A Lesson For Everyone From Harrison Ford’s Big Aviation Mess-Up

When you make a big mistake, that’s the time to get honest with those around you.
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Imagine you’re sitting in a commercial jetliner that’s on the airport taxiway holding short of the runway just prior to takeoff. You gaze out the window and, to your amazement and horror, you see a plane coming right at you.

That’s what happened at the Santa Ana Airport on Feb. 13 when actor Harrison Ford, who was piloting his Aviat Husky single-engine propellor plane, flew right over an American Airlines 737 passenger jet and landed on an active taxiway.

In the air traffic control audio just released, Ford tells controllers, “Yeah, hi, it’s Husky Eight-Niner Hotel Uniform (call sign) and the schmuck that landed on the taxiway.” Although he claims to have been distracted by two other jets, Ford immediately fesses up to the mistake, which could have had disastrous consequences. Luckily, no one was hurt.

There’s a very important lesson from this for everyone, whether it be in a more personal setting or your professional life: nobody likes to make mistakes, but often times how you handle those mistakes is what will determine the real outcome of what you’ve done ― and more importantly, the type of person you really are.

Now obviously, in Ford’s case, there was no trying to cover it. The American Airlines pilots and passengers witnessed the whole thing, air traffic control was watching and so were other pilots and workers at the airport. Although a taxiway and a runway are parallel pieces of concrete on the airfield, it’s extremely uncommon for something like this to happen. Runways are clearly marked with specific identifiers to differentiate them from a taxiway, and in this case, the 737 holding short of the runway should have alerted Ford that he wasn’t where he needed to be.

When you make a big mistake, that’s the time to get honest with those around you. Champions pride themselves on being honest, open and straightforward. They carry these philosophies into everything they do, and are unwilling to sacrifice them.

There was no getting out of this one for Ford, and he knew it. But have you ever found yourself in a situation where you could have easily made up an excuse and wiggled your way out of it so you didn’t take the brunt of the blame? On the surface, it can seem pretty attractive. You think you might be able to escape with less severe consequences or punishments. Of course, in the end, what usually ends up happening is you get caught, and now look bad for making the mistake in the first place, but look even worse because you have managed to undermine your integrity and credibility. You quickly gain the reputation that you can’t be trusted, have character flaws and lack good solid values.

Responsibility is the key word. Unfortunately, there are too many people who don’t know how, or simply won’t take responsibility. They blame other people, outside factors and anything that sounds like a reasonably good excuse.

Can’t lose weight? They quickly blame the restaurants for the portion sizes or their family genes. Can’t find a good job? It must be the college’s fault for not preparing them well enough. World class performers, on the other hand, live by a single mantra they hold above everything else: I am responsible. They realize they are completely responsible for their success or failure. No matter what happens in life, win or lose, it all rests on their shoulders.

Real victory in life, be it professional or personal, is what comes as a result of the struggle. Removing the struggle removes the victory. If honesty is removed, the richness of the achievement is diminished. Whatever you do in life, make a commitment to take total responsibility for everything that happens to you. This one change in thinking has the power to change your life more than any other single idea.

The reality is Harrison Ford made one of the worst mistakes in aviation that a pilot can make. Another fact: at some point in your life, probably more than once, you are going to make a mistake with substantial consequences. How are you going to handle it? Will you act with honesty, integrity and tell the truth? It’s the only thing to do.

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