John F Kennedy, former President of the United States, was asked how he became a war hero. “That’s easy,” he said. “They sank my boat.”
In World War II in the Pacific, Kennedy’s patrol boat PT 109 was sunk. It was run over by a Japanese destroyer. Two of his crew were killed. The balance drifted and swam to a small island. They dodged observation from the Japanese for days and got by on water and coconuts until they were saved.
But, Kennedy’s explanation reminds us that you can be called to heroism at any time. His opportunity for heroism came because his boat got in the way of a destroyer on a dark night. And, then he did what he had to do to help his team survive.
No doubt, the experience became a defining moment. I suspect after leading his team to survival, the future problems he encountered, though very large, didn’t seem as daunting.
Kennedy would have preferred that his boat had been spared the sinking. But, his humble response to how he became a hero reminds us that our opportunities for heroism might be right around the corner. When they come, may you have the “stuff” to respond with courage, resilience and persistence.
PalletOne CEO Howe Wallace
Since 2005, he has been sharing his thoughts on the organization, leadership, and communication in an online daily note to teammates called Daily with HQ.