a whole different direction. I’m much more aware on a plane and I understand all the exit rows. I have people move and I feel that if they’re not capable, and I make enemies that way but I know how important it is that people pay attention to who can handle these things.

All this is what you teach, about your personal life plan? You have twelve resources and your workshop, can you name a few of them? I’m curious about what you cover.

My little video is about sensory acuity. It’s the ability to use all your senses and use that for awareness, whether it’s visual, auditory, kinesthetic. Even in our communication skills, that’s one thing I also teach. I did a program for Disneyland several years ago. That was a fascinating learning experience for me because Disney does an amazing job of being able to find out what sense modality you reside in and go for that so they can get you engaged. I share a story about that. Sensory acuity is one of the greatest skills to be able to use because everybody communicates in a different mode. I’m a visual. If you show me something, I’ll get it.

TTL 638 | Miracle At The Hudson
Miracle At The Hudson: In life, you experience critical moments for a reason. Use those experiences to impact the lives of others.


My wife is auditory and she wants to tell me for 30 minutes about something that I got about 30 seconds. I’ve learned over 30 plus years that I should let her tell her the story. I learned that by my relationships that I try to find out what modalities do you reside in so I can communicate in your modality and I build connection and rapport that way and all of a sudden, we’re leading each other. It’s one of the greatest skills I used that day that I talk about and teach, in addition to awareness, persistence and some of the other things that we talk about.

I teach a lot of courses where they have students take the VARK, which tells what their modality, what their acuity is. It’s important to reach people in the way they want to be reached and that’s why a lot of personality tests can be helpful to people. We all know what our preferences are to some extent, but knowing why somebody else might prefer to be communicated to in a different way is what is important about personality assessing and some of the things that are out there. You touched on some of that and Disney is great at a lot of that. I use a lot of Disney examples for other things that I talk about, and they do a lot of things the right way. The workshop, if somebody goes through this after learning these resources, is this something that is intended to help them with their personal life or more of their work-life, or a combination? How long is this workshop?

The workshop that I do for corporations is anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on how they want to do it. I tell people, it goes back to the basics. I’ll share a short story. My first mentor, his name was Bill, he came into my life in 1983 right out of college in my first job. For 13 years, 14 years, he was teaching me these skillsets as he mentored me. You’re going through this and he’s taking an interest in you and you’re learning this. It helped me in the sales to become a top producer. Like this, we’re talking about sensory acuity, I quickly identify when I get in a room and how people communicate and quickly communicate their modality. That’s how I build rapport and I used all these skills.

Fast forward to 1997 when Bill had lung cancer and he’s passing away, he went to his big Rolodex. He was 89, 90 years old at that point. He gave me these handwritten notes that he got from his mentor in 1929, and he said, “This is what I’ve been teaching you for the last several years. These are the twelve business success principles I built my business on.” He owned over 80 movie theaters in North and South Carolina, he was a successful business person. The answer to the question is, I believe you begin personally, you give self-development personally because it’s always more valuable, you can bring that out in your business. I try to get people on a personal level because if they’re personally self-developing, it will definitely help them in their business and/or other parts of their life.

It’s such an important thing, there have been many great people and you and I probably dealt with in our sales training from Zig Ziglar on, down the pipeline of knowledge, it’s unbelievable. A lot of it is putting it to use and a lot of people can learn so much from what you learn in sales, in life in general. There are a lot of corporate teams and leaders who could use a lot of the help that you’re doing, you’re helping them with. I’m curious about Moments Matter, what are you hoping to achieve by authoring this book?

Here’s the short version of the backstory, we’re not sitting exactly where I’m sitting right now. Several years ago, my wife called me and told me our neighbors are having a challenge getting their TV on. They were two older ladies, and you’d go do anything for your neighbors. I tell people, “I’m pretty good at turning the TVs on, I do that well.” I went down there and it took me less than five minutes but they asked me, “Will you stay for milk and cookies?” I said, “I love milk and cookies.” They’re older ladies, they could probably bake, and of course, I’m going to stay for milk and cookies.

As they were getting milk and cookies, they had this big table in front of their sofa and I was sitting there looking and saw their books. They were books of pictures of concentration camps, and I love World War II history. I’m fascinated like, “This is amazing.” They walked out and I said, “Where did you get these pictures? “They rolled up their sleeves and showed me the numbers going up and down their arms, and they were in those camps. They were concentration camp survivors. I said, “Tell me the story. Can I film the story?” They were in their 80s at that point.

They were willing to be filmed, they told me the story of how they survived the concentration camp, and I was fascinated, I was like, “That’s an amazing story.” I came back and I was with my team, we’re thinking about the book. One thing that I realize as I’m talking to these two ladies is how they made all the moments in their lives matter. They survived one of the most horrific situations in the history of the world and they made every moment matter after that. That’s the book because we all have moments in our lives, they’re there for a reason and we don’t know why they’re there, but they’re there. That one day, something’s going to trigger it, that’s why that moment was in my life.

Some moments in life are there for a reason. Click To Tweet

That’s how the book came out, and that’s why I started speaking about how I chose to be my story. I take the people on a journey that all these moments, all of a sudden, here I am, I’m in a plane, waist-deep in the water, sinking and also I got to go swim. I was thinking about when I was twelve years old, my mother made me get swimming lessons and all of a sudden, I had to use that. By the way, in Boy Scout, I had to swim across the river to get to an activity to get an award. Maybe that was there, because 40 some years later, I was going to have to swim in a river. That’s how this came about and I realized that these moments in our life were there for a reason and don’t discard them, embrace them because one day, you may have to use it.

You’re bringing to mind some lifesaving, I had to take a lake in Michigan as a child, and you don’t know what you’ve been taught and where you’ll need it again. Hopefully, I’m not going to need that. Hopefully, you won’t need a lot of the things that you’ve had. You speak to over 100 corporate business networking groups a year?

It’s going to be about 82, we’re down a little bit, but that’s okay. It was 80 to 100 a year, that’s correct.

Are you traveling that much now?


That would be quite a bit of flying. Does it get any different every time you fly or is it always in the back of your head?

It’s always in the back of my head, I noted you on this, because sometimes when you fly, some people recognize you and things, it’s always there. I’ve learned to have gratitude for it and embrace it, and help people who either have questions or something. We ask the questions and start off, “Were you scared?” That’s the question I got asked and it was right out of the blue. It’s always there and I embrace it because God put it in my life for a reason and He wants me to use it for a reason. I’ve got to figure out how to use it to impact as many people as I can. That’s my mission. How could I use it to impact a million people in the next years? That’s why I’m on this mission.

You’re impacting people through your Echo platform that you use. How is that different? Of this show, I can ask her to play Dr. Diane Hamilton’s podcast for example, and she’ll play it. Are you specifically only in Echo?

I’ve narrowed it down so I can have a focus. I’m on that platform because I realized, in a minute and a half to two minutes a day, I can get out of these leadership lessons. I can expand it around the world now to people who have these product sets. For the last couple of years, like you, I had a radio show/podcast and that was great, I enjoyed it. Now every day, I can get these messages out in these 1.5-minute leadership lessons that hopefully will help somebody maybe that day. That’s the platform I’m using right now and so far, it’s been a tremendous platform. It’s moving with Gary Vaynerchuk, he’s saying this thing a whole different level with a video on Alexa.

How do you do a video with her? That’s interesting.

He’s been the pioneer of that. That’s why I do the daily videos because now I’m trying to get set up so I can be ready for that next technology, AI technology.

Some people might want to know how to do that because a lot of people do podcasts and things on this show. Did you contact Amazon? How did you get involved in this?

I found a gentleman who has a relationship with Amazon. He helped me for less than $300. It was amazing to put this thing together and help the platform owner and the only thing on my grievance was I got to do five shows a week, and that’s what I do. It doesn’t cost too much. It costs you that initial set up but that’s it. I’ll be more than happy to share with you how to do that because you have a great message. In a minute and a half, you could probably teach and reach more people than you ever thought you’d reach.

I would like that for curiosity corner or something. I love technology. It’s fascinating to me of all the things that are available. Everything that you’ve done, you definitely found the rainbow in all this, how to take a bad situation and turn it into something that helps other people. I always admire people who are able to do that, and whether you say it’s meaning, faith, perception or whatever we want to call it, I’d like to see more people have that ability. I hope everybody takes some time to read your book, attend your talks, listen to your Echo platform and anything that you’re working on. If people want to do that, if they want to find you, how can they do that?

I do a lot on LinkedIn. LinkedIn as Dave Sanderson, I would love to have you do that because you’ll see my daily leadership message initially on video on LinkedIn. My website is We’re like probably you and everybody else are always in a constant construction upgrade, we got that. Also, if you want to check out, if you have an Echo and/or Alexa application product, go to Voice of Personal Leadership. Go to your skills, enable skills, go to Voice of Personal Leadership and you’ll enable my show every day. On your top list, you’ll hear me for 1.5 minutes tell a story about personal leadership and how you could use that in your life. Those are probably the three best ways. Thank you for letting me share that.

You’re welcome, I’m definitely going to do that. I hope everybody reading takes some time to look at everything that you’re working on. Thank you, I know it’s hard to share this story and I appreciate it. You’re telling it so many times that you were able to join me and share it one more time and I hope everybody takes some time to follow you. It’s amazing what you’ve been through and what you’ve done with it. Thank you, Dave, for being on the show.

Thank you for having me.

You’re welcome.

I like to thank Dave for being my guest. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, we get a lot of unusual things we talk about. This is not the first true story. We’ve had a lot from Molly’s Game and the famous case from Breach the movie and many great, interesting real-life past episodes. It’s all based on how to be successful in life and to take what we’ve learned from things that have happened and take the lead. We have hundreds of them out there and I’m sure you couldn’t have read them all, please take some time. Also, you can find out more about Cracking the Curiosity Code and the Curiosity Code Index on the site. Everything’s at but also for the Curiosity information, you can go to I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About David Sanderson

TTL 638 | Miracle At The HudsonDave Sanderson is an inspirational speaker, podcaster and radio host, and author who channeled his life-changing experience onboard US Airways Flight 1549, the Miracle on the Hudson, into a mission to provide insight on the important facets of faith, conviction and leadership; attributes that he credits with saving his life, and those of fellow passengers as the last passenger to leave the plane. Named one of’s Top 100 Leadership speakers for 2018, Sanderson now travels the world to share his inspirations leadership lessons, raising over $14M USD for the American Red Cross over the last nine years through his talks.

Dave speaks to over 100 corporate and business networking groups annually on his signature talk “Moments Matter” about how all the moments in your life happen for a reason and a purpose and they serve you. He authored, Moments Matter, his personal account of the mindset, tactics and strategies that helped him overcome the events of that fateful day in January. His new workshop, The 12 Resources to create your own Personal Flight Plan™, provides teams and corporate leaders personal leadership skills. He hosts a daily leadership Voice of Personal Leadership, on Amazon’s Alexa platform and more. Sanderson is passionate about encouraging others to be great leaders and neighbors in their communities, through both good times and difficulties.

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