Living, Loving and Looking Ahead
What would you do if the plane you were on crashed into the snow-covered Andes Mountains, you survived with an injury and you had to live through a night of cold and treacherous conditions? Imagine what that would be like— not having food, missing clothing, being injured. Now imagine having to face those conditions for 72 days.
That’s exactly what EO speaker Nando Parrado endured in 1972 when his rugby team's plane crashed en route to a match in Chile. I had the pleasure of hearing Nando's powerful story when he spoke at a joint EO Boston/YPO event. He described how, after 60 days wasting away on the mountaintop, he and his friend, Roberto, decided they were going to leave the crash site and try to find help. It seemed like a foolish idea— after all, they were surrounded by hundreds of miles of mountains on either side of them, and had no idea where they were going.
But to hear Nando tell it, they had no other choice. He preferred to die trying to get out of that nightmare scenario rather than wait for death to come. Nando's presentation was filled with amazing lessons about the human spirit, but he also shared a lot of the wisdom he gained from the experience. Here are some of the key points I took away from his inspirational presentation:
"If you look back, you get nothing more than a pain in your neck."
When Nando uttered these words, I took note. He was talking about looking back at that fateful flight and the loss of not only his teammates and friends, but his mother and sister, too. It was clear he had suffered through the "what if" questions that popped up after such a decimating loss. In the end, it was Nando’s father who told him that looking back and questioning things does nothing to help you in the present.
I recently discovered there’s a lot of validity to that philosophy. My company recently re-branded itself as “Grasshopper” after spending the first six years of its life as “GotVMail.” As it turned out, re-branding was one of the best things we’ve ever done as a company. In fact, sometimes I wish we’d changed our name sooner, but then I remind myself what Nando said about constantly looking into the past— all it does is paralyze you in the present. I’m thankful we had the guts to change our name at all, and I’m proud to see the results of that risk.
"Be a little irresponsible and love a little more. Enjoy life but never give up your family."
Coming from a successful entrepreneur—Nando runs five businesses—this really hit home. What Nando was saying was that he loved all the cushy things life had to offer, but if he had to choose between working all of the time to afford those things and being able to spend time with his family, he'd always choose his family. By telling us to be more "irresponsible," he was asking the audience to slow down, enjoy life and stop trying to think about how you're going to take over the universe. Live right now.
"Each day is a gift."
Nothing we face as entrepreneurs will ever be as intense and cataclysmic as trying to survive in the Andes for 72 days. After the sixtieth day on the mountain, Nando and his friend went to get help. After almost two weeks of climbing and walking, they found help. Each day after that, Nando said, was a gift. He also reminded us to be thankful for what we have right now in the present, and be demonstrative about it. With this in mind, I’m trying harder to let family, friends, and co-workers know how much I appreciate their work. I try to extend a genuine thank you whenever I feel it’s necessary. Do I say “thank you” enough? No. But I’m working on it, and I’m getting there.
As an entrepreneur, going through ups and downs is a part of the process. You may have regrets, and you may replay pivotal moments over and over in your head, wondering how you could've done things better. Perhaps you get so passionate about your ideas that you have very little time for family or friends. If you’re anything like me, you’ve experienced all of this. Nando taught me that the most important thing I can do to become a better person is to grow from these experiences and learn to appreciate what they have to offer. In the end, it’s all about the life you build for yourself and the people with whom you surround yourself— that’s the gift of a lifetime.
In addition to the EO Boston event, Nando Parrado recently spoke at the 2009 EO Barcelona University, where he educated attendees on the importance of love, patience and passion. Nando is just one of a thousand top-rated speakers found through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.