Author and compelling keynote speaker, Michael J. Tougias, has conducted extensive research involving people who have survived disasters and obstacles that most of us shudder to think about. He shares what he has learned about decision-making, goal attainment, and leadership under pressure from researching his five national bestsellers: A STORM TOO SOON, OVERBOARD!, TEN HOURS UNTIL DAWN, FATAL FORECAST and THE FINEST HOURS. Walt Disney Pictures is currently working on the movie version of THE FINEST HOURS and will bring it to the big screen.
Michael dazzles audiences by demonstrating the secrets he’s gleaned from survivors and rescuers and how they channeled and managed their energy into proactive decisions that saved their lives. These are the keys to his amazing presentations. A rare speaker on a well-researched topic, Tougias delivers motivating stories of survival essential for organizations that seek to inspire their employees, members or attendees. He has spoken to groups large and small across the country and at dozens of meetings for business groups, trade associations, colleges, sales teams, museums and community sponsors. See below for comments.
Michael Tougias is a frequent guest on television, including ABC’s “20/20", The Weather Channel, and “Fox & Friends”. He is the recipient of the American Library Association’s “Editor’s Choice Award” and he won the Independent Publishers award for best book in its class. The Los Angeles Times praised his book FATAL FORECAST saying “Tougias spins a marvelous and terrifying yarn…this is a breathtaking book” while the Providence Journal called THE FINEST HOURS “a blockbuster…Tougias has done it again.” Other reviewers—as well as audiences who have heard him speak—say his books and his presentations give you an “edge-of-your-seat experience.”
Audiences respond to Tougias’s enthusiasm by making changes in their lives and taking bold action. He delivers a rare combination of the “wow” factor coupled with warmth and humor when he speaks. If you want a presenter whose passion is contagious and can infuse people with confidence, he is your speaker.
Michael Tougias is available for speeches, seminars, workshops and residencies through the MasterMedia Speakers Bureau. Please contact Tony Colao for further information.
Links to Videos of Michael Tougias
1 - Michael Tougias Lecture Highlights (Wrentham Cable)
2 - OVERBOARD Interview-Part 1
3 - OVERBOARD Interview-Part 2
4 - OVERBOARD Interview-Part 3
2014 Books by Michael Tougias
RESCUE OF THE BOUNTY: Disaster and Survival in Superstorm Sandy (with Doug A. Campbell)
The harrowing story of the sinking and rescue of the HMS Bounty--the tall ship replica used in the 1962 classic “Mutiny on the Bounty”–which sailed into the path of Hurricane Sandy with sixteen aboard.
On Thursday, October 24, 2012, Captain Robin Walbridge made the fateful decision to sail the HMS Bounty from New London, Connecticut, to St. Petersburg, Florida. Walbridge was well aware that a hurricane was forecasted to travel north from the Caribbean towards the Eastern seaboard. Yet the captain was determined to sail. As he explained to his crew of fifteen: a ship was always safer at sea than at port. He intended to sail “around the hurricane” and told the crew that anyone who did not want to come on the voyage could leave the ship–there would be no hard feelings. No one took the captain up on his offer.
Four days into the voyage, superstorm Sandy made an almost direct hit on the Bounty. The vessel’s pumps were failing and could not keep up with the incoming water. A few hours later, in the dark of night, the ship overturned off of the North Carolina coast in the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” sending the crew tumbling into the ocean filled with crushing thirty-foot waves. The Coast Guard then launched one of most complex and massive rescues in its history, flying two Jayhawk helicopter crews into the hurricane and lowering rescue swimmers into the raging ocean again and again despite the dangers.
Dripping with suspense and vivid high-stakes drama, RESCUE OF THE BOUNTY is an unforgettable tale about the brutality of nature and the human will to survive.
DEREK’S GIFT (with Buck Harris)
When Derek Sheckman, a high school senior, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer he began keeping a journal of his experiences and insights. Ten years later, a teacher discovered a copy of his journal and recognized its insights into overcoming adversity and handling life’s many ups and downs. Now that teacher, Buck Harris, has collaborated with best-selling author Michael J. Tougias to share Derek’s message and the amazing journey of the five key people in Derek’s life. DEREK’S GIFT shows us the true meaning of love and courage, and has the ability to enrich us all.
If you liked Tuesdays With Morrie, The Fault in Our Stars or The Last Lecture, you must read DEREK’S GIFT. Perhaps your life journey will change as a result.
Partial List of Previous Books by Michael Tougias
A STORM TOO SOON:
A True Story of Disaster, Survival
and an Incredible Rescue (2013)
OVERBOARD!: A True Blue-water Odyssey of
Disaster and Survival
An Incredible True Tale
and Survival at Sea (2009)
THE FINEST HOURS: The True Story of the U.S.
Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue (2007)
TEN HOURS UNTIL DAWN: The True Story of
Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do (2005)
THE BLIZZARD OF ‘78 (2002)
KING PHILIP’S WAR:
The History and
Legacy of America’s Forgotten Conflict
(with Eric Schultz)
UNTIL I HAVE NO COUNTRY
Michael Tougias has also written 14 published books on travel, history and nature.
Programs Offered by Michael Tougias
Corporate and General Audiences
• Survival Lessons For Peak Performance: Inspiration And Decision-Making From Those Who Have Survived Against All Odds:
We have all heard amazing stories of survival that rendered us awestruck. But too often, we don't realize that there is a wealth of information to learn from people who make it to the other side of life's most daunting challenges.
In this keynote presentation, Michael Tougias first illustrates the survival stories he has researched and then discusses the lessons learned. Revealing the techniques used by survivors, he demonstrates how all of us can achieve our dreams, manage rapid organizational change, operate at peak performance, and lead more fulfilling, productive lives. The strategies and tactics reviewed in the presentation, and the motivating stories of survival are essential business tools.
And while the audience is learning practical tips they are being entertained by Tougias’ story-telling abilities and the visuals he uses that will keep the audience in awe. Fire up your staff or organization with Survival Lessons!
•The Finest Hours: Leadership Lessons From America’s Greatest Rescue
Soon to be a major motion picture by Disney produced by Jim Whittaker (Apollo 13), The Finest Hours’ presentation will leave the audience with a lasting impact. How did four young men in a 36 foot life boat perform a rescue in 60 foot seas and save the lives of 32 out of 33 sailors on a sinking ship in a blizzard? Using incredible images from this actual rescue in 1952, Tougias highlights the leadership qualities that made it all possible. This is the perfect keynote presentation for annual dinners or to add variety and contrast to more technically-oriented conferences.
College and Academic Audiences
• The “F” Word: Fortitude–Managing Stress And Decision-Making From Those Who Have Survived Against All Odds
We all face stress, the feeling of being overwhelmed, and difficulty making decisions. Michael Tougias has conducted extensive research involving people who have survived disasters in the face of incredible odds. All of these individuals felt completely overwhelmed but quickly learned the secrets of channeling and managing their energy into proactive decisions that allowed them to survive. Tougias has learned that the techniques used by survivors can help students handle stress, make tough decisions, and develop the steps necessary to achieve dreams – no matter how difficult they may seem.
Among the topics he discusses are:
• The dangers of projecting past outcomes onto current
• The pros and cons of decisions that are reversible
• Adrenaline can be the enemy
• Teamwork under duress
• Giving up the illusion of “comfort”
• The peril of “sticking to the plan”
• The role of intuition in decision-making
• How to win in any environment
• The Worry Dilemma: we worry because we care, we worry
about the wrong things
• “Do the next right thing”
• The Power of Little Steps
• Lessons in Resilience
• A Different Look at Priorities
• The Fallacy of “I’ll be happy when….”
This program is based on the 2014 book by the same name about a story of love, courage, and life lesson’s learned the hard way. The program will make the audience reconsider priorities and attitude while teaching practical tips for resilience and reaching difficult goals. Whatever your desired destination this presentation will leave you saying “I can do that!”
Feedback on Michael Tougias, Speaker
“We received fabulous comments about your uplifting program. You had us on the edge of our seats!”
Sandy Kelly, Massachusetts School Library Association Annual Conference
“Your presentation allowed our crews to understand techniques used to manage rapid organizational change, operate at peak performance and lead more productive lives. And I extend my gratitude on behalf of each member and their families who will benefit from your lecture and training.”
E.S. Gleason, Commanding Officer, U.S.C.G. Houston.
“Members feedback was so positive, and we had over 750 people in the audience. We loved the inspirational messages.”
Kathleen Keenan, North Platte Town Lecture Series
“Wow! What an incredible evening you gave us. All of the attendees raved about it. You drew our largest audience, and it was a pleasure to work with such a “pro.” On behalf of the entire Yacht Club, thank you for giving us such a special evening.”
Gary de Simone, Chairman Education Committee, Stonington (CT) Harbor Yacht Club
“Michael Tougias presented Survival Lessons: Peak Performance Under Pressure at our Business Expo while the region was experiencing a soft economy. During this time of financial uncertainty, his presentation was extremely relevant to the business community. Comments from our chamber members attending his presentation included: “Fantastic” “Compelling” “Inspiring!” I recommend Michael as a speaker for any audience!”
Paul Ouellette, Northern RI Chamber of Commerce
“I’d like to thank you for coming because your speaking skills about the lessons learned from survivors has given us a much needed breath of fresh air. The entire audience was engaged from start to finish, and that’s a tall order with such a diverse group! Here’s an example of the emails I’ve been getting: ‘I wasn’t looking forward to the meeting, but that author was a riveting story-teller with so many practical tips that I wish the presentation was twice as long!'"
Lieutenant Jason Trischler, Safety Officer, Air Station Borinquen Puerto Rico
“I’ll be recommending you to other correctional facilities. Life lessons with amazing dramatic survival stories has a realism that resonates much further than mere principles without the incredible illustrations.”
Bill Storz, Northeast Correctional Facility
“Your presentation was riveting. Feedback was fantastic...”
Glenn Field, NE Weather Conference
“Everyone I spoke with loved your speech! You have a gift for gleaning practical wisdom out of your research with survivors while at the same time sharing riveting stories.”
Doug Bernard, Raytheon Company
“A great program that really held the attention of our cadets. Thank you for getting all of us inspired and motivated in an entertaining and informative way.”
Katherine Mudgett, Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Holly Arms, Delta Kappa Teachers Association
"There is a reason why Michael Tougias is one of the most sought after speakers throughout New England. His ability to weave and present the common denominators that exists between survivors and to deliver the message to the audience that is applicable to everyday life at work is truly brilliant! Whether you are reading one of his books or attending one of his presentations as a team or an individual, you will become a better decision maker, a better leader and without exception a better human being."
Rebecca Coburn, CPP, ASIS Expo Conference Director (Security Professionals)
“Your presentation “Survival Lessons” was super! I have received numerous e-mails expressing how much members liked the presentation. We thank you for an excellent job.”
Paula Freedman, Estate and Business Planning Council
“What an inspiring presentation. It’s an absolute must for all who strive for leadership qualities.”
John Bolduc, Eastern CT Association of Realtors
“Our members loved the program – lots of techniques that can help us reach difficult goals. The speaker and his slides were a perfect combination. Very powerful, very moving.”
Elaine Grace, International Administrative Association
“It’s been two weeks since the presentation and we are still receiving positive feedback! We’ve been hosting these business forums for many years, and of all the speakers Michael received the highest marks ever on the evaluation forms. Over 150 small business owners attended and he sure had their attention!”
Tracy Anderson, Small Business Success Seminar/Middlesex Bank
“A great presentation and I’ve been hearing lots of positive statements about it. Thank you for making our annual meeting so memorable.”
Marilou Boneti, National Drillers Association
“Feedback was great! Based on the evaluations, it was clear that many attendees came specifically to hear you and they rated this year’s conference the best ever! Thank you for such an inspiring program.”
Aimee Phillips, Tofias Management Conference (CEO’s and Leaders from some of New England’s largest corporations including Dunkin Donuts, Reebok, and EMC)
“Your presentation was everything I hoped it would be. You hit on some key points about opportunity and change.”
Bill Berrera, Lincoln Financial Services
“Our members were awed. Great delivery and well researched.”
Judith Bogue, General Dynamics Electric Boat Management Association
“My sales force really benefitted from these insights, particularly the lessons of how to think creatively and persevere to achieve challenging goals.”
Fran Gaetani, Cornerstone America/Midwest National Insurance
“Thanks again for a great presentation and being the highlight of our conference!”
Al Jacobs, United States Coast Guard Annual Engineering Conference
“WOW! A truly memorable presentation. Crisis situations develop in surgery, just as they do at sea, and the strategies you outlined were right on target.”
Patrick J. Kelly, Chairman Dept. of Neurological Surgery, NYU Surgeon’s Roundtable
“Feedback was awesome!”
Diane George, Project Management Institute
“Our customers enjoyed him so much we had him back a few months later. I would highly recommend Mr. Tougias.”
Andy Colby, National Grand Bank
“The Survival Lessons presentation was engaging, creative, and practical. An excellent program.”
Kris MacAusian, Goodwin Proctor Law Firm
Praise for Michael Tougias, Author
A STORM TOO SOON: The True Story of Disaster, Survival, and an Incredible Rescue
“By depicting the event from the perspective of both the rescued and the rescuers and focusing only on key moments and details, Tougias creates a suspenseful, tautly rendered story that leaves readers breathless but well-satisfied. Heart-pounding action for the avid armchair adventurer.”
“The riveting, meticulously researched “A Storm Too Soon” tells the true-life tale of an incredible rescue.”
“Tougias deftly switches from heart-pounding details of the rescue to the personal stories of the boat’s crew and those of the rescue team. The result is a well-researched and suspenseful read.”
“Few American authors—if any—can better evoke the realities that underlie a term such as ‘desperate rescue attempt.’”
Fall River Herald
“Already a maven of maritime books with “Overboard!” and “Fatal Forecast”, Tougias cinches that title here. Working in the present tense Tougias lets the story tell itself, and what a story! Any one reading (A Storm Too Soon) will laud Tougias’ success.”
The Providence Journal
OVERBOARD!: A True Blue-water Odyssey of Disaster and Survival
“A heart-pounding account of the storm that tore apart a forty-five-foot sailboat. Author Michael Tougias is the master of the weather-related disaster book.”
The Boston Globe
“OVERBOARD is a beautiful story deserving of a good cry.”
Gatehouse News Service
“Tougias has a knack for weaving thoroughly absorbing stories – adventure fans need this one!”
THE FINEST HOURS: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue (with Casey Sherman)
“A blockbuster account of tragedy at sea . . . gives a you-are-there feel.”
The Providence Journal
“A gripping read!”
James Bradley, author of FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
TEN HOURS UNTIL DAWN: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do
Selected as an American Library Association “Top Book of 2005"
“The best story of peril at sea since Sebastian Junger’s A Perfect Storm. Superb!”
“What a story! Tougias’ research and writing make the reader feel as if they are onboard the Can Do during the Blizzard of ’78.”
Governor Michael Dukakis
“An incredible tale of heroism and sacrifice.”
Nathaniel Philbrick, National Book Award Winner
FATAL FORECAST: An Incredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea
“Tougias skillfully submerges us in this storm and spins a marvelous and terrifying yarn. He makes us fight alongside Ernie Hazard and cheer as he is saved . . . a breathtaking book.”
Los Angeles Times
“Ernie Hazard’s experiences, as related by Tougias, deserve a place as a classic of sea survival history.”
The Boston Globe
“Tougias spins a dramatic saga...this is among his most gripping.”
National Geographic Adventure Magazine
SO CO Magazine profile-2014
photo credit: Lucki Schotz photography
Written By Alison O'Leary // photography by Lucki Schotz photography
socomagazine.com February 2014
We were holed up in Plymouth while the wind howled outside, lashing the cottage with rain
and sending frothy waves across the pond. My partner, Mike, was just back from an interview with television's "Fox & Friends", telling the hosts that the massive hurricane dubbed Superstorm Sandy was so well publicized nobody would be dumb enough to take a boat offshore.
Then news trickled in that the Bounty, a big, wooden square rigger with lots of people on board, was in distress and could be sinking.
"Everybody is going think I'm an idiot," Mike quipped. "I just said on national TV that nobody would be out in this storm."
Busy working on publicity for his latest book, he'd only grunt when I provided updates: "They've abandoned ship, a hundred miles off Hatteras, right in the Gulf Stream where your other books take place!" I told him. "Yup," he answered.
Michael Tougias knows almost as much as the Coast Guard about dramatic offshore rescues. In October 2012 he had finished his fifth nonfiction sea rescue book, A Storm Too Soon, and was planning to move on to projects that didn't involve hypothermia or 18 inverted boats. I might have been the first to ask if the Bounty was a topic he'd take on, but I wasn't the last. He was getting e mails from friends and fans even before the Bounty survivors set foot on dry land.
Fast forward to January of this year, when he's waiting for reviews of Rescue of the Bounty: Disaster and Survival in Superstorm Sandy. It's a hot topic from Castine, Maine, to St. Petersburg, Fla., because the ship was well known up and down the East Coast. Yet the captain's rationale for taking a ship with questionable systems into the teeth of a hurricane is not well known, and all the research, interviews, and documentation Tougias and coauthor Doug Campbell publish will only fuel further discussion. Nothing written will bring back the
adventurous sailor, Claudene Christian, or the captain, Robin Walbridge, who lost their lives when the Bounty capsized.
"The captain's background and the way he made his decisions answer some of the questions, but we'll never know for sure because we weren't able to talk to him," Tougias says of Walbridge's decision to sail close to the massive storm. "Why didn't crew members opt out of the trip? It came down to two things: Most of the crew was under 30 and didn't want to let their shipmates down by walking out, and the way he (Walbridge) posed the question didn't give them much time to consider their options. It had to be a quick decision because they were leaving soon. I would have done the same thing at that age."
Rescue of the Bounty, published by Simon & Schuster, will be his biggest book this year, but he is publishing at least two others, bringing his total to 23 in the past 15 years.
A career as an author did not come easily to Tougias, son of a baker from Longmeadow, Mass. At the age of 23, he bought an A frame cabin on a few acres in Vermont, where being close to nature inspired him to put pen to paper. He wrote about fishing and traveling back roads, sharing his awestruck view of nature through newspaper columns he=d type up and mail, addressing envelopes on the commuter train to his corporate job in Boston. The columns eventually morphed into books about outdoor exploration and his autobiographical, There's a Porcupine in
My Outhouse, which friends say should come with a pair of Depends undergarments; it's that funny.
"The first few books paid so little, but maybe after book five or six, new opportunities were opening up, like speaking and doing workshops, and I could see this working as a second career without jeopardizing my kids' college savings," he says.
"I also took several demotions to cut back to part time, which a lot of people wouldn't do. If you have a goal, you can do just about anything."
While researching The Blizzard of '78, he ran across mention of a pilot boat lost in that storm off Gloucester while it was aiding the Coast Guard with a grounded tanker. That sparked his first survival at sea book, Ten Hours Until Dawn, and started a period of writing and fishing that are both fueled by an obsessive compulsive passion.
"I'd avoid the bitch and moan sessions in the cafeteria at work by running out to the Boston Public Library archives at lunchtime," he says. "I'd leave my coat at my desk so nobody knew I was gone." He left his corporate job for good about six years ago.
While researching another story about two tankers that split in half during a fierce nor'easter off Cape Cod in 1952, he learned that another writer, Casey Sherman, was pursuing the same story. They coauthored The Finest Hours in 2010, a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award, and in 2011 Disney Motion Pictures bought the film rights. Last summer Hollywood scouts combed the Cape for locations to film but are keeping details under wraps (it is now in production with Chris Pine as the lead-ed.).
Tougias gives each of his books its own Hollywood treatment, visiting small town libraries, historical societies, yacht clubs, and anglers' groups for old fashioned storytelling and slide shows. On any given day, he packs a sandwich and takes to the road to tell his stories: about the emergency radio beacon that malfunctioned at the worst possible moment, about the towns and history along the Connecticut River, about Loch Reidy's 24 hours at sea with his friend's dead body, and about skirmishes during King Philip's War. There's also a "survival lessons"
presentation for businesses, which combines his corporate experience with the sea stories. After 10 years and thousands of miles, winning readers one at a time, he talks about slowing down.
"I'm almost effing 60," he says in disbelief, eyebrows pulling way up from his sparkling blue eyes. "I'm going to semi retire. Really, this year I'm blocking off all of June for striper fishing--unless a really big speaking gig comes through."
Writing and fishing are both fueled by an obsessive compulsive passion, says Adam Gamble, an Orleans based publisher and longtime fishing buddy. "Mike is a better writer than fisherman," he says with a twinkle in his eye and more than a trace of the competitiveness they share on the water.
Perhaps he will slow down, but first Tougias is coauthoring a book, The Cringe Chronicles, with his daughter Kristin, 25. In it she tells about growing up with his eccentricities, like mowing the lawn in short shorts and a belly shirt and nearly becoming a shark's lunch while snorkeling. The process has been a great bonding experience, and he says he doesn't mind being the punch line in her ta les of growing pains.
"Working with my Dad on this book has been a blast, and he has become a great coach for me given his writing expertise," says Kristin. "It was hard to be serious at times as we reminisced about our trips together and the bizarre things that happened, like the time we accidentally
blew up our apartment in Italy."
The punch lines come easily for those who know Tougias, particularly his childhood friends who after 30 plus years still gather at his cabin for fishing and cigars. The jokes range from Tougias being unapologetically low tech (he rarely uses his decade old cell phone), to his comfort with rustic living (the cabin has no plumbing, so friends are obliged to bathe in a pond as he does), to his frenzied note writing, scribbled thoughts that only he can interpret. (Last summer I found one note that simply said "armpit" so I saved it as a bookmark.)
And while Tougias is keeping all those notes for future projects, he is choosing carefully, hoping to make every word count. Among this year's crop of books is Derek's Gift, based on the life and journal of Derek Scheckman, who wrote about his struggle with a cancer diagnosis during his senior year at Swampscott High School. Teacher Buck Harris brought the journal to Tougias's attention and coauthored the book that also chronicles Derek's friends' journeys through grief. They hope to teach coping and resilience by getting the book into school health classes and support groups.
"We take so much for granted," Tougias says. "This kid went through hell, and yet he was so positive. I just want to put my arms around him."
Derek's story brings particular resonance to the way Tougias ends his presentations, exhorting his audience to enjoy life. He really lives that way, with each survivor's story imprinted on his heart. He laughs at small things, cherishes his freedom, and displays a sense of wonder and gratitude that is palpable.
Reprinted with permission from SO CO Magazine
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