The Coach's Corner

Warning: danger ahead!

When the news was finally released that all five men aboard the OceanGate Titan submersible lost their lives – there was an outpouring of grief and sadness for the families. Then came the questions. Followed quickly by the finger pointing. A normal series of events. In the midst of the fallout a phrase that caught my attention came from the Titanic director and explorer James Cameron

“Ocean Gate shouldn’t have been doing what it was doing, I wish I’d been more vocal about that.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Cameron’s assertions, which I’ll share in a moment, his words about ‘being more vocal’ got me thinking about the instances I’m ready to speak up… but remain silent. Today I’ll be digging a bit more into what we know about the catastrophic implosion. I’ll share an insight that includes 5 reasons to speak up – even if you think you’re not sure. And I encourage you to check out Martin Seligman’s “Put it in perspective,” a tool I use regularly, especially when determining how to speak up.



Warning: danger ahead!

The OceanGate Titan submersible fulfilled much of innovator Stockton Rush III’s dream of bringing people along with him to the ocean floor, even if it meant breaking the rules and taking what he referred to as ”calculated risks.”

His ambitious efforts drew a lot of scrutiny, beginning in 2018, when Rush was asked by his fellow innovators to stop using the submersible until it was certified by an independent agency. His response, as quoted here in a BBC news article,

I’m tired of industry players who try to use a safety argument to stop innovation.

James Cameron, the director of the Titanic, enjoys deep-sea exploration and has made 33 dives to the Titanic. But he says he declined Rush’s offer to join him on the Titan. In a series of interviews last week, he outlined what he suspects happened to the submersible, saying out loud he regrets not having spoken up more before last week’s fatal descent.

OceanGate did ensure that every Titan passenger signed a lengthy waiver, acknowledging the dangers and even the possibility of death.

However, the warning to get certification for the Titan before using it for commercial tours was dismissed.



Speak up anyway

In a recent conversation with “Steve,” a marketing director frustrated over losing a major account, he rattled off a list of reasons why he hadn’t spoken directly to key members of his team after a client agreement went off the rails.

  • What if there’s someone smarter on my team who has a better idea?
  • What if my team ignores me?
  • What if my solution isn’t sufficient?
  • What if there are repercussions?

As we worked through his dilemma, and discovered he really did want to say something,  I channeled Kevin Daum, who writes for, and offered his five reasons to go ahead and speak up.

  1. Silence is deemed approval.
  2. The greater good should be the priority.
  3. Demonstrate you are invested.
  4. No one else may know.
  5. You may not be alone in your thinking.

“Steve” decided to step in to the fray, thoughtfully, and discovered that he was not alone in his thinking. He worked with his team to revamp how they manage and structure client agreements and now he has buy-in that he never expected. He may have lost the account, but he and his team are aware of what went wrong and have put guardrails in place to prevent a similar event from recurring.



Put it in perspective

When I’m facing a dilemma I typically fall into the trap of focusing on the worst possible outcome. That’s where my mind goes! So, to refocus the mind, Professor Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology and Director of Penn’s Positive Psychology Center, offers a simple exercise called “Put it in perspective.”

This process starts by conjuring the worst-case scenario, which your mind tends to do first, then moves to the best-case scenario, and finishes with the most likely scenario. The idea is to redirect your thoughts from irrational to rational.

Step 1: Ask yourself, what is the worst possible situation?

This is where you probably are right this minute…so think about it.

Step 2: Think about the best possible outcome.

The best outcome may not be realistic – indulge yourself anyway.

Step 3: Now consider what’s most likely to happen.

When you have time to reflect, you usually know the most realistic scenario…what is it here?

Step 4: Develop a plan for the most realistic scenario.

Make your contingency plan – using what you know is most likely to happen.

What a refreshing shift from wasting energy on what’s unlikely to occur!


My takeaway?

If I wait to speak up until I am certain how my words will be received, I will most likely say nothing at all.

The influence you have is in what you say and what you do. You have absolutely no control over how your words, messages or deeds will be received. A lesson I keep learning over and over again.

There are times when I blurt out warnings, plead with someone I care about or share my thoughts on a challenging issue. Sometimes these efforts land. Sometimes they don’t. Either way – I’ve chosen to speak up and share.

And that is enough.

Please use the comment section to let me know your thoughts on how you speak up, or what’s holding you back from speaking up.

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