Tom Lachocki's Posts (3)

Fork in the Road

Yogi Berra once said when giving directions to a friend, “when you come to the fork in the road, take it.” We all “take it.” We often don’t know where our path will lead us. As we approach the New Year, we often consider if we will take anew path.My mind this past week has been racing after the first contact I had with my best childhood friend who I haven’t seen or heard form for half my life, about 23 years. We grew up next-door neighbors and were inseparable throughout our childhood. His call came as delightful surprise and a troubling reminder how lives so close can take such divergent paths. I learned of decades of alcohol and drug abuse – now thankfully - hopefully - demons in his past. I learned of his ongoing disability after being hit by a car while riding on the back of a motorcycle. A couple kids having a fun afternoon drive. We talked about our childhood plan to go away to college together in Colorado. I find myself living in Colorado (more by accident than plan) almost 30 years later shepherded with two college degrees. He did not have the privilege of going to college.Like everyone, my life has not been all fun and games. I have seen my share of heartache, tragedy, divorce, and struggle to raise children in a world with some moral challenges. Yet, my existence has been blessed compared to many – including my old friend. He’ll visit me in Colorado on the weekend you read this message giving us the chance to learn from each other and to begin to share again.Our lives diverged when I left to college and my life turned to learning. Though learning was always an important value, my path to higher education was more the exception rather than the rule. Neither of my two older brothers went to college, my parents immigrated to the United States after being displaced from Poland in WWII before high school. Yet, learning remains an important value they instilled in me. Learning coupled with faith and fitness are my life’s “foundation.” I continue to invest in these pillars. Education eased my path. How I wish my old best friend - and you - benefit from ongoing education to ease yours.Please continue to learn; if you choose to do so with and NSPF product – great. If you choose another path to learning – that’s great too. There are several industry links to the right of this article that are good sources.I wrote this note about a year and a half ago. It still speaks to me as clearly today as it did back then. My older brothers still work very hard to keep their households solvent. The year 2009 does not look like it will be any easier for them. My friend still fights his demons. I still have my challenges and yet am blessed by the things I have. If the fork you took is not working, the good news is that learning is available on every path. Make a commitment today to one thing you will do to further your education. Share it with us here on the PGN so we can cheer you on – and be inspired by you.Every day we have a fork in our road. Please build your future through education. It may be a little harder in the short term, but will make life easier in the long term. Have a great New Year.[Edited from the NSPF Newsletter, April 2007]
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Our Industry’s Advance is in Our Hands

I own a chemistry book that was published in 1849 written by Sulliman. The book is in English – which is rare – since most chemistry and science books of that day were written in German. Most science was happening in Germany. The first Nobel Prize winners in the early 1900’s were from Germany. Imagine that a chemistry book from 1849. This was before many men and women were considered human, before the civil war, about the time when the telegraph and Morse code were discovered, medicine resembled barbarism, and thirty years before the light bulb was discovered.Sulliman’s described how to make “chlorinating lime.” Yes, this was an early form of calcium hypochlorite. He even taught that the chlorinated lime “is effective at disinfecting" and "its strength is increased with the addition of weak acid.” Of course, we all know that adding acid to chlorinating lime shifts down the pH increasing the hypochlorous acid content and improves disinfection.Isn’t it kind of amazing that almost 160 years later, the one of the staples of the recreational water chemical industry is a similar composition? This realization is both extraordinarily amazing and kind of pathetic.How come society has come so far that about 68 million Americans voted for a U.S. Presidential candidate of mixed race and over 58 million voted for a woman vice presidential candidate? How is it we have come from a telegraph to an iPhone, from blood letting to micro-surgery, from a lantern to satellite digital TV. Hold it!! I think, “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader” is still airing. Maybe we haven’t come so far after all. . . I digress.Though our field has advanced, we have a long way to go. Our key to prosperity and relevance – like that in electronics, communication, medicine and other fields – falls on the lap of science. Many of the advances in our field have come from other scientific disciplines and research investments made there. For example, electronic controller technology, chemical testing, wireless control, even raw materials used in many ancillary products.John F. Kennedy once said, “Ours is not to fix the blame for the past, but to fix the course for the future.” Thus, let’s not linger on the past. Knowing our field’s advance – like other fields depends on science. How does our path forward look?Five years ago, the first scientific conference was held in our field – The World Aquatic Health Conference. In the spirit of scientific advancement, the seminars from the WAHC are available on the web so you can minimize our carbon footprint and still view the newest findings. There is no other conference in our field that post seminars on the web. The WAHC has for three years.Two years ago the International Journal of Aquatic Research & Education (IJARE), a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal launched. The journal is available in print and electronic form. A couple online articles even contain video. This is pretty cutting edge in the “journal business.” Over the last five years, NSPF has committed to over $ 3.5 million dollars in research on prevention and health benefit topics. This sounds like a lot of money. It is in fact over 30% of the total revenue NSPF earned over those years. In reality, contrasted against the size of our industry, this is a pittance. Yet, it is a step in the right direction.The question for pool geniuses is this. Have you attended one, read one abstract, viewed one seminar, read one published article, or donated one dollar to fund future research? This is a rhetorical question? Here’s another one. If 99% of members on this site or “professionals in our industry” answered this question the same way you did, how confident are you that our future will bring prosperity? Stated another way, will we look more like a telegraph, light bulb, a barber’s saw, and chlorinating lime or more like Intel, Macintosh, GE, and Merck. Or, will we make science and advancement part of our daily lives. It is in our hands.
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We Are All in This Together

In May of 2003, Natalie Gilbert, a 13-year-old girl was singing the national anthem at a Portland Trailblazer’s playoff game. You can imagine the nightmare when young Natalie faltered under the spotlight of this big event - when the words escaped her and she stopped singing. Maurice Cheeks, the Trail Blazer’s coach walked from the bench to her side, told her everything would be okay, and started to sing with her to remind her of the words. By the end of the anthem, the inspired crowd was singing along.Just a few months after this game, my family and I drove from Atlanta to New Jersey to visit family for a few days and then on to Colorado to begin a new job, career, and life in Colorado Springs with the NSPF. My sons still remind me about the five “LONG” days on the road, but the lessons from that story are for another posting. In those many hours in the car, my mind often lingered on how bright the spotlight would shine at a “big event” I would be asked to lead.There have been times under the intensity of the spotlight when the right words escaped me. My story, like Natalie’s, is one where leaders have left the bench to stand by my side, helping me get back to the melody. One-by-one, more voices are coming from the stands. I don’t know what the acoustics were like in that stadium, but from where I am standing, it is starting to sound really great.Like at a ball game, those in the stadium are usually primarily interested in the ball game itself. Often, the anthem is overlooked and considered ceremony rather than a reminder of our fundamental principles. However, when we are at risk, the principles of our anthem become center stage. The principles reflected in NSPF’s anthem are our programs that focus on illness, injury, and drowning prevention and encourage more people to benefit from pools, spas, and aquatic facilities.The people in our ‘stadium’ are employees at an aquatic facility or waterpark, lifeguards, service technicians, maintenance people at hotels and apartment complexes, chemical and equipment manufacturers, health officials, retailers, builders, and other industry professionals. All are primarily interested in their game, in achieving the goals of their employers. I am so thankful to be hearing more voices in our stadium singing the anthem of prevention as part of their game. Our anthem is ringing true in their minds and hearts.As professionals, it is vital that we minimize events that jeopardize the well-being of our patrons and our employees. An incident-free aquatic experience makes good ethical and business sense. We CAN prevent most issues with more education and research into areas where there are knowledge gaps. Perhaps more importantly, recreational water improves people’s health. If we succeed in preventing the bad and communicating the good, many more peoples’ lives will be transformed and the recreational water industry will prosper. It is important to remember this during the challenging time our field is experiencing.As more voices join the chorus and the volume grows, more will hear and sing along. I am so thankful for all of you who have walked off the bench to stand beside me and help me know the right words. I am so thankful for all of you who are singing the prevention and health benefit anthem. I am so thankful for all those who have adopted NSPF® training programs for yourself and your facility. With the creation of the Pool Genius Network, a new stadium has been created. I urge each of you to start singing along. After all, the support we provide each other is the best music of all.[Edited from the NSPF Newsletter, Nov. 2006]
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