‘Deadliest Catch’: Captain Keith Colburn Tries To ‘Learn Something New from Someone Every Day’

by Clayton Edwards
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Fans of Deadliest Catch know Keith Colburn as the gruff, no-nonsense captain of The Wizard. Viewers watch Colburn and his crew risk life and limb to pull in king crab every week. Still, the audience only understands a fraction of how dangerous their job really is. To be a good captain, Colburn has to do more than know how to keep his boat running and his pots full. He has to be a laser-focused leader. At the same time, his crew has to know they can trust him with their lives. They say “Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” and the same is true for the captain’s cap.

Keith Colburn has been on Deadliest Catch for 14 years. However, he has been on the icy water since the eighties. In that time, he has worked his way up from nothing and become a true leader for his crew. Recently, Colburn sat down with Business Observer to discuss leadership and how he gained the knowledge to lead his crew.

Keith Colburn’s humility is at the center of his leadership. He knows that his ego will just get in the way. So, he shelves it while on the water. This might seem like a stretch for viewers of the show, but you have to keep in mind that the show is highly edited. Reality TV isn’t reality.  Colburn came to Alaska in 1985 at just 22 years old. He moved there to fish. However, he had another goal as well. “One of my first goals, when I got to Alaska, was I wanted to learn something new from someone every day. I still do that now.”  

By staying humble and continuing to learn from anyone who can teach him something, Keith Colburn hopes to continue being the kind of leader his crew can count on.

Learning from Keith Colburn

In his chat with Business Observer, Colburn revealed the most important characteristic of a good captain. “Most importantly, you have to stay calm when the sh*t hits the fan. You have to find a way to keep your emotions in check and adapt to the situation in front of you.”

He paired that advice with a story. In 2009 Keith Colburn misjudged a wave. As a result, a 40-foot wall of icy seawater slammed the deck of The Wizard. Three crewmen were on the deck, putting a tarp over some containers when the wave hit. It was strong enough to push 50,000 pounds of crab pots around. Unsurprisingly, it tossed his crew like rag dolls and caused some injuries. He had to right the ship, treat the crew, and get things back on track. Colburn did all of that while staying calm. He recalled, “I kept it together through all that… after that, I went to my room and really broke down.”

Outsider.com