The Back Door to the Titanic

What if following your dreams is getting you nowhere?  In your attempt to get into the beautiful House Of Your Dreams, have you ever considered climbing in through the window instead, or coming in through the back door?

You’ve probably heard of Dr. Robert Ballard, and if you haven’t, then you’ve definitely heard of the ocean liner RMS Titanic.  The Titanic was the largest moving man-made object of its day, an ocean liner built to surpass anything else afloat in terms of luxury and, its designers hoped, speed as well.  On its maiden voyage between Southampton, England and New York in April 1912, it hit an iceberg and sank with the loss of around 1500 souls.  It became the most famous ship of all time, and it remained undiscovered for over 70 years.

In 1985, Robert Ballard was already making a name for himself as an oceanographer.  But what he really wanted to do, more than anything, was find the lost Titanic.  That was his overarching dream in life.

Since there wasn’t deemed to be any tangible financial reward in finding the liner, there wasn’t much competition in looking for it.  Many felt that the wreck site should be off limits, a marine graveyard that shouldn’t be disturbed, and there wasn’t any salvageable treasure or cargo on board other than some rare art and personal possessions of its passengers.

There was a Texas oil baron named Jack Grimm who claimed to have found evidence of the ship on a prior search.  He presented what he interpreted as the sonar pattern made by the ship’s propeller lying on the bottom, and announced that he was mounting an expedition to thoroughly explore the rest of the area.  But when Ballard saw the readout, he knew immediately that it wasn’t a propeller at all, so he also knew that he still had a chance to be the one to find it.

Ballard’s job as a marine scientist wasn’t to look for lost ocean liners.  There seemed to be no way to make his dream come true through traditional means.  A Texas oil billionaire might have money to spend on renting a research vessel and sonar gear, but Ballard didn’t have those kinds of resources.  But he waited and planned, and finally opportunity came his way.

In the 1960s, the US government lost two nuclear submarines at sea, the USS Thresher and USS Scorpion, and wanted to find out why.  There was some concern as to what condition their nuclear assets (including at least two torpedos) were in.  Also, during the height of the Cold War as it was when the losses occurred, there was great interest in whether the Soviets had either sunk the subs or salvaged the nuclear assets on board, or both.  The Navy didn’t have the expertise to mount the expedition necessary.  Ballard, however, did.

The Navy knew where one of the subs was, but didn’t have an exact location of the other.  They approached Ballard and asked if he would lead a secret mission to explore the subs.  He was tasked with finding the missing one, filming and examining as much of them as he could, and presenting his findings to the Navy with complete documentation in order to prevent future accidents or events and to augment the military’s understanding of the factors that had led to the sinking of the submarines.

Ballard agreed, with one condition:  If there was any time left over in the weeks alotted to him to find and document the submarines, he would be allowed to use it to find Titanic.  It was an unusual request, one the Navy could easily have rejected as being superfluous, but the top brass agreed as long as Ballard’s mission had been fulfilled.  He could use the research vessel and all its assets, but he absolutely must complete his mission down to the letter before chasing after the lost liner.

With the stroke of a pen, Ballard suddenly had every bit as much backing as his competitor.  The only thing he didn’t have as much of was time.  He would have to work fast, and demand more of himself than he ever had before.  He would have to approach his mission and his own dream of finding the sunken liner in a clear, level-headed and systematic way.  But the bottom line was, he was given a shot at his dream.

With only a few days to spare, Ballard completed his mission and turned his attention towards finding the lost ship.  Finally, in the early hours of September 1, 1985, the first images of recognizable wreckage filled the monitors on board their research vessel – a boiler.  Continuing in the direction of the find, more wreckage came into view, until at last the ship itself was seen by human eyes for the first time since 1912.

Once his mission had been declassified, Ballard was allowed to speak about it and said repeatedly that if it hadn’t been for his experience in finding the two submarines, it would have been easy to miss the clues that led to the Titanic.  The biggest clue was the presence of a debris field that stretched out along the direction of the current.  This field was littered with objects that had fallen out of the liner on its long journey to the bottom of the ocean, meaning that if they had been looking for the sonar and video evidence only of one large object they would have missed the small ones that indicated the direction the ship lay in.

Without even knowing it, Ballard was asking himself the Right Question all the way through this experience.

Many times we become so attached to our dream that we lose sight of how we’re going to achieve it.  We become fascinated with what’s going to happen once this dream comes true, sometimes to the point where we don’t really understand anymore that it’s got to be ourselves that makes it happen.  It’s wonderful to think about how great life will be once we’ve achieved our goal and are living our dream, but it’s just as easy to lose sight of the practical steps we’re going to need to take in order to get there.

Don’t be like that.  Learn from history.  Let the success of others teach you that although everyone does it in their own way, the fact is that you must remain open to offers that the universe presents to you, and work toward what you want.  In The Right Question I provide an explanation of how the Law of Attraction works, and Ballard’s experience in achieving his greatest dream is a classic example of it.

Many times our dreams come true without us even knowing it.  The trick is to know a good thing when you see it, but the trouble is that the good things often look like bad things at first.

If your dreams aren’t coming true yet, you’ve got to learn to look deeper than you have been.  Those distasteful tasks you’ve been avoiding are more often than not a gift in disguise.

No matter what you want to do with your life, if you support other people in their quests you never know who’s going to support you in yours with an offer that just falls into your lap, sometimes as though out of nowhere.  If you say yes enough to the experiences you’re offered, you will one day be in a position to use all that you’ve learned to give you a big enough edge that you’ll understand how to make it all happen, and your dream will become real.

Taking the direct approach towards your dreams and goals seems like the most common-sense method, but it doesn’t always work that way.  In Ballard’s case, it was unlikely that the most direct route would ever be available to him.  It wasn’t a realistic possibility that he would ever be able to simply rent a staffed research vessel dedicated to finding the Titanic, as the cost would have been exorbitant.  But if you can’t get in through the metaphorical front door, try a different key, a different door, or climb on in through the window.  In the case of Dr. Robert Ballard, he knew that one day he would have the opportunity to find the Titanicand make his dream come true, but he didn’t know when or how.  He had tried before but hadn’t been able to make it happen.

Then the Navy offered him an opportunity.  A back door, so to speak, and finally, that fateful day in 1985, it all came together and the rest is history.

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