Excited about witnessing the total eclipse of the sun, I made arrangements to be in Oregon, barely giving myself enough time (I thought) to get there, given all the anticipated traffic. The experience unfolded in a way that was entirely different from what I had expected, and witnessing the total eclipse of the sun near Eddyville, Oregon, was spectacular.
Lesson 1 – Getting caught off guard. I have a sense that the mass media is a mixture of opinion and questionable assertions of facts, and some legitimate facts mixed in. I felt confident I could sort out which is which, but I was shocked when the premise I accepted as sounding reasonable coming from the press turned out to be completely wrong when it came to projections of massive traffic. The traffic was, in fact, lighter than the typical weekend.
Lesson 2 – Profit from Countercyclical Action. Warren Buffet is known to suggest feeling greedy when others feel fear and feeling fear when others feel greed. It can pay to act contrary to what others are doing, i.e., buy when others are selling in a panic and sell when others are buying in a boom. In this case, I profited because I acted in an opposite way to how others did. I decided to drive through the anticipated traffic, whatever it would take, to get to the magnificent natural phenomenon. Many opted to stay home to avoid that traffic. It was ironic that I should profit in this situation since I fully believed the reports of massive traffic jams. It turned out to be an easy drive through ghost town like empty roads.
Lesson 3 – Flexibility. I was going to observe the solar eclipse from the Oregon coast, but on the morning of the eclipse, weather forecasts suggested the sky would be overcast until well after the eclipse. So I decided to drive inland where weather forecasts showed clear skies. As it turned out, I was able to observe the solar eclipse right outside Eddyville, Oregon, with not a cloud in sight.
Lesson 4 – Preparation, Luck, and Being Willing to Ask. While being prepared can make all the difference, it is also true that luck can make up for lack of it if we are not shy. I traveled with a friend to the site where we observed the eclipse, and we did not bring sunscreen. Asking a fellow eclipse observer immediately yielded a can of sunscreen, thus preventing unnecessary sunburn despite being unprepared. Getting out of the shell a little bit and asking for help even from strangers can make up for lack of preparation sometimes!
Lesson 5 – Being Present. I tried to take pictures of the eclipse and found even with the solar glasses the phone camera simply would not take adequate pictures. I realized very quickly that if I kept trying to record the experience and focusing on technical challenges, I would miss out on the experience itself, and quickly discarded the effort, in time to witness the total eclipse of the sun.
Lesson 6 – Subtle Changes. It is in the nature of the solar eclipse that as the sun started to get eclipsed, there was no apparent difference in the amount of light coming down, and without the benefit of the solar viewer, it was not evident that an eclipse was under way. But as the sun became more and more obscured by the moon, there was a definite drop in temperature, and what I would describe as “night breeze” could be felt – I felt the cool wind on my skin, and it was quite unusual and unexpected given that it was still quite bright outside. This is a lesson in looking for subtle clues of changes that are afoot, even if the visible signs still appear to show everything is business as usual.
Lesson 7 – Marketing. The fact that so few people seemed to go through the effort to observe the eclipse means that when we are engaged in marketing, we have to go through all the steps needed to show value to potential customers because they have many options and opportunities on ways to spend their time. The solar eclipse, despite massive press coverage, failed to get the kind of observer count befitting a major cosmic event because nobody organized a marketing effort to get people motivated to go. In fact, the press coverage given to the anticipated traffic persuaded people to stay home even if they would have otherwise gone out – to avoid the traffic.
Lesson 8 – The Corona. We had to wait for the moon to block out the main disc of the sun to see the corona, which itself is quite spectacular. This is a lesson in being aware that there are always factors hiding, obscured by bright things, but which nonetheless play a role.
Lesson 9 – On with Regular Business. As soon as the full eclipse ended and the sun started to emerge from the other side of the moon, people started getting into their cars, and traffic began to pick back up. This is a lesson in remembering that no matter how spectacular the show, life goes on right afterward for people who witnessed the event, and we have to have the logistics of what happens after the main event planned out.
Lesson 10 – Planning versus Being Spontaneous. I overheard some people nearby saying they planned being on that very spot five years in advance. They probably put a lot of thought into being there at the right place at the right time. I was fortunate to end up in the same spot while being spontaneous. That is not an excuse to fail to plan and at the same time being open to fantastic outcome while being spontaneous can pay off big, too.
Next comes California. Stay tuned!