How do you swim through a sunken submarine?

For one of the books I’m working on, there is a section titled “dive deep.” This part of the book is about how much knowledge you need before you can successfully proceed.

I got the idea for the term from Dr. Burger and his book, The Five Elements of Effective Thinking. In it, Burger compares deep knowledge to the element earth. You have to deeply understand what you are studying or else everything above it will fall.

One of his examples — and one I’ve seen firsthand — is when a student entered his office to say that they knew the material for an exam, they just couldn’t explain it. “If you can’t explain it,” Burger writes, “you don’t know it.”

Once I gave a name to it, I started seeing how crucial deep knowledge was. In my book I have a few examples.

  • How do comedians shut down a heckler without losing the audience? Both Carol Leifer and Brian Koppelman struggled with this. Only after they learned a certain technique did their comedy routines improve.
  • Alex Blumberg was a top storyteller on the radio, but when he tried to be one on television he flopped. Blumberg didn’t know how a certain part was different between the two.
  • Why did Dick Yuengling know to invest in a mechanized lift for his brewery rather than spend the money elsewhere?
  • Chris Hadfield writes about knowing the “boldface,” time tested truths for successful flights and accident sequences for unsuccessful ones. Knowing the boldface is to know the problem solving sequence for nearly anything that can go wrong.

So how do you swim through a sunken submarine?

You have to know the submarine. John Chatterton was part of a team of divers that discovered a U-boat 60 miles off the New Jersey shore. It was an amazing find, but inaccessible. The wreck was 200+ feet deep. Fewer than 1% of all divers were skilled enough to go that deep. The sub was on its side. Some parts were overgrown by the sea, others were eroded beyond recognition.

If you even made it that deep, you had to deal with “the viz.” That is, when you swim around a wreck the slightest flipper flip or wall bump unleashes millions of pieces of tiny debris. Imagine what happens when you hand a snow globe to a six-year-old boy. Now imagine you are in the globe trying to see.

To safely explore the submarine Chatterton had to know the submarine. To do that he flew to a Chicago museum and walked through a similar sub that was on display there. Then he did it again. He did it 8 times in all. He visualized how the compartments would open and things would fall out as it went down. He studied procedures the crew would have taken if their ship had been struck. He learned all this so he had a deep knowledge. Then he swam through the sunken submarine.

That’s how you swim through a sunken submarine — and that’s how you successfully do anything in life.

Weekly review 34, what I’ve been reading and writing.

The sub story is from the incredible Shadow Divers which I’m part of the way through. I’m still reading Influence for the book club and listening to Jim Gaffigan’s Food: A Love Story. It’s been a great week for reading.

I published notes for Michael Singer’s interview with James Altucher. Michael Shelton was kind enough to share good things to read, watch, and use.

:: * I’ll be calling this the Rumpelstiltskin effect shortly.

:: The story of “how do you swim through a sunken submarine was first published on Medium.

:: Photo is of fish off the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean Sea, about the opposite situation of the submarine divers.


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