If despite your best efforts you wake up one morning to discover you are on RMS Titanic (or your real life equivalent), then what do you do? Of course, if you wake up on the actual Titanic, go back to sleep and try waking up again.
Good people look at the world, try to choose wisely, and still end up in businesses, organizations, or communities that end with the band playing Nearer My God to Thee. If you haven’t been there, avoid it if you can. If you are there, here are four things you can do about it.
Don’t deny reality: in two and one-half hours this ship will be at the bottom of the Atlantic.
The first impulse when you wake up and realize that you are employed on the White Star line, the captain has ignored the iceberg warnings, and the ship is taking water is to minimize the problem.
Sure there is water in the mailroom, but can’t we just shut the watertight doors? Sure the watertight compartments are filling and spilling into each other like water in an ice tray, but this ship can float with a great deal of damage. Sure things are grim, but the critics and the carpers are always claiming things are worse than they are. We are on RMS Titanic: the largest object moved by humankind up to this point in history. We could order a snack! How much danger could there be? And look: men are making delicious drinks with the ice from that berg!
How bad could it be?
The answer: very bad. Get off the ship and into a lifeboat. Do it now.
How do you know? Ask the lower level engineers, not the owners. They aren’t paid to tell cheerful lies, but to keep the ship floating. When they are worried, get off the ship. Look at the Captain’s face when he is not putting on a brave show. The ashen gray look in the CEO is a bad sign. He knows.
And after all, if you get off the ship and it turns out not to sink, you can always come back. The real world equivalent is to leave a toxic company or place as quickly as you can. Sell your Kodak stock when they decided to ignore digital technology. Leave the ministry when the pastor starts spending more time on his image management than in prayer.
Don’t jump into the water.
The temptation after realizing the problem is grave and you might be heading to your grave is panic. Jump! Get off this ship! Stop. It is the North Atlantic. Hit the water and get wet and you are going to die of hypothermia. Stay on the ship as long as you can or get on a lifeboat. Don’t hasten your death by jumping. If you do hit the water, look for a lifeboat. It is your only hope and though a dim one, you might be young Charles Lightoller and haul yourself onto the overturned collapsible.
The equivalent of this is the panic that sets in when you realize your company, ministry, or program is in the worst of hands and has hit a metaphorical iceberg. Panic is not your friend. Stop. Examine your options. Get off the ship as quickly as you can in safety. Don’t jump ship without a lifeboat if you can avoid it. If there is no lifeboat, ride the ship down prudently looking for a lifeboat at all times.
If you can honorably do so, get into a lifeboat.
I hope that if I were a first class passenger, I would have died like a gentlemen, but if I was near a boat that was swinging out to sea, half empty as some were, there is nothing wrong with jumping into it. Nobody gets extra points in Heaven for dying needlessly due to inaction.
The Captain may have to go down with the ship. He made the disastrous decisions that got you here. Unless you are the Captain, do your duty and then leave.
Too many people stay with a dying ship, company, or ministry past the point of no return. Jesus said it best: “let the dead bury the dead.” Live young Lightoller!
Blame the Captain later.
Look: the Captain made big mistakes. The White Star Line blew it. There should have been more lifeboats and better safety drills.
The time for the examination of the disaster comes after you and your family are safe. Get off the ship. Blame the White Star Line from the lifeboat later.
Too many people will stay at their job at a doomed company and complain as things go down and do nothing to save themselves.
And here is what to do if all else fails:
Die like a hero.
There is no sense selling out your values. Once the lifeboats are gone, things are not going to go well for you. Die like a hero and live in the memories of your children’s children. The final temptation in a life threatening crisis is to lose all dignity and try anything. Stop cursing the gods and your fate and man up.
If it is too late to leave your doomed company with dignity, go down with the ship and look for a lifeboat when you hit the water
And so having found yourself on the life equivalent of RMS Titanic despite your best efforts and then having done your duty what happens if you survive? How do you live as a survivor of the great crash in your own life? First, pray. Second, read the third installment in this series.