Update: Tough Mudder – Witnesses Describe Rescue as Slow / Disorganized

By |April 25th, 2013|

(If you were there - please help:  A Call for Videos) A recent article by Andrew Metcalf at Patch includes witnesses describing the rescue efforts (or lack of rescue efforts) after Sengupta’s friends reported that he did [...]

The Unaccounted-For Variables: Where Tough Mudder Failed

By |April 23rd, 2013|

I was saddened to hear of the death this past Sunday of twenty-eight-year old Avishek Sengupta, who drowned at a Tough Mudder event in West Virginia. Saddened, but not at all surprised. Tough Mudder is one of those pay-to-play obstacle challenges that allow anyone with an entry fee and the willingness to sign a waiver the chance to do things usually reserved for elite military combat professionals. Perhaps that’s why injury and even death at such events is sad but not surprising. The training done by elite military combat professionals involves a lot more than setting up an obstacle course and sending the troops in. They go through months of build up and monitoring, the training is extremely well supervised, and their emergency response plans are well-thought-out, practiced, and proven. By comparison, an event like Tough Mudder is a free-for-all. Here is why: […]

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A Letter on Their Hearts

By |June 17th, 2012|

It's time to start writing my own letters to my children and to my friends. It is time for all of us to start writing. We shouldn't wait. As I've always looked to my parents I know now that our children always look to us with the same unanswered question just behind their hearts. "Is this it, Daddy? Am I doing good?" It's the reason they learn to say "Watch me" so young. And if you only get one thing then get this: Our children do not hold back or shrink from themselves because they are afraid to fail. They are only afraid of failing us.

Is Parasailing Safe?

By |May 25th, 2012|

I’ve never done it, but it was on my list.  Parasailing; it just looks like fun, doesn’t it?  After spending most of my life evaluating what is safe or going after people who weren’t, hanging from a parachute high above the water seemed like a great way to have fun. The view has to be awesome; they make you wear a life jacket so that is covered; and you’re in a parachute for goodness sake.  If anything happens, you just float down to the water and wait for them to pick you up, right?  Well, maybe…but that depends…on a lot. Since 2006, in the U.S. alone, there have been 8 deaths and 38 injuries associated with para-sailing. Personally, I blame the name; “Parasailing” – it even sounds soft…sailing and parachuting, gliding through the air, adrift.  But that is not what is happening. At the most basic level, parasailing is strapping yourself to a massive object (the chute) that harnesses the power of the wind to pull you in one direction, while an engine with hundreds of horsepower tries to pull you in the opposite direction.  Now – being the”Pivot-point-in-a-high-intesnity-high-altitude-tug-of-war” doesn’t sound as nice as going parasailing, so they don’t call it that; but that is what it is.  There is an engine trying to pull you one way while mother nature fights to pull you the other way while tied together with a relatively thin line. Most cases of injury or death associated with parasailing occur when the towline breaks.  In a Marine Safety Alert released last year, the U.S. Coast Guard stated “Failures occur significantly below the rated towline strengths due to a variety of reasons that may include cyclic loading, long term exposure to environmental elements, the presence of knots, and overloading.”  As wind speeds double, the load on the line can quadruple and these lines are exposed to saltwater and sunlight which weaken them a little with every use. […]

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Thinking About It All Wrong

By |December 11th, 2011|

The image above is from a YouTube video posted in 2009 - a sort of warning to boaters about the benefits of safety gear like life jackets and kill switches. I'm posting it here as [...]

Mea Culpa – Repost

By |December 7th, 2011|

(Well – that took a little longer than I thought it should (3 years?) but Blagojevich finally found out he did something wrong.  A few years ago, the incredulous way he said “I did nothing wrong”  compelled me to write a few words on blame.  I’m re-posting now in honor of …accountability.)   After years spent over the ocean looking for lost, endangered, ill, or otherwise seriously troubled boaters, I have noticed something very common in most search and rescue cases.With the exception of a few medical evacuations (an accident is an accident), all emergencies at sea have a latent common denominator; regardless of the variables that define the emergency.In all but the most complex accidents, the cause of the emergency can be traced back to a bad decision made by the captain, and often made before leaving the dock.In other words, it’s always the captain’s fault.Think about this long enough and your experience will discover contradictions to the theory, but they will be weak contradictions at best.At the end of the day (or voyage), all things being equal, with the exceptions noted; when the Coast Guard’s search and rescue (SAR) alarm goes off, you can bet your next paycheck that some skipper somewhere screwed up. In the past I have been so convinced of my theory (and my own infallible perception) that I included my opinion about a skipper’s complete culpability into articles and lectures to the boating public. I’ve been a guest speaker at more than a few yacht club lunches or dinners. Not being a one to pull punches when so convinced, invariably I would get to the part where I blame them for all their woes and the Coast Guard’s often sleepless nights on duty. Some of them grunt and some of them nod (the nodders have never called the Coast Guard for help), but in the end they all draw my meaning from the semantics and almost never throw food. Good sea captains understand something I think. There is no one outside the boat. It is the complete isolation of being afloat that dooms captains to the burden of ultimate responsibility: No one else is there and in charge of anything but the captain. On land, when challenged about the condition of one thing or the practice of another, we can always point back to our predecessors or to the side to some outside variable that is well out of our control. On land, with so many people coming and going, adding their part to the operation of day to day things, we are supplied with an increasing number of persons to point at when things go wrong. Ashore, fault is flexible. It is much easier to look outside our circle of responsibility for the problem and for a minute, the people looking to us for answers can be confused by the fog we draw their attention to when we point. Sea captains don’t have that luxury. When they look outside the boat, there is nothing but the sea looking back. I’m jealous. Because it is the luxury of assigning blame that makes leadership ashore such a difficult task. Blame is a function of management (usually damage control) but accepting responsibility, the captain’s bane, realizing that~ “It’s all my fault.” is the polestar of a leader. Shame on those who assign blame when accepting it is imperative. This is what I have believed and preached to anyone who would listen. Had I known I was talking about myself I would have shut-up. A few years ago, safely entrenched in the ambiguity of  being an E-5 – the military equivalent of a line worker – I was listed as up for promotion and told by my supervisor, “Yup, pick someone to take over your position, train em, and you come down here and run the shop.” Oh sure, I acted confident enough. All I said was, “Done.” But I had heard clearly, “…you come down here and run the shop.” [insert long reflective pause] Shop supervisor? That was the guy I had been blaming for years. From my position of absolutely no responsibility outside my own world, I had usually fended off accountability for my mistakes, and often towards him. But when I said, “Done.” I knew that everyone would be blaming me for everything from now on. [another pause]…Crap.  As with those boat captains, I could find very little exception to the idea that any mistake or oversight could (and should) be traced back to a bad decision made by me. […]

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Experience Means Nothing – Judgement is Everything

By |May 30th, 2010|

What we need our leaders to do about the oil spill is to listen to things from all sides and exercise judgment - calm, sound judgment. Not a soul on the earth has any experience capping a mile-deep oil well. Nothing in our leaders experience will help them. We're going to have to hope that they are smart and not unnerved by the ridiculous pressures that come from outside the problem. We're going to have to hope that what the public thinks about what they are doing to work the problem doesn't change how they actually work the problem. The situation itself is pressure enough.

Women will Never be Equal to Men

By |November 23rd, 2009|

With so many organizations competing for the women of the world, trying to get them to take notice and join up with them (instead of their competitors) I've noticed something disturbing: It's not working. Though some have enjoyed moderate success at upping the numbers of female leaders on the payroll - too many (far too many) are struggling. As of April, only 15 of the Fortune 500 were led by women CEOs. That's just .03%? - Pathetic. I think - and bear with me here - that I have identified the primary reason that so many of us long to achievie gender balance on our teams. Ready? Here it is: We keep trying to treat women as equals.....huge mistake. Now I've heard all the arguments: “a woman can do anything a man can do.” and, “women are just as good at men in the workplace.” But it never quite registered with me as the right approach.

The Myth of the Turnaround Employee

By |October 24th, 2009|

The unaccounted for variable in all these stories, from the "look what my caring leadership and mentoring has produced" series, are the other ten people that worked for you back in 95. What happened to them? What happened to your top three performers that you ignored while you were paying attention to your fixer-upper? Because something definitely happened to them - while you may have thought you were doing a good and noble thing, I personally believe you screwed up royal.

Vay-Ner-Chuk Gets Leadership

By |October 18th, 2009|

If Marcus Buckingham was right, that leadership is “rallying people to a better future.” – then as much as you may think of him as a marketer, as a merchant, or as a hustler (in a good way); Gary Vaynerchuk is – above all of that – a leader.  With the recent release of his first book Crush It: Why Now is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion, Vaynerchuk continues to rally (lead) those of us who might listen to the better (and inevitable) future of business in a world turned upside down by…bandwidth. His steady contention is that the gatekeepers of radio, and television, and newspapers are gone – and that anyone (not to be confused with everyone) can turn their passion for anything into a successful life doing what they love.  But it isn’t what he believes in, but rather the evangelist-like, unstoppable purpose in that belief that makes Gary Vaynerchuk a true and authentic leader.  It’s easy to believe and be passionate about something in a sprint.  But the long-haul delivering of a message and sticking to it – in the face of detractors – is what makes people follow.  It can’t be taught at business school; it can’t be faked;  it comes from inside, and Vaynerchuk has it – in spades. […]

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