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There is an amazing machine digging a two-mile tunnel as part of Seattle’s expanding infrastructure. It’s an ambitious project, reminiscent of Boston’s Big Dig. The lady doing the work goes by the name Bertha*.Screen shot from Tunnel Talk's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM She’s a lot of woman – with a height of nearly 60 feet and her weight registering north of three tons. She’s also one heck of a tunneling specialist. First employed in 2013, she bore through 1,100 feet of ground—more than 10% of the total length of the tunnel­—in the first six months on the job. With only a few initial hiccups, there was great joy and anticipation for the completion of the project.

However, about fifteen months ago, Bertha overheated and came to a standstill. For a long time, no one could figure out what was wrong. Finally, the crew discovered a broken seal in need of replacement. With considerable effort and time, the construction team brought Bertha back to the surface for repairs. Poor girl. All she wants to do is dig dirt.

I can empathize with Bertha. I’ve had days (albeit not a year) when I am mired in a project, unsure how to reach completion. This week I counseled a few writing students who felt the same about their research papers – as if they were floating adrift in the academic sea while their work remained inert on a sandbar.

Being stuck in a middle of a project does not have to have dire consequences or cause grave consternation. Just like with Bertha’s, there is a reason for the stall. Assess the situation and find out what is causing you to overheat. Maybe your project requires retracing a few steps to ensure the work is meeting the targeted goals and objectives. Perhaps you need to reassess and reestablish the risks. Or maybe it’s worthwhile to brainstorm with an associate.

momentum1Once you’ve found the cause, look at the situation as a lesson in psychics: an object in motion is easier to keep moving than one that is stopped. When you do restart your project, give it that extra push needed to get your momentum moving again.

There is high anticipation for Bertha to get back on track, and for all of us as well.


*Bertha is named after Seattle’s only female mayor, Bertha Knight Landes, who served from 1926-1928.


Age: 2
 57.5 feet
Weight: 7,000 tons
Length: 326 feet
Occupation: Tunneling specialist
Likes: Dirt, small boulders, perfectly formed concrete rings
Dislikes: Sunlight
Role models: Bertha Knight LandesMarc Isambard Brunel, whoever invented the shovel