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  • Guillermo Söhnlein

Five Deeps: Timing Is ... Everything

In business--as in life--timing is everything. Well, timing and luck. And hard work. And the right team, technology, mission, and funding. But mostly timing.

Five Deeps Expedition

On August 24th, 2019, a small submersible carrying billionaire-explorer Victor Vescovo reached a depth of 5,550 meters at the bottom of the Molloy Deep, the deepest point in the Arctic Ocean. This successful descent marked the culmination of the year-long Five Deeps Expedition, making Vescovo the only human being to visit the deepest points in each of the five oceans: Atlantic (December 2018), Southern (February 2019), Indian (April 2019), Pacific (May 2019), and Arctic (August 2019). Along the way, he also became the deepest diving human being, reaching a depth of 10,925 meters in the Mariana Trench's Challenger Deep, a place where only three other men have ventured (Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard in 1960, and James Cameron in 2012).

This historic expedition was certainly a major achievement for humanity, but it also serves as a valuable business--and life--lesson about timing.

Good timing is when it all comes together nicely ...

As with any worthwhile effort, the Five Deeps expedition certainly had to overcome more than its fair share of setbacks and obstacles. However, it also benefited from a convergence of key elements that were essential for mission success:

  • Team - the engineers, test pilots, ship/dive operators, expedition leaders, and advisors were among the best in the world;

  • Technology - the integrated submersible and support ship were specially designed and are currently the only system capable of reaching such extreme depths;

  • Objective - while setting a few personal world records may have been a key driver, the team was fully committed to pursuing scientific discoveries, developing innovative technologies, and telling inspirational stories ... all for the long-term benefit of humanity;

  • Plan - it took years of careful planning to achieve such ambitious goals ... safely ... within only 12 months ... under adverse weather conditions; and

  • Funding - with some notable recent exceptions (e.g., NASA's Apollo program), the history of human exploration has been repeatedly fueled by wealthy benefactors, some of whom (like Vescovo) are highly qualified explorers in their own right.

... and sometimes the planets don't always align.

Despite its unquestioned success, this expedition was not an original idea. Chris Welsh, CEO of Virgin Oceanic, previously came up with an almost identical concept.

In 2010-2011, Welsh developed the "Five Deeps" project (ironically using the same name) as a way of funding and promoting Virgin's new "deep sea explorer tourism" model. He made considerable progress, but ultimately he fell short on each of the five elements listed above. Not through lack of vision, talent, or effort. Arguably, just a victim of poor timing. Sometimes everything "clicks", and sometimes it is impossible even to force them into cohesion.

AS BUSINESS LEADERS, we should recognize the power of good timing, which often we can "feel" intuitively when everything we do seems to come together nicely, although certainly never perfectly or exactly how we anticipated. We walk a fine line between exhibiting the "perseverance" it takes to push through the inevitable rough patches and the "flexibility" it takes to make adjustments when we find ourselves fighting against poor timing. Sometimes the best outcome in a battle is to retreat and live to fight another day.


Key Takeaways:

  1. Appreciate that time flows in only one direction ... and it cannot be stopped

  2. Know that windows of opportunity are rare ... and close quickly

  3. Understand that it is nearly impossible to re-open a closed window of opportunity

  4. Accept that jumping through a window of opportunity is risky and takes courage

  5. Commit yourself to pursuing opportunities whenever they present themselves!

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