Many (many) years ago I ran two marathons, the first in 2001 and the second in 2002. I’ve always thought it romantic to have said I ran a marathon… I was wrong… there is nothing romantic about your first Marathon. The reason I started it is not the reason I finished it.
I clearly remember at the 18 mile mark I approached a corner in which another participant was leaning against the chain fence and crying her heart out. I Absolutely and completely related! Whatever it was that motivated us to make the commitment to run a Marathon was pounded out on the pavement behind us. It was clear (at least to me) that neither one of us had adequately prepared for the race. Our bodies were in full rebellion. There was no pride or shame to hold us to our prior commitment, the pain and lack of energy overruled. That day she chose to quit and for some reason I chose not to. I forged on in my unpreparedness. Bit by bit, fence post to fence post I plodded onward. After what seemed like ages I reached the 22 mile mark and realized I had the juice to finish. I was going to be a “marathoner”. The excitement was pure and wholesome, adrenaline was released into my body and I felt I could sprint the last 4.2 miles. But I slammed the door shut on the excitement and adrenaline. I knew that reacting to the excitement would almost certainly guarantee me to not finish the race. The adrenaline would drain the critical energy I needed to finish. My emotions were ahead of my skies (to overuse another analogy). I forced myself to calmed down and refocused on the progress from fence post to fence post.
Keeping control of our thoughts and emotions in a high stress environment is usually the difference between success and failure. I have a pillow in my office, stitched in it is “calm is a superpower”. Calmness is needed in many settings.
We have a lot of perks at our accounting firm, the one that comes mostly to the forefront is the ability to be flexible with hours, holidays and scheduling. As long as the work gets done on time I will continue to provide that benefit. However, sometimes individuals assume things far beyond the possible, particularly when work clearly won’t be able to get done.
My wife had an incident a few weeks ago where someone she was training asked for time off just before a critical event that needed to be done and it was nowhere near completion. The employee clearly didn’t think further ahead than 2-3 days. They were then confronted with the fact that it would cause undue pressure on co-workers. The communication was actually done over texting, on a weekend and sometimes took 1.5-2 hours between comments. During the wait time my wife had to deal with the possibility of managing a crisis if the employee didn’t show up. What to do…what to do…
My wife can be a real patient professional when she wants to be. Living with a potential crisis within a 6-7 hour conversation can be nerve racking. The adrenaline can flow very easy. We often jump to conclusions too fast and without all the information. Panicking burns up needless energy and clouds our perspective… we won’t finish the race. When a conversation is dragged out over hours rather than minutes our minds can easily race ahead, assign imaginary motives and releasing rivers of counter productive adrenaline.
Her plan was simple, with every request she responded with a clear factual and calm response. It was impressive. For one thing it was void of judging motives. If we infer motives we divert the whole conversation in a completely different direction… not only will we not finish the marathon, we’ll all end up at the zoo.
I saw my wife work though this conflict with unusual patience. Step by step, trusting the strength of her prior communication she waited for the reply… all in slow motion. A conversation that usually takes only minutes was dragged out over several hours. This wait time amplified the temptation to overreact but she trusted her good responses and refused to worry. In the end the job was done and everyone’s expectations and responsibilities were clarified. It was a real display of patience, a habit I sometimes need to develop.
I joked with my friend this morning… don’t tell me worrying doesn’t work… everything I worry about doesn’t come to pass.