Recently, my friend and colleague, Lynn Schaber, told a story in her own weekly e-letter that I felt inspired to share with you here:
Over 20 years ago, Lynn heard a tale from speaker Danny Cox, a professional trainer—the “Sonic Boom” Salesman. He was known for his work as an Air Force spokesperson, addressing communities affected by jets that broke the sound barrier. Before that, he had been an Air Force pilot, testing those very first sonic-boom flights.
Danny spoke of the day he was pushing 700 mph to break the barrier, when his plane went into a Death Roll. (You don’t have to try too hard to imagine what the usual result of a “Death Roll” is.) The plane was tumbling end over end. In terrifying circumstances, instinct tells you to do everything you can to fix the problem—specifically, in this case: “Get the plane back under control.” Later, experts told Danny that what he did right away probably saved his life.
Danny did nothing. In the initial moments after the Death Roll started, he didn’t make a single move. Then, after his mind spiraled through its options, he chose a course of action that stopped the spinning movement of the jet.
Don’t take this the wrong way. Not one of us—Danny, Lynn, nor I—thinks that you should do nothing about a problem you’re facing…for long. That would be deadly! Dangerous anxiety and stress, even when tempered with the familiar feeling of your “comfort zone”, can wreak long-term havoc on your health, so the quick decision to make a change is often necessary.
What we are suggesting is that in a situation of dire panic, it’s perfectly all right—even optimal—to take a few moments to be still. Take a long walk (if you can), breathe deeply, or as Lynn explained, “Step back and assess the landscape. Give your brain a chance to disengage from the panic and think logically.” In other words, figure out exactly what’s happening, where you are, and what your options are.
You can, as Lynn recommends, ask yourself a specific question like any of the following:
1) What can I do that will help the situation?
2) What do I want to avoid?
3) What would happen if I didn’t do anything right now?
During the times in my own life when I’ve been really worried about something, or confused by my alternatives—such as moments when my dream-job earnings have been down, or when I was facing surgery for my second battle with cancer—this “do nothing” advice has served me well. Spinning (which I did plenty of) couldn’t have gotten me to a solution; unfettered, it would have been part of the problem that led to my end.
When the pressure is on and there’s an issue that needs to be resolved NOW, take a pause for just a few moments, and do nothing. Let the plane continue to work its way downward, until you’re clear on the course of action to bring it back up. Then, do what logic tells you—or, better still, just do what feels right at that moment. As I discuss in The High Diving Board, there are no “wrong decisions” when choices are made from that intuitive place inside you—a place you can’t possibly reach the second after you’ve been tossed into the fray.
Start by doing nothing. But next, when that moment of clarity comes—and trust that it will—keep REACHING…