The First Strike
July 17, 2012
If you ever think something can't happen to you, think again. A powerful lesson about nature was delivered to me personally last week in the form of a lightning strike -- just 50 feet from where I was standing. To make it even more terrifying is that it was the very FIRST STRIKE from the storm that had developed right above us, so there was no warning.
Florida is known as one of the lightning capitals of the world. In late summer, just about every afternoon over Central Florida, two air masses collide -- the sea breezes from the Gulf and Atlantic. When this happens, thunderstorms are born. They are slow moving, full of lightning, and can build to 60,000 feet pretty quickly, producing very heavy rain and in some cases, hail. These daily Florida thunderstorms rarely spawn tornadoes, but they can be serious and deadly.
RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT CONDITIONS
Since the daily thunderstorms here are so common, you begin to take comfort in their arrival every day. It's just another thing about living in Florida. I have always loved thunderstorms and have been fascinated by them and the sheer power of nature that they display.
On this afternoon, I had just arrived home. The skies were darkening and I knew the thunderstorms were moving in. After changing clothes, I walked out onto the back deck to be sure everything was secured in the event the winds picked up. Remember, no lightning from this storm, just a few drops of rain from the leading edge. Storms here can literally build directly overhead, so it's not like a thunderstorm in the Midwest that you can hear coming from miles away as it sweeps in, toward, and over you. These storms can bubble up stationary right above you.
There had been no lightning strikes or thunder in the area -- yet. Maybe this wasn't a thunderstorm after all, just a patch of rain that was starting to fall. We get those rainy patches as well.
Suddenly, while in mid-stride across the deck, and without prior warning, off to my right is a massive explosion. I saw the light, felt the heat, and the blast wave almost knocked me off my feet. It was so violent that something had to have exploded. There had been no lightning in the area, so I was caught completely off-guard.
Struggling to remain upright, and initially thinking that something had exploded, I remember then hearing the strangest sound ever - the sound of thunder rolling AWAY from me in all directions. Then my hearing went out and I knew it was lightning. It didn't sound like you would expect a close-by lightning bolt to sound. It sounded like an explosion.
It was the thing I had always feared -- I was in the immediate area of the FIRST STRIKE. You have no way to know if there is lightning in a storm, and the first strike has to take place, you just don't know when or where. My hearing returned after a few minutes. Dazed and confused, I went back in the house.
The bolt had hit the sycamore tree right off of our deck, no more than 50 feet from where I was standing. From there, within milliseconds the bolt wreaked havoc on our house. The massive electricity raced down the tree, blew out of the roots in an explosion that threw mud back up to the top of the tree, hopped into the yard, digging a trench along the ground.
It then found a buried wireless dog fence (that the previous owner had installed but we had not used), raced along the wire below the grass to a hardened metal box on the house. That box exploded into small pieces of shrapnel which blew out into the yard. Inside the house, a voltage spike occurred, transformers popping various pieces of equipment. We are still finding things that do not work days later.
Luckily, the tree was saved and we recovered the roots with new soil so the tree would be spared. So far, so good ... it remains to be seen what will happen with the tree.
Thinking about all of this, your career is the same. I always thought that I would never be so close to a lightning strike where I actually felt it. I was WRONG.
So, if you think you cannot be a success, you are WRONG as well. It CAN happen ... and it WILL happen if you place yourself in the right position under the right circumstances -- just like I did -- outside, with an unknown force building above me. A lightning strike does not happen by luck. Your career does not advance by luck, either; it is under your control.
Good luck as you navigate the thunderstorms of your career.