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What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Air New Zealand's First Crash in 1979

Until 1979 Air New Zealand had a spotless crash record. I was 12, living in New Zealand, and on Wednesday, November 28, I saw their perfect record change: a scenic flight to Antarctica ploughed into Mt. Erebus, killing all 257 passengers aboard.

Eventually the reasons came to light. Primary among them was that a single incorrect course coordinate was entered into the flight navigation system on the plane. While the error was a meagre 2 degrees off, after the plane had been flying a little more than five hours, it, and the 257 people on board, were 28 miles to the east of where they were meant to be, and no one realized it.

Believing everything was fine, the pilots descended in order to give the passengers a better view of the icy terrain. Unfortunately they didn’t realize they were actually directly in front of, and flying toward, Mt Erebus. At 12:49pm, the plane flew into the mountainside, immediately killing everyone on board.

Even deviating by a single degree can take you far off course in a journey, leaving you a huge distance from where you initially intended to end up. Circumnavigate the globe in a plane beginning at the equator and diverge by one degree and you’ll end up approximately 500 miles off course by the time you complete the trip. Consider the amount of wasted time and fuel.

What seemingly small, slightly off habits or approaches are part of your regular routine? What processes do you know aren’t really as they should be, but you justify as “not really that big of a deal” that will eventually damage your business? Your relationships? Your health?

King Solomon, one of the wisest people to ever live, encouraged his readers to catch the foxes that destroy crops. But not just any foxes; he specifically said the “little foxes.” He described the smaller foxes, the smallest pests, as the ones that do the worst damage.

So it is when we neglect small, distracted actions; tolerate indifference to priorities; and excuse sloppy behavior and a lack of self-control. We might only do this briefly from time to time, yet over a year, or five, or ten, the cost adds up. It can make a significant difference to where we might have arrived if we had better monitored the “smaller” details.

Challenge: Are you trying to remember meeting details from the previous day, instead of immediately recording them in your CRM after your appointment, when you remember best?

Solution: Schedule extra time after your portfolio reviews specifically for entering notes. Don’t get distracted with answering email until your notes are properly entered and the follow-up next “to-do’s” are set for your client.

Challenge: Do you fritter away the first five minutes of your morning at your office while your computer system boots up?

Solution: Before leaving each day, write your three main tasks you wish to begin and complete tomorrow. Leave the piece of paper on your desk. As your system is coming to life, begin the first step of the first task and build momentum from the beginning of your day.

Challenge: Do you struggle to get to bed at a reasonable hour?

Solution: Like a high-performance athlete, your body and mind needs rest to recover to continue performing well tomorrow. Set a time to be in bed—say 9 p.m. At 8:30 p.m. begin the steps to be in bed by 9:

  • screens (ALL screens!) are turned off: laptop, home computer, phone – all off. This allows your mind to begin relaxing. (Light from mobile phones ensures your brain remains alert and active.)
  • resist eating an hour before bed.
  • wash, brush your teeth, and get into bed. Set your alarm. Read a little, if you like, (preferably not business material) with the light dimmed, and then turn your light off and let your mind rest.
  • Challenge: Can’t seem to get quality time with your partner or children?

    Solution: Set an hour appointment each week for an individual date time with each member of your family. That hour is for you and that family member only. It doesn’t have to be a fancy or expensive event. You can walk/sit in silence, cook a meal together, or go for a drive. Just give the person you love your undivided attention during that time you are together.