Today's Reading

Ismay believed that had Titanic met the iceberg directly the ship "might not have sunk," but added, "it would have taken a very brave man to have kept his ship going straight on an iceberg."

With passenger safety taken for granted, Titanic's captain steamed at full speed despite six ice warnings. The American inquiry concluded that too much arrogance and not enough common sense proved fatal: "No general discussion took place among the officers; no conference was called to consider these warnings. The speed was not relaxed, the lookout was not increased, and the only vigilance displayed by the officer of the watch was by instructions to the lookouts to keep 'a sharp lookout for ice.'"

When Second Officer David Blair left Titanic before it sailed, he inadvertently took with him the key to the crow's nest locker where the binoculars were stored. Crewman Frederick Fleet, on duty as a lookout in the crow's nest at the time of the collision, testified he requested binoculars but was told "there is none."

"Suppose," Senator Smith asked Fleet, "you had had glasses...could you have seen this black object [the iceberg] at a greater distance?"

"We could have seen it a bit sooner," Fleet replied. 

"How much sooner?"

"Well, enough to get out of the way."

Outdated standards, inadequate procedures, and lack of preparation sealed the passengers' fate.

Sixty minutes passed between the collision and launching the lifeboats. As each minute passed, four hundred tons of seawater poured into Titanic.

She sank 160 minutes after the collision.

Inquiries held in America and Great Britain concluded long-standing practices deemed safe were followed.

"What was a mistake in the case of the Titanic," the British inquiry warned, "would without doubt be negligence in any similar case in the future." New maritime regulations mandated more lifeboats, lifeboat drills, and round-the-clock wireless operation on passenger ships.

Eyewitnesses reported most passengers acted bravely, with men honoring the "women and children first" code.

Bruce Ismay, vilified for leaving the ship, was absolved by the British inquiry: "No other people were there at the time. There was room for him and he jumped in. Had he not jumped in he would merely have added one more life, namely, his own, to the number of those lost." Ismay's reputation never recovered. He was forty-nine.

Stanley Lord, commanding Californian, less than 19 miles (30.58 km) away from Titanic, ignored distress signals and took no action. His conduct was deemed "reprehensible."

Arthur Henry Rostron, commanding Carpathia, steaming 58 miles (93.34 km) through ice fields at night and rescuing 706 survivors, was "deserving of the highest praise."

As the captain of your ship, you must watch for and respect threats that could spell disaster.

Week 2


"I intend to leave after my death a large fund for the promotion of the peace idea, but I am skeptical as to its results."

Few of us have the opportunity to read our obituary while we're still alive.

What Alfred Nobel read in an April 1888 Paris newspaper struck him like a scene from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come visits Scrooge and reveals people gloating over the penny-pinching miser's death.

In seeking to report the April 12 death of Alfred's fifty-six-year-old brother Ludvig, the newspaper erroneously exchanged Ludvig's life story with Alfred's, told that morning under the headline "The Merchant of Death Is Dead." Alfred Nobel was best known as the inventor of dynamite.

This harsh summary of Alfred's life introduced into the mind of one of the world's wealthiest men the repugnant possibility that, despite his pacifist leanings and intention that dynamite be used for commercial purposes, he would forever be remembered as a murderer.

Perhaps for the first time, and certainly not the last, Alfred Nobel, fifty-four, began thinking of possibilities for doing something "idealistic" that, nearly five years later, would lead him to bequeath the majority of his vast fortune to create and sustain the world's ultimate recognition of peace.

In December 1837, Alfred's father, Immanuel, departed for Finland to seek his fortune and avoid debtor's prison from his failed ventures, leaving his wife Caroline Andrietta and their three young boys in Sweden. Alfred was four years old.

Caroline opened a store selling dairy products and vegetables, securing her family's survival. The three boys attended a school for underprivileged children. Despite these hardships—or perhaps because of them—Alfred poured himself into his studies, excelling at comprehending difficult subjects, applying his learning to practical matters, and maintaining a tireless stamina despite frail health.

Immanuel, meanwhile, built a thriving business from his invention of explosive mines for land and sea defense, and in December 1838 accepted Czar Nicholas I's invitation to move his business to St. Petersburg. In 1842, Immanuel sent for his family.

Upon their reunion, Immanuel hired tutors for his sons and summarized his boys' character: "Ludvig has the most brains, Alfred the greatest discipline, and Robert the greatest sense of enterprise." Alfred ultimately demonstrated he possessed the most potent combination of brains, discipline, and enterprise.

Chemistry fascinated Alfred. His high standards, fertile mind, and self-discipline propelled him past his older brothers in every academic endeavor. By age sixteen he'd become a brilliant chemist, and his impoverished childhood made Alfred a tough-minded entrepreneur focused on monetizing his family's inventions.

"If I come up with three hundred ideas in a year and only one of them is useful," he later mused, "I am content."

By the time of Alfred's death, he held 355 different patents and oversaw ninety different companies.

This excerpt ends on page 8 of the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book Master Your Motivation: Three Scientific Truths for Achieving Your Goals by Susan Fowler.

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