A Reborn Phoenix Or Bloodied In Battle? What's It Going To Be?
The art of managing a crisis is neither art nor talent. It's a skill that needs to be practiced. The question is, how do you practice a skill like that?
Copping out of tough situations isn’t the ideal route, even though it’s the path with least obstacles. If anything, it’s widely recognized as an act of cowardice. Having said that, not everyone is adept at handling such situations. Being able to handle a crisis like a pro when the future is berserkly unpredictable and standing your ground when s&%* hits the fan, is a skill that’s cultivated and nurtured by only a handful of people.
A research team from Japan created a new polymer, ‘polyether-thiourea’—a new type of glass that heals under pressure rather than cracking. We haven’t reached that stage in evolution where we can start healing under crises but we can sure as hell learn more about it to avert the unwarranted damage that it comes with.
A crisis, personal or professional, is one of two things. It’s either a breeding ground for phoenixes—a bird that burns itself every five hundred years to be born once again; or it’s a battlefield that damages you just enough to shatter your confidence into irreparable shards. And even though we all want to be knights and knightesses in shining armors and rise up to the occasion, tackling the problem head-on, not all of us can.
However, as stated above, it’s a skill and not talent. It’s something to be learnt, not something you’re born with. If not practiced enough, it can be forgotten.
And that begs the question—Even if someone wants to practice the art of dealing with a crisis, how do they do it when it’s not something that happens that often? In addition, why would someone wish for a crisis just to practice dealing with it?
Well, we knew someone that was just about a genius when it came to toughing out the difficult times and he didn’t need several crises to become a master at it—he needed only one.
A Story For You
James had always been the one to go the extra mile. As soon as he graduated from college, he set his sights on mounting the corporate ladder quickly. He wasn’t your run-of-the-mill employee who would immediately slam his laptop shut when the clock hit 5. He went above and beyond to get the job done even if that meant burning the midnight oil and then immediately reporting back to office at the break of dawn.
He didn’t come from poverty or humble origins, but he was extremely ambitious and incredibly hardworking and that, according to a majority of his seniors, was a lethal combination. James had never experienced a difficult or testing time in his life. Not that someone else took care of the situation for him; he was fortunate enough to have never gone through a ‘crisis’. And he was aloof to his peers who envied him for where he had reached without going through certain obstacles they had been subjected to, during their journey.
His efforts in the company paid off and he was picked up by a Fortune 500 company where he cemented his place at a high-ranking position in a very short period of time. Great salary, beachfront home, an amazing office, rubbing shoulders with the most powerful people in the industry, the works.
The fact that he was always at peace topped the list of things that his peers, juniors, and seniors secretly envied about him among a bunch of other things. He was never too ecstatic when things went right nor was he too depressed when things weren’t going his way. The most they ever got out of him when he cracked a $2.5 million deal, the biggest of his career at the time, was a grin that lasted for precisely 9.5 seconds.
It wasn’t that he purposefully concealed his feelings but he had this innate ability to not want to celebrate the highs and moan the lows. He wasn’t a prude or a killjoy; in fact, his presence always calmed people down. But James was yet to face a situation that challenged his peace of mind. And when everything seemed to be hunky dory for him, that’s exactly when the situation went south.
The company was accused of stock manipulation and the CEO, of embezzlement. The news rocked the industry and the entire top management was brought under investigation. James was caught in the crossfire—his rapid growth within the company drew the spotlight to him. The intimate relationship he shared with a lot of powerful people across various industries was cause for suspicion. And even though James was innocent, there wasn’t anyone around him that could concretely prove that he, in fact, had done nothing wrong.
The pressure was intense. James had to answer difficult questions, navigate a complex legal system, and deal with the constant scrutiny of the press. With very little support from his colleagues, who were also battling for their livelihoods, he was on his own and what was worse, was that this was his first time in a crisis. He had never been subjected to such horrid accusations before and the situation was getting overwhelming. For someone who hadn’t gone through a lot of hardships in life, this felt like a convergence of all the accumulated bad luck over the years.
The thought of giving in crossed his mind, after a terrible sequence of mishaps which included 75% of the workforce resigning followed by the company going belly up and almost all of the top executives indicted for their shady activities during their time at the company. The only person from senior management left to be formally charged, was James. It went without saying that he lost his job, his home and car. Apart from the savings and investments from the time at his previous company, he had nothing left.
James appeared in court one day, with a stoic demeanor, similar to the one he always had when he made his way to the top of the food chain. Something about him had changed completely. It didn't even feel like he was accused, it felt like he was there as a witness. In the next 2 months, he was acquitted of any wrongdoing. The lawyers couldn’t put together any burden of proof to support their claims. He left the court a free and falsely and partially stained man.
Years later, after James rebuilt himself from scratch, he was asked, by one of his juniors, about his court case and how he managed to keep his calm during the crisis.
That’s when he spilled the beans.
“That was my first big crisis. I had had smaller issues before, but that was a biggy so it took time for me to get a hold of the situation. I’ve never celebrated when I did well, nor have I sulked when things haven’t gone my way. I’m not a fan of extremes. Extreme happiness, extreme sadness has never been my cup of tea because one always comes with the other. If you’re really happy one day, you’re bound to compare that with another day and feel sad. It’s something I’ve learnt over the years.
No matter how good things are going, it’s eventually going to end, so I always closed my eyes and skipped right to the end, acting and deceiving my heart—telling it that it’s already over. You might think of it as sadistic or stupid but my ambition allowed to me celebrate small wins for a very short period of time. And over time, even the big wins. But that also allowed me to use this very skill to make sure I got over the bad times quickly. I closed my eyes, skipped right to the end and pretended like everything bad that had to happen, had already happened.
It’s only after a crisis that you heave a sigh of relief and scoff at how trivial the issue was. Imagine if you thought about it before. That’s what I trained myself to do. I’ve had obstacles in my life that no one knows about and I’m not one to really show what I’ve been through. But it was all trivial compared to what people imagine and make it up to be in their heads.
The next time you’re in a situation where you feel there’s no way out, close your eyes, skip to the end and believe that’s it already over. That’s when you clear your mind and start actively finding ways to handle the situation instead of clouding your thoughts with doubt, anger, sadness and guilt.”
Until next time,