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1Lt Louis Zamperini, bombardier of this B-24D Liberator 'Superman' peering through a hole in the aircraft from a 20mm shell over Nauru, Apr 20 1943; photo taken at Funafuti, Gilbert Islands; Source: United States National Archives
1Lt Louis Zamperini, bombardier of this B-24D Liberator 'Superman' peering through a hole in the aircraft from a 20mm shell over Nauru, Apr 20 1943; photo taken at Funafuti, Gilbert Islands; Source: United States National Archives
March 4, 2015 7:00 AM CST

‘Unbroken’ leadership

Full Contact Project Management

By

We lost another great one in 2014. When he died in July, relatively few people had heard of him. But, by the time Christmas was here, and the movie “Unbroken” came out, many more had. As I watched the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, which honored him posthumously as the parade’s grand marshal, millions learned the name Louis “Louie” Zamperini.

This is not the column I had intended to write for February, but things do seem to happen for a reason. I first heard of Louis Zamperini a few years ago, as he was interviewed on radio, and I was inspired by him, even then. He must have been about 94 then, but I remember thinking that he really had it together.

The theme of the parade, “Inspiring Stories,” was set well in advance of the New Year, as was the naming of the grand marshal. That happened in May, two months before Louie died at the age of 97.

So what was inspirational about Louie’s life? A member of “The Greatest Generation,” in 1936, he represented the U.S. in the Olympic Games at age 19. When the war came, he served as a bombardier on a B-24 heavy-bomber. After many missions, his plane went down in the Pacific, most of the crew dying in the crash. He was adrift for 47 days in a life raft, and then captured by a Japanese patrol boat and imprisoned for two years in a POW camp. When rescued, he had lost 100 of his 165 pounds. After returning to the United States, he was honored as the war hero he had become.

As Americans, we love inspirational stories. Modern day versions of “David versus Goliath” really speak to us. It’s all about the notion that regular people can rise up and do amazing things, when pressed. We root for the shepherd boy battling the giant, don’t we? And, we look at the amazing things that people have accomplished, whether under fire in combat, discovering a cure for a disease, mentoring disadvantaged kids and encouraging them to try for college, or even coming from behind in a sporting event and pulling out a win.

Louie Zamperini was coached to believe that, as long as he could “take” a bad circumstance, then he could make it, in spite of everything. His brother, Pete Zamperini, taught him that, “If you can take it, you can make it!”

As we get into this new year of 2015, many of us are still reeling from the poor economy, our families suffering, or our businesses under-performing. Almost makes you think about giving up. Goodness knows, many of your competitors already have.

One of the things I appreciate when I hear an inspiring story is what somebody had to endure, how a team managed to climb back into a game, how a battle was ultimately won after looking like it was surely lost. It’s that American spirit: refusing to give in or give up. Better yet, it’s learning that the people who pulled out the win were actually just “regular” people, because that gives us the hope and the conviction we can win our own battles, against all odds.

The life of Louie Zamperini simply reminds us of the greatness of our heritage.


About the Author

Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.

 

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