Habit 10: Exploring the 10 Habits

Bob Shoup and Dan Tearpock

SCA receives many queries about the “The Ten Habits of Highly Successful Oil Finders“. Since applying the best practices that are the foundation of the 10 Habits will help you, or your company, reduce the number of dry holes you drill, SCA has written a column elaborating each of the Habits. Here is the column for Habit 10.

Successful oil finders seek out mentors

Most of this column was excerpted from Heritage of the Petroleum Geologist, edited by R. C. Shoup, D.K. Sacrey, C.A. Sternbach, and R.L. Nagy, copyright © 2003, Division of Professional Affairs of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

As we have discussed in our reviews of Habits 1 through 9, successful oil finders employ a series of industry best practices that ensure that their interpretations and maps are geologically and geometrically valid, that they incorporate all of the data. In short, their interpretations and maps are as high quality as they can be which help you avoid drilling dry holes. But it takes more than good interpretations and geologically and geometrically valid maps to find oil and gas.

What is it that separates successful individuals from the crowd? What is it that they do or have that allows them to be successful — or are they just lucky? Luck certainly plays a role, particularly in the oil and gas business, yet the ingredients to success are undoubtedly more than that. Psychologists and business consultants have looked for years for the answers to these questions, generally concluding that there are too many variables to success to define one or two key ingredients. Perhaps that is so. I am definitely not a psychologist, and I do not have an M.B.A. However, in reading the stories and the advice of these 43 people (highlighted in the DPA publication Heritage of the Petroleum Geologist), I certainly sense a pattern — a key to the success of these individuals. They all believed deeply in what they were doing, and they had the perseverance to do what it took to see their ideas through. As you read the stories in the Heritage of the Petroleum Geologist, I expect that you will at times find them to be thought provoking and at times amusing. The Heritage of the Petroleum Geologist is part of the vast heritage that we as petroleum geoscientists have. Where would we be without our heritage? Every concept, every idea would need to be regenerated, with the result that the world would have certainly run out of oil and gas — not because we would have exhausted the supply. Rather, we could not have sustained a pace of drilling that would have matched the demand.

The ideas behind every well that we drill today have been built on the ideas of others who have walked before us. Our heritage is a rich one and includes many noted individuals — Lyell, Hutton, Drake, Joiner, Pratt, Leverson, and Halbouty — as well as other people who have contributed to the Heritage of the Petroleum Geologist, to name but a few. But just as important, our heritage also includes those individuals that few may have heard of — those who took the time and effort to take you under their wing and serve as your mentors.

I remember being on a field trip many years ago. We had stopped at an outcrop noted for containing fossil sharks’ teeth. None of the trip participants had any trouble finding a good collection of teeth, whereas I found none. As we were nearing the time when we needed to leave, my good friend and mentor Blair Parrott came up and asked what was wrong. I confessed that I was not finding any sharks’ teeth. He bent down and pointed to a slightly darker spot in the shale, noting that this is what they look like in the outcrop. Almost as if by magic, I saw dozens of sharks’ teeth where minutes before I had seen none. I too was able to get a nice collection of sharks’ teeth.

This story illustrates to me the best of mentoring. Blair, as a good mentor, observed that I was having difficulty and approached me. Just as important, I had to be willing to admit that I was struggling — something our pride, or fear of ridicule, often prevents. Most important, I realized that you can’t find something until you know what it looks like. For those of you who are students or are just beginning your career, look for people who are willing to be your mentors — people who will show you the ropes. Go to them and ask them to be your mentors. You will find that most of them will be honored that you asked, and will be more than willing to provide guidance. For those of you who are well established in your career, you should seek both to be a mentor and to have a mentor. You are at the point where you can serve as a mentor to students and to those just beginning their careers. You are likely to find the experience both rewarding and rejuvenating. At the same time, you should get to know consultants and independents so that you can, if you desire or need to, make that transition in your career.