Lessons For Success From The Titanic And Columbia

It’s always “the little things” that seem to cause the most problems.

And if we examine the factors that contributed to the demise of The Titanic and Columbia, we can learn lessons for success that could help us keep our own endeavors from suffering a similar fate.

Like a piece of ice, in the case of the Titanic, or a ‘loose tile’ on the Space Shuttle. Ordinarily a piece of ice and a section of ceramic tile couldn’t wreak havoc with either an ocean-going vessel or a space ship, but in each situation, both ships were destroyed because someone overlooked some seemingly small but important details because they were focusing on the wrong Goal.

The same principle holds true in our pursuit of goals. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having and setting goals–we must do this if we’re going to get anything worthwhile accomplished. But the problem comes when, in the course of achieving those goals, we get so caught up in the process that we overlook very important details. The result: we get “off course” in achieving our goal because “the Project” supersedes “the Purpose” and as a result, often replaces it.

Whether it’s an aircraft, spacecraft or ship, in order to arrive at the intended destination, a series of “course corrections” are necessary. The pilot must continually interpret the current position in relation to the final destination–and be aware of potential hazards–in order to make the small necessary adjustments to stay on course and arrive safely.

In the case of the Titanic, it’s recorded that Captain E.J. Smith had received seven warnings about icebergs but, as this was his retirement voyage, and because he wanted to get to New York in record time, he ignored them. It is also believed that Bruce Ismay, the Managing Director of the White Star Line, who was also on board, put pressure on Captain Smith to maintain the ship’s speed. Also further studies later showed that many sub-standard rivets were used to build the ship.

Beginning in 1990, Carnegie Mellon professor Paul Fischbeck conducted a risk analysis of the Space Shuttle’s thermal protection tile system and found that the undersides of the wings close to the fuselage and right under the crew compartment were highly vulnerable to tiles being knocked off or broken by insulation falling from the fuel tank and from other debris. The report also found that a key problem faced by NASA was training technicians to glue tiles on the hull of the space shuttle and then to properly test the strength of the bonding.

In both situations, because of lack of attention to details, disaster and loss of life were the result. While trying to “just get the job done”, many people involved in the process lost sight of the real Goal: making sure each ship was built to endure the trip and capable of arriving at its destination safely.

So what lessons for success are there in these tragedies that relate to Marketing and running a Home-Based business?

First of all, just like the companies that were contracted to build each of these ships, we can get the idea that “the Goal” for our business is defined by the Project we are working on. All of our efforts and energies must be harnessed to get it finished, we reason. And to a point, that may be true.

Well, I have also been one of those people who “got that idea” and followed that line of reasoning–but I didn’t realize it until almost too late. You see, I thought that the Goal was to get the Project done and to keep my online business going.

It’s a proven fact that “where you look is where you go.” How many times have you started to veer off the road toward what you were trying to get a better look at as you passed by it? Well, the same principle holds true in anything we do. I was so busy looking at my immediate goal that I lost sight of my ultimate goal–the reason why I’ve set up my business in the first place. The reason of course, is to be able to spend more time with my family and to have the means to do things together and to go places with them.

But because I was focusing on my Project, I lost sight of the overall purpose and created problems and frustration for the very people I was supposed to be “doing this” for. I needed a course correction and to get my focus on the Real Goal again.

When I was given a “wake-up call” out of tough love by my family, they were finally able to help me realize what had happened and the problems I had created. As a result, I made some very serious “course corrections” of my own.

For instance, no longer do I continually stay online night after night ’til the wee hours of the morning. I also need to spend meaningful time with my wife–(and get a good night’s sleep so I can function well at work.)

I’ve also made it a point not to do any “business” activity until later in the evening; they need time with their Dad and I need time with them.

And just like God teaches in the Bible that we need a day of rest from work, I’ve also set aside a day to rest from my online endeavors.

As a result my life is becoming more balanced. My focus, thoughts and energies are no longer occupied solely with my online business. It might take me a little longer to “get there” this way, but I know that when I do arrive, the people that I’m “doing this” for will be there with me; the “trip” will be that much more enjoyable, and we will all arrive safely.

Maybe you’re not as preoccupied with your business endeavors as I have been. Or maybe I’ve just described you to a “tee.” In any case, each of us needs to continually do regular “course corrections” as we work to “Create Our Own Brand of Success.” We also need to be sure we’re focusing on the Right Goal, not just the “immediate” one.

An excellent suggestion to help focus on the correct goal is put in writing a detailed description of your Ultimate Goal (“living the Internet Lifestyle” isn’t very specific) and place it where you’ll see it as a daily reminder so that it will help you to remember that your business endeavors are supposed to be a means to that end; they are not the Goal.

Otherwise, you will run the real risk of experiencing personal and relational shipwreck because you failed to be aware of potential hazards or to make those small, necessary adjustments to stay on course to reach your Goal unharmed.

Can you think of any historical events that might offer some lessons for success?

Stephen Boutelle

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Online Marketing Specialist helping small business owners discover "How to Create Your OWN Brand of Success."