Written by Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour Tuesday, August 28 2012
I’ll never forget the first time I flew into enemy territory. It was nighttime, and we were heading into Iraq for the very first time against a deathly black sky. The dim light of the Moon just barely illuminating a haunting picture of what had occurred earlier in the day. Hundreds of oil fires had been set and numerous battles fought on the ground. Vehicles, some American, most Iraqi, smoldered below like the last dying embers in a charcoal pit. By now the smoke from the oil fires had risen to our flying altitude, creating an eerie haze all around us.
As we drew closer to the Iraqi border, I utilized my map to communicate our progress. It was so quiet I could almost hear my heart beat. As I scanned the ground, I could see the rickety metal fence that divided not only two countries but also two worlds.
I counted down the distance… three, two, one... we had crossed the border and were in enemy territory. Once we crossed over, we had no communication with the guys on the ground. I could feel my body try to become one with the armor of my seat. What if we get shot down? Where are we? This was no cardboard target simulation exercise. This was a living, breathing enemy that could shoot back and kill me. And that was their sole intent.
Raw fear started to take over my emotions, and I could feel myself almost physically pushing it away. I was terrified. It was humbling for me to realize that despite the fact that I was well trained for my mission and in control of a fierce fighting machine, I was petrified.
In that moment, I focused on what we were there to do, fell back on my training and held strong to my inner faith – our mission – keep the ground troops safe. The job at hand stopped me from obsessing over the dreadful and very real possibilities. I was able to focus – the act of singular deliberation in order to distinguish the course of action required to produce a given desire – and transformed my fear to fuel. Fueling the mission at hand and, most importantly, my focus!
After we landed back at base, I reflected on the emotions I had experienced and the actions I had taken to stay connected to my team and to my mission:
- Acknowledged I was scared, but didn’t give it the power.
- Responded. I reminded myself there were Marines on the ground who needed our support and acted accordingly.
- Chose the outcome I wanted but was willing to accept and deal with a different one. My objective: the safe return of the troops I was looking out for. Marines don’t leave Marines behind. Hard as it was in this circumstance, I also had to stay open to other outcomes and see the value in, well, whatever happened.
Business sometimes is a pretty good reflection of the battlefield. It presents scary situations that can lead people to panic and overreact. When the stock market crashed a couple of years ago, Kayli, a friend of mine who has a marketing company, nearly went into a tailspin before she caught herself. A portion of her business capital was tied up in investments that all of a sudden were falling apart live on television and before her very eyes, within a matter of minutes. A 600 point drop, just like that – it was serious.
I remember her telling me about it – the horrible churning feeling in her stomach, running to the bathroom to throw up (I’m sure a lot of people did the same thing that day), standing in front of the TV screen in her office stunned, like a deer caught in the proverbial headlights.
“What could I do?” she told me. “I had to gather my thoughts; I couldn’t sell anything off, that’s for sure. I couldn’t panic either, but I also really couldn’t make client calls – I figured they’d be watching the TV, too, and probably didn’t want to discuss branding.”
Kayli did four things to deal with a very real situation, and I think they can be used as “protocol” for many kinds of frightening business situations – the loss of a job, client or top employee; a shift in market conditions; a marketing or sales error; or a failure in leadership.
- Check the facts. Kayli called her investment adviser, and together they looked at how the market drop affected her investments and her business situation. Some of her investments were badly affected; others were not.
- Decide on the right action. In this case, Kayli decided to do nothing. She couldn’t sell while the market was this volatile, and she wasn’t going to add to her investments either. She decided correctly, as it turned out, to do nothing in terms of the market. She’d have to ride it out.
- Adjust current and not-too-distant-future plans. Kayli quickly checked upcoming events and projects. Would she be able to see them through with the cash she had on hand? Would any need to be modified or canceled?
- Take a breather. No sense hanging around the office waiting for the sky to fall some more. Kayli had done what she could, made decisions and adjustments. Getting out of the office and removing herself from a situation she couldn’t control was the best thing. “I put on my running clothes and did three miles,” she says. “The next day I felt a hell of a lot better and could focus on implementing the decisions I had made the day before.”
Imagine if Kayli had not been afraid of what had happened to her investments that day. She wouldn’t have looked at the facts and may not have made any short-term adjustments to her plans. Maybe she would have called a client who was watching his investments go down the drain – and maybe she would have gotten a very unpleasant reception from him. Sometimes fear is good.
|Combat Confidence: Certain fears are a normal and healthy reaction to a real or imminent danger. And as the familiar saying goes, we also need to beware of False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR).|
Fear isn’t something you “get over.” It’s a work in progress at different levels.
More advice on how to become a better you:
Elaine Taylor-Klaus has come full circle from careful, chronic over-achiever to embracing the missteps along the way. She shares her 6 steps to failing forward with grace.
Jacqueline Boone conducts what she calls a "life experiment" by living her life as if she only had six months left to live -- a pledge that has inspired her to savor every moment.
Is your unconscious negativity sabotaging your career? Laura Black discusses how some women are prone to unintentionally undermining themselves with their pessimistic self-talk.