Act Now! 3 Leadership Lessons on Handling Life’s Emergencies

"Act today only, tomorrow is too late."--English proverb

The world was gripped to this story. I know I was.

On August 5, 2010, 33 Chilean miners were laboring in a gold mine one-half mile below the harsh Atacama Desert. Boom! There was an explosion – tons of rocks and dirt collapsed on their space inside the mine. Did they survive? This was the difficult question before Chile’s leadership. What do we do?

In the 17 days it took mining and government authorities to discover they were alive, evolving roles among these 33 miners took place in their collective fight for survival. There was a place of safety in this entombment for the miners although with minimal rations. They figured out how to do what they needed to do. While experts in drilling and other related matters from all over the globe went to work to figure out how to get these 33 miners out.

The miners held steadfast.

On October 9th…pay dirt! Best-in-class drills broke through to the miners’ location. More innovative minds went to work, launching the next phase of the operation and brainstorming for ultimate success. By October 12th all was ready to release the miners from this sagging entombment. Further details of the plan involved getting them out in order, based on factors of health and overall emotional and physical fitness. Then they rose one by one out of the hot and damp hole.

This effort proved to be a miracle; the earth relaxing its grip to give the Chileans miners back their life above ground. The Phoenix capsule, named symbolically for their rising out of adversity, provided their transport out of the Atacama Desert’s dungeon.

As this drama unfolded, I was drawn to the story for many reasons. The themes of survival, leadership, self-discipline and one’s will as the core of life’s energy intrigued me.

What would we have done in that or a similar situation?

I was at work when…”

            “I was minding my own business and...”

            “I was driving my route when…”

            “The phone rang and…”

            “Somebody shouted and…”

It can happen anytime, anywhere.

A threatening situation of avalanche proportion appears and we need to get off the roadway we’ve been traveling and rush to safety. A chaotic tornado of events that churn away at our future or an emotional upheaval or financial ruin creates torrential turmoil. Illness and career can derail us and send our goals barreling down a dark hole.

How do we engage our own large scale operation to survive whatever has crashed our dreams?

The reality is that we can’t prepare for everything and sometimes we’re forced to go with what we know and survive on instinct. But we can rise again out of these sudden and blanketing situations. First, if it’s in the will of our Higher Power. How else?

We can learn (at least) three important points from what contributed to the success of the Chilean miner’s rescue. These could prove valuable for our own sudden challenges:

  •  Respond quickly—find a quick fix to keep you temporarily safe
  • Respond firmly—be resolved in finding a permanent solution
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help—alert others and seek their expertise

Unforeseen circumstances are never a pleasant experience, but a level head and willingness to act are paramount to our ultimate survival. What’s your emergency strategy?


Excerpted from my motivational autobiography, Navigating Life’s Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey in print and Kindle eBook 


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