As I write this post, I’m in the midst of what has turned out to be a very hectic and turbulent launch of some new warehouse management software. We’re in week three of working through all the unexpected bugs and our shipping volume is still only at half what it was before the launch, and that’s actually an accomplishment compared to where we started. The issues have come from every direction: bugs in our integration, bugs in the provider’s software, employee’s protesting and resisting various changes, you name it. I have personally managed all components of this launch from selecting the software to training the warehouse employees so all responsibility to get it right rests squarely on my shoulders. So when we were only able to ship 300 items a day in the first week compared to our usual 2000 it seemed things were as bad as they could get. At that point everyone around me was starting to panic, and so of course I started panicking myself a little, luckily all the business owners I’ve worked for have had one thing in common: they are always extremely calm no matter what you throw at them. So I was able to channel this trait and learn from them and begin working to get things back on track. As soon as I realized panic was never an option no matter what, things changed for me and I’m able to think clearly and solve problems more effectively by a long shot.
I’m lucky to have worked for and currently work for business owners that do not flinch when the ship is seemingly sinking. This always blew my mind but it enables them to make good decisions when the pressure is high. When you think about it, is there anything more valuable in the long term than that?
I’m not suggesting we all blindly wander the earth refusing to acknowledge problems in the name of rejecting panic. Productive paranoia is still extremely important in business, but is there any benefit ever to introducing stress and panic into your decision making process? In a sense you can almost feel guilty to not be panicking if people around you are, but if you are the leader are you really doing them a disservice by participating. A leader needs to set the tone and staying cool is mandatory.
So what aspects of your business or personal life are you allowing panic or stressful emotions into? Can you think of any possible reason why it’s helpful to you for those emotions to be involved? Are you able to turn off the panic when the stakes are high? What’s that ability worth to you? Is it worth actively seeking your fears out and destroying them? I’d argue it is!
So to help when panic comes along, I’ll share with you my two main strategies for overcoming it and getting back to what’s important. The first one is to imagine the worst case scenario. Will people be mad? Disappointed? Screwed? How long would it take for you to recover? Typically worst case scenarios are not as bad as you’d initially imagine so thinking them through can provide unexpected relief.
The second one, which is maybe a little more extreme is to “remember your death”. Morbid? Absolutely! But hear me out. I grew up across the street from a 650 year old Carthusian monastery in the foothills of the Austrian alps. It’s no longer active, but when it was, the monks would greet each other with the phrase “Brother, remember your death” . To drive the point home they had taken a vow of silence so aside from special occasions this was literally the only thing they were allowed to utter! The idea here is that you should always frame whatever you’re doing, with the reality of your impending death. The petty issues in your life tend to fade away in the face of death. Steve Jobs, though not a Carthusian monk, also spoke of this in his amazing Stanford commencement speech. So if you’re sweating something, make sure you’re in the right frame of mind.
So I’m hoping while talking myself down I could also maybe help you in case you’re facing something panic inducing. I can’t think of a time where it’s something we should consciously allow in our lives. What if we started treating the panic emotion the same as say the gossip habit and tried to banish it from our lives? What would change in your life if you could pull it off?