Weekly Thoughts


Cave Diving

Here is something that caught our eye this week:

What might kill us today? 

We learned recently about the phenomenal Jill Heinerth, a cave diver who has some serious nerves of steel.  At the age of 55, Heinerth leads technical dives into areas no living person has ever gone, facing considerable danger in the process (for example, she led the first dive into an iceberg which self-imploded minutes after her team got back to the boat).  It’s hard to appreciate the dangers Heinerth faces as a technical cave diver, other than to know that life insurance companies refuse to issue policies for people in her profession.  For her, the risks are worth the rewards of being a true explorer and the first (and sometimes only) person on earth to see certain subterrain.  As filmmaker James Cameron noted, “More people have walked on the moon than have been to some of the places Jill Heinerth has gone right here on earth.”

Listening to a recent Fresh Air interview, we were intrigued by an insight into Heinerth’s approach to preparing for her dives:

DAVIES: Do you – you go through very extensive safety checks before every dive. Are there any particular rituals that you have, any superstitions that you do before you go in?

HEINERTH: After all of my safety checks and checklists are done, I sit down and I close my eyes and I actually think about what could kill me today. So quite specifically, I work through a list in my head of all the horrible things that could happen, but I envision myself solving each one of those. And sometimes I’m actually, like, moving my hands and reaching for a valve or a button or whatever to solve each of those issues so that when I get in the water, my mind is really free. And then if something horrible happens, I’ve rehearsed it just a few minutes ago. And I kind of need to do that eyes-closed ritual before every dive.

In our operating businesses, we don’t face the type of life or death scenarios Heinerth experiences on a technical dive.  We do, however, face stressful situations, and are always impressed by those with the mental capacity to remain calm and decisive in the face of difficult conditions.  In fact, the topic is closely related to “premortems”, something we wrote about back in 2015.  Proactively thinking about what might “kill” us on any given day, and then visualizing ourselves successfully working through that challenge, is a practical and worthwhile skill we hope to continue to build as we acquire and help operate small businesses.

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

Subscribe to Weekly Thoughts

Previous Post Next Post

Recent Posts

Lessons From The Godfather

We think most would agree that The Godfather is one of the greatest movies ever made.  This week, we were interested to learn that at the time of production, success was far from certain.  Francis Ford Coppola himself was not the studio’s first choice to direct the film, and once in the role, he clashed constantly with studio executives.  From a Fresh Air podcast with Coppola: 

Read More

Three Things

Our first post of the year always revisits three core concepts that continue to shape our thinking. Dare to Be Great Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital is one of the great writers on the investment process. We enjoy reading each of his very popular memos. Early in 2014, he published Dare to Be Great II which, building on the original Dare to Be Great, discussed the necessary conditions for exceptional investment performance. From the memo: "For years I’ve posed the following riddle: Suppose I hire you as a portfolio manager and we agree you will get no compensation next year

Read More


Like our children, we love all of our values equally.  However, the most uncomfortable (at times) value we uphold is our desire to Keep Score.  This is because it is possible to chase better, play the long game, and put the team first–but not produce results.  That’s a tricky situation.

Read More