There is no problem so bad you can't make it worse.

I love sailing in the British Virgin Islands. One morning we took off from Saba Rock, hung a right by Necker island (Richard Branson's private island) and headed for open water. We hoisted the sails and got into the wind. I was just thinking, "this is the life" when the boat jolted violently. We had hit something! Our instruments and charts were telling us the water was deep enough, yet obviously it wasn't.

We instinctively began some emergency procedures. We idled our motors, and brought the boat off the wind. We radioed our the sister boat that was traveling with us to alert them of the problem. Then we began checking below the floor panels in the lowest parts of the boat to ensure we weren't taking on water. Once the boat had slowed enough, we knew it was time for a visual inspection. Since we were still drifting, we threw a safety rope over the side of the boat and snorkelers jumped into the water to inspect the boat for damage.

While we had messed up the bottom of the keel, the good news was that there was no serious damage. The boat was still sea worthy, and the damage could be fixed at the end of the trip. We decided to get back underway, but right engine (the side we had hit) wouldn't start. The reason was simple, it wouldn't go into neutral, but we couldn't figure out why. Had we done something when we hit the rocks? Since we were planning to sail, and knew that one engine would be enough, we decided to make our way to Anegada with one engine and do some further investigation once we got there.

A few hours later we moored in Anegada and I jumped in the water to again survey the damage. I immediately saw the problem with our right engine and returned to the surface and let out a big "Doh!". The safety line that we had put in the water was wrapped around our propeller. It had stalled the engine, and kept it from going back into neutral.

20 minutes later with a knife and a whole lot of perseverance the rope was free. The engine popped into neutral, and at the push of a button sputtered into life.

This isn't just an almost ship wreck story. I'm getting to a point.

That evening we are sitting at dinner and recounting the story to the crew of the other boat that was traveling with us. When one of them said, "There is no problem so bad you can't make it worse." The line wasn't original to him. It's a saying that rolls around the space industry and had been mentioned in a recent TED talk by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

But I thought to myself, "Yeah, I've seen that happen a lot." An engineer pushes code to fix a problem quickly and breaks something else because the code hasn't been adequately tested. Or, in haste to remove a server from a rack for service the network cable for a perfectly good server is pull instead. Luckily in most sectors of technology our problems aren't literally life and death like the are in space. When your next big problem hits, remember you can actually make it worse. Take a deep breath and calm your nerves. Then proceed with all the skill, caution, and time that you have on your side to resolve the issue.