The Freak-Out Gene

9 09 2013

Freak Out GeneA friend of mine got sick a few winters ago.  In his 50’s, career Army retired.  1st Sergeant.  Ranger Battalion for 6 years.  A remarkable guy and dear to our family.  I work with one of his sons, who is a chip off the old block and a close friend as well.

When my friend got sick, I was concerned.  It was serious enough that it put a retired Army Ranger in the hospital for a few days.  I asked the son about the father and he said that, though worried, his dad didn’t show it.  The son, one of our managers, is pretty good under pressure.  Just like his dad.  When asked by one of our colleagues if he was a mess because of his dad being in the hospital, the son said, “I guess [like dad] I didn’t inherit the freak-out gene.”

Man, I’ve had to chew on that one. Why? Because I’ve not been great under pressure.  Candidly, I’ve been lousy in the clutch.  But the example of my even-keeled Irish buddies has been inspiring and convicting.

As I’ve thought about this, I realized that when stresses mount, one does not have to freak out.  Cave.  Bolt.  Come apart.  But I’m learning that a good deal of my responses to the tensions of life have to do with what I think about and tell myself.  Right thinking and talk are one of the secrets to poise, grace under pressure.

It’s that simple and that powerful.

To be sure, we all face things much larger than we are.  That overwhelm.  That can sink the boat of the ablest mariner.  But there is in our society entirely too much male drama and meltdown.  It’s an effeminate thing that insults the high call and dignity of manhood.  Great military leaders in combat are as scared as those under them but they mask it and charge ahead.

What to do when stress comes?  Some hints:

  • Hit the gym rather than the bottle for relief.
  • Remind yourself that you are equal to the task and think positively.
  • Take a walk and reflect.  Often stresses overwhelm simply because we don’t take enough time to think through challenges and find creative solutions to meet them.
  • Pray.  And act.  Do both, not one or the other.
  • Ask yourself, “Will this matter in five days, five months or five years?” Perspective gives proper weight to problems.
  • Lead.  God help you, but whatever you do, stand up like a man and walk on.  You will astound people, because leaders are rare.

I’m learning.  Slowly.  Very slowly.  I hope you are too.

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2 responses

10 09 2013
jamestollefson

Awesome, man, you’re right on there. The key to staying calm in bad situations is perspective. As Marcus Aurelius wrote, “The universe is change; life is judgement.” Great post.

Tell your Ranger friend to take and knee and drink water. That might get a chuckle out of him.
RLTW!

10 09 2013
Christian Fahey

Thanks for stopping by, James! Perspective makes all the difference in the world. And I’ll tell my Ranger friend what you’ve said. 🙂

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