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Book Notes: “Pirate Hunters” by Robert Kurson

My kids have been checking out books at the local library about treasure hunting. I have been reading said books to them, which means I now have an interest in treasure hunting.

This led me to a checking out a book for myself at the library called Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship which I read over the holidays and enjoyed.

In the book you meet diver/treasure hunter John Chatteron. He was a combat medic in the Vietnam war and, after having been through that experience, he compiled a short list of truths to live by. While they were meant to be more profound than a shallow relation to how one goes about building software, I’ll go ahead and make the association anyway:

  • If an undertaking was easy, someone else already would have done it.
  • If you follow in another’s footsteps, you miss the problems really worth solving.
  • Examine everything; not all is as it seems or as people tell you.

In addition to Chatterton, you also meet diver/treasure hunter John Mattera. At one point in the book, he has a conversation with another world-renown treasure hunter who gives him the following advice after a lifetime of experience in the business:

Treasure shows who you really are. It strips away every façade you’ve constructed, every story you believe about yourself, and reveals the real you. If you are a miserable, lying, greedy, worthless fuck, treasure will tell you that. If you are a good and decent person, treasure will tell you that, too. And you needn’t find a single coin to know. It’s enough to get close to treasure, to believe it within reach, and you’ll have your answer, but once it happens it can’t be lied about and it can’t be bullshitted away. For that reason, treasure is crisis, because what you get in the end is yourself.

I like the sentiment summarized in that last line: after everything you endeavor to do, what you end up with is yourself — so you better be sure that the kinds of choices you’re making each and every day, now matter how seemingly small or trivial, are ultimately a reflection of what you want to become as you are the summation or your choices.

It reminds me of Dave’s advice to his kids as they came online:

What you say online is the same as saying it in person. If you’re a mean person online, it’s the same as being mean in person.

Like the advice Mattera received about treasure (“treasure is crisis”) you might say the same of our lives on the internet: online activity is crisis because what you get in the end is yourself. Your online comments, blog posts, reviews, tweets, toots, videos, etc., are a mirror to you.