Hoot’s Law: You can always make things worse

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Randy Boswell
  • 509th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
Many of us are familiar with Murphy's Law, which generally states, "What can go wrong, will go wrong." This is a great saying, as it teaches us to be prepared, have backup plans, and apply critical thinking to our proposed actions. A not so familiar adage, yet very powerful, is Hoot's Law.

I was introduced to Hoot's Law during a gathering at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., of distinguished individuals who achieved great accomplishments during their military careers, generally in the field of aviation.

My son and I had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with a U.S. Marine two-star and prior shuttle mission commander. I asked if he had any advice he would pass along to us and he responded with Hoot's Law.

Hoot's Law goes something like this, "No matter how bad things get, always remember, you can make things worse."

He went on to explain that there was an emergency situation, while flying the space shuttle, which got very serious. The vacuum of space and minimal gravity all work against you.

During training, the shuttle astronauts studied many contingency situations and most importantly possible solution sets. This type of training focuses on our actions and how we response to an emergency, it could either make things better or could make things worse. In these situations, one had to stop and really think through the actions before embarking on them. His training and remembering Hoot's Law made him an excellent astronaut and mission commander.

Since that encounter I have always remembered Hoot's Law and I submit that this saying is just as useful as Murphy's Law. Let me give you an example. While frying a dish in cooking oil, the oil reaches an excessive temperature and ignites. You now have an important decision to make regarding this bad situation. You could a.) douse the flaming pan of oil with water, b.) evacuate the kitchen or c.) cover the pan with a lid.

If you proceed to douse the flaming pan with water the result will most likely be spreading the fire to other surfaces of the kitchen increasing the seriousness of the fire. Evacuating the kitchen will definitely ensure your safety but potentially at the cost of the entire home. Covering the pan with a lid will starve the fire of oxygen extinguishing the flames. After doing option c, turning off the stove will successfully resolve the situation; while, the other two will make things worse.

We face situations everyday that require successful decision making. Some situations will be more serious than others. Hoot's Law reminds us to stop for a moment, think through the situation and our possible responses before taking action.

Doing this may just make your day go smoother or possibly even save your life. If you were wondering who this sage individual was that I met at Maxwell, his name is Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, Jr. On July 17, 2009, after being nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he became the 12th Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.