“Is it safe?”
If you’ve ever seen the movie Marathon Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier, you know just how scary this question can be.
It can be a scary question for your team as well (although without the unpleasant dental work—watch the movie if you’re confused).
When you’re leading your team through a high-pressure situation, they’re looking to you (I’ve written about this before). They’re looking to you…
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- …to see what you’re going to do (how you’re going to solve the ...
“Your engine just quit. Where are you going to land?”
The voice came from the right-hand seat—the co-pilot’s seat.
Sounds dramatic, right? Actually, it was quite routine. The person in the right-hand seat was my flight instructor, and it was, like, the thousandth time he’d asked that question over the past few months. If you’ve ever had any flight instruction, you’ve probably heard this question as well. And probably more than once.
See, in flight training, you’re always preparing for the worst. (And, ... Continue Reading →
“The confused mind says no.”
You’ve heard this before, right? It means that, when faced with too many options, the brain doesn’t make any decision and simply shuts down. This is why you will often see well-dressed people standing, zombie-like, in front of the mustards section of Whole Foods. Eventually, a Whole Foods employee will check the zombies’ wallets for IDs and arrange for Ubers to take them home, where a nice Pinot will bring them back to consciousness.
For those of ... Continue Reading →
According to the traditional rules, I could never run for public office.
Not that I want to run for public office. I don’t! I’d be terrible at it. But my point is that, according to the traditional rules (which may not even be a thing anymore), I couldn’t run. That’s because, at some point during my campaign, some reporter would begin a question with:
“Mr. Stainton, isn’t it true that you once said…”
And my honest answer, even without hearing the rest of ... Continue Reading →
I just saw the new Mission: Impossible movie. I’m not going to give anything away here (because you may not have seen it yet, and besides, I’m not that kind of a jerk), but it is absolutely filled with high-pressure situations!
As in the previous five installments, Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt. And, as in the previous five installments, there’s a lot at stake. What I find interesting, though, is that the three elements that create a high-pressure situation for Ethan ... Continue Reading →
On December 29, 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 crashed into the Florida Everglades, killing more than 100 passengers and crew members. That, of course, would be tragic under any circumstances. What makes this incident doubly tragic, though, is that the accident was entirely preventable. In fact, had the story had a happier outcome, the cause of the crash would have been almost laughable.
So why did Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 crash?
Because the two pilots were too busy trying to ... Continue Reading →
Fight or flight? This way or that way? Yes or no?
Each of these three questions describes a brain under pressure. Could be your brain, could be mine. When it comes to pressure situations, we all tend to default to the same mode: a binary mode.
In other words, when we’re under pressure and need to make a decision, we all have a tendency to simplify the situation to two choices, and ... Continue Reading →
It’s great when people agree with you, isn’t it? It’s a wonderful validation — of your thoughts, your ideas…of you. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Yes, it’s great when people agree with you.
Except it doesn’t move the needle. Especially when the agreement comes too early.
There’s a great scene in the old TV series The West Wing. Leo McGarry is the Chief of Staff to liberal Democratic president Jed Bartlet. In this scene, Leo is offering a ... Continue Reading →
Let me give you a hypothetical high-pressure situation.
You’re the pilot of a small, single-engine airplane. You take off, alone, in this single-engine airplane, and head out over a large body of open water. At about 800 feet above this water, your single engine starts to sound funny (and not in a “ha-ha” way), and you notice you’re not gaining altitude at the rate you should be. At around 1200 feet above the water, your single engine quits.
This is a high-pressure ... Continue Reading →
We all love the “oh-so-cool” person who can just “wing it” in any situation, don’t we? That’s why we admire (and secretly want to be) James Bond — the guy who can go through a brutal, life-or-death fight with armed assassins, and then thirty minutes later stroll into a high-stakes poker game (in a perfectly-tailored, freshly-pressed tuxedo, of course) looking like he just had a facial and manicure.
We all want to be the person who, off-the-cuff, always says the perfect ... Continue Reading →