Monday, April 21, 2014

Shot Down and Buried Alive

This past weekend was spring cleaning weekend here at The Cottage. I bought some 409 cleaner and Pine Sol and other stuff I never use and did a reasonable job of cleaning up a winter’s worth of gunk and dust.

Buying the 409 reminded me of my encounter with Wilson Harrell. He was one of the country’s best-known entrepreneurs from the ‘50s to the ‘90s. In the mid-1960s, Harrell, along with longtime friend David Woodcock and television personality Art Linkletter, bought Formula 409.

I met Harrell in the late ‘80s at the Kenan-Flagler Business School where he was on the board of the Kenan Institute. He told me a story that anyone who aspires to accomplish anything in life needs to hear.

Harrell was a fighter pilot in WWII and received the Purple Heart, the Air Medals with 4 Oak Leaves and the Presidential Citation. He was shot down over German-occupied France and severely burned in the crash. The area was crawling with German soldiers so the farmers who found him actually buried alive in a field! They would dig him up at night, check his wounds, feed him and let him rest an then re-bury him before daylight. Harrell said he could feel the soldiers walking close to his "grave." 

He said, “You know, after an experience like that being in a stressful business situation is really no big deal.”


Most of us have never been shot out of the sky or buried alive, but we’ve all gone through difficult life situations. Think about it; some of the challenges we need to overcome to have the type of life to which we aspire are not really big deals.

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