Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crazy Ivan

To give credit where due, I am a big fan of Tom Clancy and love his books, but I must admit I saw this movie before I read his book. When the movie The Hunt for Red October was released in 1990, I learned a new label for a concept I have always practiced and of which I was aware, even before the movie or before The Urban Dictionary included the term. I did not have this sexy label of "Crazy Ivan" to apply to my practice of awareness and self-evaluation. Wikipedia tells us that Crazy Ivan was a term coined when Russian submarines during the Cold War suddenly, without obvious cause, would turn and circle around to check the blind spot in their sonar behind them so they could determine if they were being followed. Their blind spot was the area behind the submarine that did not have sonar coverage to alert them of a predator. When they completed this maneuver, they considered it "clearing the baffles" which is that cone-shaped flare of the wake of the submarine. The label has evolved to mean any sudden change of course and re-evaluation. 

I've always associated the concept with the notion of evaluation of current circumstances and goal setting for the future to determine if a change of direction is necessary. When I was in college, I agonized, as only a nineteen-year-old can, about my major and based on my "Crazy Ivan" evaluation, I decided to change my major. Many years later, I pulled a "Crazy Ivan" evaluation and changed my career. I tend to think my major life decisions have included a "Crazy Ivan" evaluation before making a move in a new direction. That includes the very personal life decisions that all of us make from time to time. The resulting sigh of relief that comes from the careful assessment of past circumstances and having settled on a course of action, I now think of as "clearing the baffles" or "look behind you before you leap." That, to me, means I have performed a successful "Crazy Ivan" and "clearing the baffles" eases my mind.

In more practical, everyday events, when I am in public places, I am like the spies in movies because that 360 radar is always on alert to my surroundings. If I am walking in a park, it is a good idea to do a "Crazy Ivan" often to know who is coming along the track behind me. If I am walking in the mall, it is good to do a "Crazy Ivan" often to know who is walking near me, or too close for my personal space and comfort. If I decide to make a turn into a store suddenly, "Crazy Ivan" must come first so that I don't walk into the path of another shopper who is walking behind me. If I am driving, the major underlying principle of defensive driving is to always know the location of all the cars around me. If something unexpected happens, I know all of my escape routes. It has served me well in three occasions because I knew where all of the cars around me were located. Attentive driving is very time consuming and it baffles (no pun intended) me that anyone would have time to text, talk on the phone, read directions, put on make-up, etc., etc. In today's highway systems, traffic behind us can be as important as traffic ahead of us.

I always look forward to new directions and changes in life. Aside from the daily "Crazy Ivan" maneuvers, life often provides the motivation to pull a "Crazy Ivan". There is rejuvenation in making a new life focus after "clearing the baffles". Deciding where to go requires looking at where we've been. I used to apply the practice in the past without giving it much detailed awareness; it comes naturally to most people. I used to think of it as "look before you leap." Now, I often think, time for a Crazy Ivan. I don't know if labeling the practice is a good thing but it amuses me. 


  1. I loved that movie. One of my favorite books, too.

    I love this phrase and shall adopt it. It definitely suits me as I am one of those people who do the 360. You just never know. It's best to have a spidey sense.

  2. Spidey sense sounds very interesting too. Intriguing phrases catch my fancy. The English language is such fun. I like your new look on your blog. I'm inspired to try some redecorating.

  3. I, too, am a Tom Clancy fan; at least of his early books. When the Hunt for Red October was made into a movie, I couldn't wait to see it. I have pulled a few "Crazy Ivan's in my life as well.