Charlie Plumb is a sought-after achievement POW speaker, a former fighter pilot, author, and seminar leader. He was awarded as one of the “Top 10 speakers in America” by “Meetings Magazine” and has earned the prized National Speakers Association – Speaker Hall of Fame Award. Plumb has captivated more than 5,000 audiences in almost every industry around the world with stories that parallel his POW experience with the challenges of everyday life.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I had a wonderful childhood in a small country town in Kansas. We were poor. We didn’t have indoor plumbing until I was 7. But my father taught me a lot about self-discipline and my mother taught me forgiveness. Two qualities I would sorely need in the prison camps in Viet Nam.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Success isn’t measured by what people think of me. True success is about others, and how I can serve them without asking anything in return. (I’m still working on that one!)
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
“In the speaking and writing business, you have to read the books and listen to the tapes. You have to spend money to make money.” What I have found is, if you want to learn to speak, go speak. If you want to learn to write, go write. You can’t deliver the knockout punch unless you get in the ring and get bloody.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
The darkest (yet the most beneficial) period of my life was being held in a Communist prison camp for nearly 6 years. I learned early on that to conjure up hate and vitriol against my captors was hurting me more than it was hurting them. I could not control my surroundings but I could control my attitude. And to control my response to my surroundings would be the key to my survival, even my personal growth because of (not in spite of) this misfortune. I found that adversity is a horrible thing … to waste.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I study my audience. I try to get into their hearts and minds and relate to their joys and concerns before I introduce them to my philosophy of resilience.
What is your morning routine?
I travel a great deal and live on the West Coast. So my day frequently starts at 4:15 am to catch a flight to the East Coast. I study my clients on the airplane. When I’m at home, I get up at about 7:30, make a cup of coffee, and go to my daily to-do agenda. I take a mid-morning break and ride my mountain bike 8 to 10 miles in the hills. This solitary activity clears my mind and promotes my creativity.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I try to sleep well, eat healthily, and exercise frequently. It’s difficult to have a creative, productive mind with an unhealthy and failing body.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Set goals and milestones. Deny temptations that distract from accomplishing my objectives. Above all keep in the front of my mind my overall purpose in life.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
As a kid, the first fiction book I ever read was Two Hands and a Knife by Warren Hastings Miller, a story of a boy lost in the Canadian wilderness. His resilience and creativity captured my imagination and motivated me to take risks and then trust my own talents, intuition, and grit to survive and thrive through the process.
I was also influenced by writing my own autobiography, I’m No Hero. I recommend that process to everyone. When one examines the building blocks which make up our own personalities, we gain a greater understanding of self.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
The poem “Invictus” means a lot to me.
“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”