When you think of powerful people, you usually think of their ability to make things happen, get things done, and influence others. But in causing such change, powerful people also ruffle a lot of feathers, challenge conventional wisdom, reshape paradigms and shake things up.

Put another way,power erupts.

Often, the people behind these eruptions are less than popular with the many who prefer the status quo. Think Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. The power all three of these men exerted — the ideas they espoused and the changes they were bringing — so upset the prevailing mores, it cost them their lives.

In aquatics, we have a similar group. None have been assassinated, or (so far as we know) had attempts made on their lives, but the ideas and changes they’ve brought about have caused just as much industry turmoil — and just as much change for the good. We call this group the Firebrands. They are just one of the five groups we profiled in this year’s Power 25 (there’s also crusaders, volunteers, operators and unsung heroes). But I bring the Firebrands up in particular because I’d like to think there’s a bit of firebrand in all of us.

Many of the firebrands we profile are just as disruptive today as they were when they came on the scene. Professionals such as Tom Griffiths and Frank Pia are still challenging the industry, still questioning the way aquatics professionals do things, still shaking things up. It’s an example everyone in aquatics needs to follow, from junior lifeguards to aquatics directors.

It’s only in looking at practices with fresh eyes, asking tough questions and demanding better results that the aquatics industry can improve. It’s only by getting in touch with our inner firebrands that we excel. It’s only by causing a few eruptions that we can ensure smooth operations.

On another note about people who have shaken things up a bit, February marks the last installment from our intrepid Lessons Learned duo of Mary Aranda and Tina Dittmar. The two started the column a little more than two years ago at my behest. Their award-winning monthly contribution (it took Best Column honors from the Western Publications Association in 2005) has become one of the most popular parts of Aquatics International. The industry owes Mary and Tina a great debt for the hours they have spent tracking down the stories from Lessons Learned and convincing professionals to share those stories with us.

Alas, the burden has become too great for both of them, and they have had to retire from their oft-humorous brand of truth telling and lesson learning. But with help from industry professionals such as yourself, Lessons Learned will live on. Rather than rely on Mary and Tina for our stories, we’re going to turn to industry veterans for some of their most memorable lessons. Watch for those in the coming months. Don’t be surprised if you get a call asking for your own contribution.

So thanks again to Mary Aranda and Tina Dittmar, who have taught us that for every mistake, there are lessons to be learned — and to those willing to share their own to better the industry.

Gary Thill

Aquatics International welcomes feedback from readers. All correspondence may be edited for clarity and space considerations. Please include your complete name and contact information.Letters may be sent by mail to Aquatics International, Attn: Editor, 6222 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 600, Los Angeles, CA 90048; by fax to 323.801.4986; or via e-mail to gthill@hanleywood.com.

Credit: Gary Thill