Road Signs For Success

By Paula Lau

You could have heard a pin drop. The question I just asked fell to the floor with a resounding thud. I looked around the room and was dismayed to see one guy sound asleep and several others looked as though they were receiving stitches without anesthesia. I was faced with trying to train a bunch of uninterested employees about something they didn’t want to hear about. When I arrived that day the managers had not reserved my room for training, several of the employees did not know that they were supposed to be in training all afternoon and to top it off, several of their co-workers who had previously been in the classes were visibly not attending. What a perfect storm. Any person who makes their living in any kind of education will tell you that a little resistance is normal, but this was all out warfare.

Some days it seems like negative forces team up to conspire against us. Somewhere on that great calendar in the sky, this day had my name on it and was circled in red. As I tried over and over to engage the employees, make them laugh, try to get them to think about how the material we were covering corresponded to their jobs and lives it all just fell on deaf ears. Scott Adams would have gleaned tons of material from this miserable hour and a half for his Dilbert comic strip.

I finally gave up. Maybe this was not the most professional way of handling a situation, but the relief that crossed all their faces spoke volumes when I said, “Well, I think we’ve learned what we’re going to learn today.” They all scurried out of the classroom like little kids who had just been forced to sit through a health film.

Why am I telling you this? Because I know all of you who are reading this can completely identify with a project, relationship or a day that has just gone totally awry. Life can be so unpredictable. One day you receive accolades, the next day jeers and ridicule. So what do you do when life throws you a curve ball? Here are some tried and true measures.

Don’t panic. When our brain senses that our anxiety levels have suddenly peaked it typically responds in a very primitive way. It will ask, “Do you want to fight, do you want to run or are you just going to sit here and get run over?” If the building is burning down, that’s one thing. But if we are simply caught in an uncomfortable situation, our first line of defense should be to start breathing deeply, staying quiet, and get focused on what it is that you are here to accomplish. A steady state will demonstrate professionalism and maturity.

Do what you know to do. This may sound like a simple statement, however, training and preparedness can go a long way in difficult situations. High emotion set aside, do the job that you were called on to do. The time to fall apart can wait until you are in the privacy of your own home or car. Emergency responders and folks who are in high stress situations will tell you that in the time of great crisis, the need to think clearly is of the utmost importance.

So when you have one of those days, stay cool. Sometimes things turn out exactly as you like and sometimes they explode before your eyes like an overcooked hotdog on the grill. We have to be willing to fall flat on our faces in order to experience success. If today didn’t turn out the way you wanted, remember there will always be another day.

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