Those who were lucky suffered injuries or were maimed in accidents;
those less fortunate lost their lives.
A steam boiler crushed one victim at 64th Street and Broadway;
falling rocks killed five at 164th Street; seven were killed and
180 were injured when a shack full of dynamite blew up at 42nd
Street and Park Avenue – because a worker taking his lunch break
in the shack absentmindedly lit a candle to warm up a little.
And at 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, a whole crew lost
their lives when a delayed charge went off early.
All this, for the making of the New York City subway.
Imagine it – burrowing through the earth with a pick and a shovel,
knowing that – at any time – you could be injured by chunks of
falling rock or, even worse, killed by a cave-in.
Imagine back-breaking work in a place so cold, damp and dark
you had to struggle to remember the warmth and brilliance of daylight.
A place void of fresh air. A place where many had already been
buried – and many more would be.
This was the life of a tunneler.
Insanity – or maybe sheer desperation – comes to mind when you
ask yourself why people would take on a job like this, but they
did – and they completed the task, even when it took years.
But regardless of your profession – tunneler, shop owner, lawyer,
factory worker – everyone has difficult tasks to achieve and difficult
times to deal with. We all go through times when we feel like
we’re trapped, surrounded by darkness with no end in sight. But
it’s the people who don’t get tunnel vision – those who don’t
focus on the negative, those who see the larger picture and allow
themselves to think positively – who survive the darkness. Survivors
aren’t afraid of a temporarily dim journey; they don’t allow fear
to stop them from reaching their goals. Survivors keep going –
survivors keep reminding themselves that there’s light at the
end of the tunnel.
On Being Brave
Building tunnels was a scary process. But the fear didn’t end
with a tunnel’s completion – many people were then afraid to travel
through tunnels. Take the tunnels on the St. Quentin Canal in
France for instance. Boatmen refused to enter them when the canal
opened in 1810 because they were afraid of the long, dark passages.
The situation was so bad that the canal authority – out of desperation
– made an offer of no canal tolls for the first boat to enter
Only one man came forward.
Many people still fear traveling through tunnels. Some will even
avoid a trip altogether because they know tunnels are enroute.
Drivers and passengers alike feel claustrophobic. They get dizzy.
They panic. They let their fear dictate their decisions.
Do you ever feel like that one, apprehensive man trudging dark
waters for the first time? Are you ever worried about your business’
Of course you are – and that’s OK. But, the question is: Are you
allowing that fear to stop you from reaching your goals?
The boatman who dared the dark waters conquered his fear. After
making the dreaded trip, his barge became the most famous and
lucrative of the many hundreds that cruised the canal – and the
boatman never had to wonder, "What if?"
Are you letting fear of the unknown stop you from even trying?
Are you letting it hold you back?
If you don’t go for it – if you let fear rule you and you don’t
make the trip – you’ll never know what great things await you
on the other side.
The first long mountain tunnel in America was driven through the
Hoosac Range in western Massachusetts. It was started in 1855;
it was finished 21 years later. During those 21 years, 13 men
lost their lives, 153,436 drills were dulled, 16,350 holes were
drilled, 11,195 pounds of gunpowder were used and 2,329 cubic
yards of rock were removed.
All that for 4.5 miles worth of passage through the earth.
Do you think the tunnel would’ve been completed if workers had
allowed themselves to become unmotivated, if they’d allowed all
the negative factors to influence their state of mind? Instead
of saying, "We can’t," "It’s too difficult,"
"It’s too dangerous," "It’ll take too long,"
they just did it.
Under those working conditions and with the challenges that mountain
created, no one would’ve survived and the job would’ve never been
completed without thinking positively about it.
It’s mind over matter; the power of positive thinking.
The human race has accomplished great feats, some seemingly impossible.
But by way of positive thinking and believing, reality changed
– for the better. "Change your thoughts, and you change your
world," said Norman Vincent Peale.
If you believe your bottom line will be higher next year, it can
be. If you have positive thoughts about how to handle getting
paid from insurance companies for your work, you’ll figure out
a way to do so. If you have faith in your ability to increase
production, you will.
Practice believing in positive outcomes. Practice thinking positively
about your challenges. And practice having faith in yourself.
Reality is what you make it.
When working under increased air pressure, tunnelers were threatened
with "the bends," a disease that took one out of every
four lives. The fatalities and crippling, caused by transferring
too quickly from one extreme air pressure to the next, decreased
when medical experts discovered the cause and a solution.
By the 1950s, better safety measures were taken when crews worked
on the Lincoln Tunnel under 46 pounds of pressure (normal atmospheric
pressure is 14.69 pounds). When entering the tunnel in an air-tight
chamber, the workers sat facing each other, looking for signs
of trouble in each other’s faces. The "sandhogs," as
the tunnelers were called, would work for only 30 minutes, returning
to the "hog house," where they would lie down for six
hours. Their day would end with another 30 minutes worth of work.
Could you imagine a day’s work like this ?
The hard work and terrible conditions were bad enough, let alone
the fear of paralysis – or worse yet – death.
For these men, it would’ve been easy to lose sight of the light,
to focus on the darkness around them – and to quit. But they didn’t.
When faced with adversity, it’s often easier to give up than to
go on. It’s often easier to sit there, thinking about how it’s
not going to work out. But if you just sit there, not doing anything,
your fate is sealed: You will fail. But, if you move – even if
in the wrong direction at first – at least you’re doing something,
learning something. At least you’re trying.
Only by hanging in there – only by not quitting – do you have
a chance to stumble across the right path.
Seeing the Big Picture
With a sudden change in air pressure and an influx of mud and
water, blowouts in underwater tunnels often sucked people out
of the tunnels and up to the water’s surface.
And few lived to tell about it.
Such a blowout was about to occur on July 21, 1880, when a crew
was tunneling under the Hudson River to create the Hudson Tubes
between New Jersey and Manhattan.
When the tunneling reached an area of the river bottom that was
less stable, the pressure inside the tunnel, which was greater
than the air pressure above, suddenly began to whoosh out. Workers
ran for safety to the pressurized door, and some escaped – owing
their lives to the quick thinking and bravery of one crew member,
As Woodland reached the door, he realized there wasn’t enough
time for everyone to make it out, and if the door was open, everyone
would die – even those who had made it to the other side.
Woodland closed the door on his life – and on the lives of the
19 others behind him – but thanks to him, to his "big picture"
thinking, some escaped with their lives.
It surely wasn’t an easy decision, but it was a necessary one.
Seeing the big picture – the ultimate goal – isn’t easy because
it often requires sacrifices along the way. In fact, when dealing
with adversity, it’s often easier to forget the big picture, to
get tunnel vision and to focus on the obstacle rather than the
When this happens, not only are you unable to come up with any
possible solutions, but you’re also unable to enjoy life.
Accept that obstacles will mess with your plans – and that roadblocks
will constantly pop up in your path – but don’t accept defeat.
Remember these little challenges are all part of the big picture.
They’re part of the process, part of life. As Cecile M. Springer
once said, "Above all, challenge yourself. You may well surprise
yourself at what strengths you have, what you can accomplish."
Rather than getting bogged down in life’s problems, focus on where
you’re going, not where you are.
Life isn’t a problem to be solved, but an adventure to be lived.
Enjoy it. Put your heart and soul into it, but don’t let it take
the heart and soul out of you.
Toward the Light
Talk about determination! Ancient Greeks drove tunnels by building
fires against the faces of mountains and then throwing vinegar
against the heated rocks, causing the rocks to cool quickly and
crack off. (Wouldn’t want to pay them an hourly rate!) But no
matter how long it took them, they accomplished their goal – they
didn’t give up.
The same goes for you.
No matter how "long" your particular "tunnel"
may seem, if you aren’t afraid to try, stay focused on the positive,
refuse to quit and know that problems are all part of the big
picture, your darkness will soon pass and you’ll reach the light
at the end of the tunnel – where success can shine on you.
It’s In Your Hands
Sometimes things seem to be out of your control. (Nonsense!) Here
are some tips to give you back control of your life:
- Define your challenges – write them down in order of
- Brainstorm solutions – make a list of the viable ones.
- Set short- and long-term goals – Where do you want
your business to be in a year? Five? Set dates, but make sure
they’re attainable. If you miss a deadline, set it again.
- Ask for help – If you can’t go it alone, then hire
someone to help you! Make a list of competent people you know
who may be able to help or who may know of someone who can. Network.
The more people who know of your plight, the more of a chance
you’ll have to be helped. Don’t allow pride to get in the way.
- Reinforce the positive and remind yourself of past victories
– What did you learn from past challenges? Could you use that
knowledge here? What accomplishments are you proud of? The best
remedy for defeat is confidence and believing in your abilities.