As I sat down to write tonight, I stumbled upon a crisis. A client got in touch about a serious bug in their app and needed a fix. Being a Sunday evening, jumping in to fix an issue on something wasn’t exactly on the top of my list. At first my reaction was the predictable heartbeat skip. After a few minutes, though, I reminded myself of a favorite word: equanimity.
Equanimity translates to keeping calm under duress. A clear mind and steady decisions in an uncertain moment. In short: keeping your shit together. Over the past few years running a business, I’ve had the bittersweet opportunity to be in the middle of several crises. Something goes wrong and you’re directly associated. In the eyes of some, you’re enemy number one because you’re the only one that can fix it.
The first few go arounds I had with managing crises sent me into a downward spiral of anxiety. My heart fluttered, my stomach sank, I made poor decisions. In retrospect, it’s not the most stress-free form of learning but it is my favorite. Nothing truly compares to being stuck in the thick of it and having to get yourself out. No book, no lecture, nothing can teach you how to recover. You’re responsible for controlling your mind in the moment and making enough right decisions to find a solution.
The one thing I’ve found that gets close to teaching the importance of equanimity comes from NASA. While they’re not the most fun to watch, videos like the failed Antares launch are an excellent example of how to handle a crisis. In that video, listen closely to how mission control handles a rocket exploding. Caution. Reserve. Equanimity. No panicking, no screaming. Just focused, deliberate execution of procedure. It’s really beautiful in a macabre, operational sense.
Because the team at NASA followed procedure and let cooler heads prevail, they avoided loss of life and further mistakes. When it comes to your own crises—likely far less-significant than a rocket exploding—keep this in mind. Don’t panic, regardless of whether you’re responsible or not. Stay focused on finding a solution and work the problem until you do. Let nothing rattle your cage in the moment, no matter how big the gun is pointed at your temple.