What Ric Elias Learned as his Plane Was Going Down

Ric Elias had a front row seat onboard US Airways Flight 1549 on January 9, 2009. He tells his story publicly for the first time at TED this year; recounting what went through his mind as the engines fell silent and the pilot unemotionally uttered the words “Brace for impact” thousands of feet in the air above the Hudson River.

In the 5 minute talk, Ric shares the three things he learned about himself as he prepared to exit the physical world, leaving behind his wife and children, and the relationships in his life.

I learned that it all changes in an instant. We have this bucket list, we have these things that we want to do in life and I thought about all the people I wanted to reach out and I didn’t; all the fences I wanted to mend. All the experiences I wanted to have and I didn’t.

I thought about wow; I really feel one real regret, I’ve lived a good life; In my own humanity and mistakes I’ve tried to get better at everything I’ve tried, but in my humanity I also allow my ego to get in; and I regretted the time I wasted in things that did not matter with people that mattered. And I thought about my relationship with my wife, with my friends, with people and after as I reflected on that I decided to eliminate negative energy from my life. It’s not perfect, it’s a lot better. I have not had a fight with my wife in two years; it feels great. I no longer try to be right – I choose to be happy.

Imagine how each of us would be able to drastically alter our lives if we experienced what Ric did that day.

But life doesn’t grant us the chance to know the totality, emotion and utter perspective that an unexpected death presents. Very few people get the second chance that Ric did; even fewer are capable of turning it into the gift that Ric has.

I was given the gift of a miracle of not dying that day. I was given another gift, which was to be able to see into the future and come back and live differently.

The problem is that we all live disconnected from the temporary and fleeting nature of our lives. We live disconnected from the unknown nature of our fates. Yet we all deny ourselves that second chance because we don’t see the truth that our egos keep us separated from. We don’t see the truth that Ric saw in those moments, the truth that we can see too if we just imagine.

Let’s all imagine as Ric challenges the audience:

Imagine; how would you change. What would you get done that you’re waiting to get done because you think you will be here forever. How would you change your relationships and the negative energy in them?

Imagine. { + click to play the video }