Cassandra Bravo should not have died but she did. A 34-year-old nurse and mother of two died on the Mt. Whitney trail. She went for a day hike at 3:00 pm without extra clothes or food, alone, and with no clue about the approaching weather from the west side of the Sierra.

One of my favorite movies is THE EDGE starring Anthony Hopkins (Charles Morse) and Alec Baldwin. Lost in the Alaskan wilderness, Hopkins learns to survive while his companions slowly lose hope. This is what he tells his companions.

Charles Morse: “You know, I once read an interesting book which said that most people lost in the wilds, they, they die of shame. ‘What did I do wrong? How could I have gotten myself into this?’ And so they sit there and they… die. Because they didn’t do the one thing that would save their lives.”

I have hiked the Whitney trail half a dozen times and Bravo should not have died. But she did. Her ultimate demise was a series of costly miscalculations and poor decision-making. These ended in her slipping 100 feet off the side of the trail and spending two nights alone in sub-freezing temperatures. She was found wearing a tank top and leggings. 

She was a nurse. You would expect to know better. She was used to caring for others, but in the end she failed to care for herself. Tragic. Avoidable. So what’s the lesson for us?

  • Don’t go into interviews unprepared or under-prepared. Lack of preparation can make the difference between success and failure. 
  • Be prepared for anything. Go into interviews by re-reading your book, flagging important spots, and anticipate the possibilities. This year is a good reminder that all our best plans can go out the window, often to no fault of our own.
  • Don’t go it alone; seek God’s help and direction.
  • Know what you are up against. An author friend of mine told me he had no idea an interview he was doing was with an atheist. For a Christian humorist, that was clearly not what he expected.

I don’t know what went through Cassandra Bravo’s mind shivering uncontrollably behind a log. I can only guess she thought about her two small children. Maybe she cried out to God. Perhaps she wondered why she left so late in the day or took so few clothes or failed to check with the Ranger District about the weather. We will never know. Here’s what we do know; she should not have died. Not that day. Not that way. Not alone.

When you do interviews, speaking engagements, or talk about your book, be prepared. Don’t take a single opportunity for granted. Don’t assume because you have done it before this time will be easier. Maybe it will be. Hopefully it will be. 

Samson made the same mistake that Bravo did, he assumed too much. After Delilah cut his hair, his strength left him. He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” Then these ominous words, “But he did not know the Lord had left him.” 

We need God’s help but often think we can wing it on our own. Don’t make this mistake. The best interviews, like the best talks, always come from preparation and passion.

Mt. Whitney