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Thu, June 20

Wiederaenders: What would you do to survive?

Gene Hackman, Stella Stevens, and Red Buttons, center, decide whether or not to climb to “safety” in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). (20th Century-Fox/Courtesy)

Gene Hackman, Stella Stevens, and Red Buttons, center, decide whether or not to climb to “safety” in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). (20th Century-Fox/Courtesy)

A reader’s recent comment got me thinking and remembering a lot of things when mentioning a 1972 movie of struggle, risks … and leadership.

The movie was The Poseidon Adventure, which starred Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, and Shelly Winters, among others.

I have seen it more than 100 times.

The story line goes like this: A passenger ship, on her way to the scrap yard is pushed to her limits by the new owners to save on dismantling fees. A tidal wave hits her, flipping her over so that all the internal rooms are upside down. A priest takes a mixed band of survivors out of the dining hall, by climbing an upside down Christmas tree, on a journey through the bowels of the ship in an attempt to survive.

The reader wrote: “I watched ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ again and realized it poses an interesting question. Would you be with the group that ignores logic and does nothing, or would you climb the tree?”

Interesting question. Sometimes we are frozen by fear and do not listen to reason, when faced with a tragic situation. It makes me recall a hiker who amputated his own arm to get free from a crevasse. Shocking!

We all like to think we would do “this” or “that” under certain circumstances; yet, we do not fully know unless we have experienced that before. Right?

The partial answer is that’s why people train. For example, we train on how to shoot a gun well (or not – shoot, don’t shoot scenarios), we practice through education and internships for our careers, and we expose ourselves to risks and decision-making so we can have a clear head when wondering what to do when the real thing comes along.

I also know the movie by a different scenario. About 14 years ago, I went through a leadership training course, and we were required to watch The Poseidon Adventure. The group that did scale the tree in a bid for escape consisted of very clear characters.

Some were naysayers, some questioned every decision’s detail and logic, a few were instant leaders, some just went along. Further, some were very Type-A people, some were extremely negative.

The questions posed to our leadership group included: First, would you climb the tree or sit back and wait? Would you swim through the overturned hallways, not fully knowing what was coming next? Could you?

Consider too that many among the group working to escape each became a leader, and gave everything they had, at one time or another during the journey. Some lost their loved ones, some just wanted to survive, and several died.

The most important question is which person among the survivors are you? Are you OK with that or would you dig deep and rise above?

When told by “officials,” all is well and help will come, would you listen? Who in your life’s “group” is the leader and who are the followers?

I like to think I would do everything I could to survive. I would climb, swim, crawl, and adapt to overcome. Wouldn’t you?

Food for thought.

Tim Wiederaenders is the senior news editor for The Daily Courier and Prescott Newspapers, Inc. Follow him on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2032, or

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