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REVEALED: The Secret to Southwest’s Success

Explorer C

Ever wonder the real secret behind Southwest’s success? Strange as it may sound, it all traces back to a mad scientist and the meaning of life.

On April 25, Gary Kelly announced Southwest’s first quarter 2013 financial results—another successful phase in the Company’s 41 consecutive years of profitability. But as the numbers were reported, I wondered, “Why?” While other airlines have struggled, why does Southwest continue to deliver great results?

To arrive at the answer, let me take you back to a two-year, 33-country, around-the-world quest I had embarked on to uncover the meaning of life.

Many people told me the meaning of life was family. Others said money. Some said beer. One guy even said bubble baths (go figure). Then I arrived in Moscow and a scientist named Pasha told me, “Life is not the number of days you live, it’s the number of days you remember.” Pasha and I talked about how true success in life is not about creating dollars and cents, but rather, creating rich memorable days---essentially a life profit, as opposed to the traditional financial profit.

This is the heart of Southwest’s much coveted secret to success. Whether it’s a Live at 35 concert, a culture blitz, an unexpected act of kindness, or an impromptu flashmob, what makes us profitable is our ability to transform ordinary moments into memorable experiences for ourselves, our fellow employees, and our passengers.

It’s this culture of creating “life profit” that retains our exceptional family of employees, drives passionate customer loyalty, and ultimately leads us to sustainable financial profit. And that means it’s the everyday actions of all of our People—not only our finance department—that bring the real richness to this airline. 

So let’s hear some of the ways that you (or those around you) have contributed to the Company’s life profit by turning an ordinary moment into a memorable one.