Wisdom for the Ages

Sully says: A devotion to learning will pay off when you need it most—and expect it least.

September 18, 2012

“People ask me if it was my Air Force training that prepared me,” said Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, speaking to 1,600 REALTOR® association leaders in August. Sullenberger was talking about the Jan. 15, 2009, incident that made him famous, when the U.S. Airways Airbus A320 he was piloting collided with a flock of geese, knocking out both engines. Over an intense 3 minutes and 28 seconds, he and his first officer, Jeff Skiles, brought the disabled plane to a smooth landing on the Hudson River. All 150 passengers and five crew members made it safely off the plane.

Yes, Sullenberger said, his years as an Air Force fighter pilot made a difference. So did the 19,000 flight hours he’d logged with U.S. Airways and his own four decades as an aviation safety advocate. “But it really started before that,” he said. “All four of my grandparents had college degrees. That was an unusual thing in the 19th century. From my mother, who was a school teacher, I gained a love of reading. ... I grew up striving. Excellence was expected.”

I was tickled that a love of reading was one of the experiences Sullenberger credited with helping him land that plane. Later, I did my own reading on Flight 1549. I learned that he actually lost a library book in the cargo hold of the plane and that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg replaced it during a February 2009 ceremony honoring Sullenberger and his crew. The book was Just Culture: Balancing Safety and Accountability (Ashgate Publishing Co., 2007), by Sidney Dekker.

Few of us have been in a situation in which so many lives depended on our actions, yet I’m sure we’ve all felt something akin to what Sullenberger described: the realization that there’s not one silver bullet that will lead us to the right choices in critical moments. When it counted, Sullenberger was able to call on a lifetime of accumulated wisdom, and in his speech, he urged audience members to fuel their own store of knowledge whenever possible. “Never stop learning,” he said. “Never stop investing in yourself.”

It’s a fitting message for this issue of the magazine, which focuses on the value of education to your career. In our feature section, Erica Christoffer gives us a terrific preview of the upcoming REALTORS® Conference & Expo (page 24), and Robert Freedman takes a look inside the new master’s degree program from REALTOR® University (page 30). Like Sully, those who’ve taken their first REALTOR® University course are finding that the knowledge is paying off in unexpected ways. But don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself.

Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey is executive editor of publications for the National Association of REALTORS® and editor in chief of REALTOR® Magazine.