By Andrew D. Wittman, PhD
“Chance favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur
Previously we looked at anticipation in pressure proofing. Preparation goes hand in hand with anticipation. In fact, without preparing for what you anticipate, there is no point in wasting any time or energy “keeping your eyes up” or trying to glimpse that bird’s eye view. Why bother to recognize a collision course if you aren’t going to take evasive action? Unfortunately, the vast majority of folks do this very thing, and then cite “how lucky” the ones who avoided the crash were.
Well, luck, chance, or happenstance favors the ones who are prepared. When I was the lead advance agent for Senator Joe Lieberman’s security detail, my job was to precede him, by two days, to every city in which he travelled. This was especially challenging during the lead up to his presidential run. I had to not only anticipate the scheduled events, any contingencies and all possible threats, but to prepare an action plan, in the event exigencies became realities.
I literally had to learn each city and venue like the back of my hand, or more accurately, like a local native of the area. I remember one trip to a large Midwestern city that was a last minute add on to the Senator’s itinerary. I landed late in the afternoon, the evening prior to his arrival. I never did go to sleep that night. I advanced each of the event venues first, and pushed off the route planning to each site until after midnight. I made arrangements for marked police escorts to lead the way, but what if the escorts were late or didn’t show up, or there was construction along the way, or a wreck? I had to prepare, and the only way to do that was to stay up and learn the routes myself. I spent the grave-yard shift driving the primary routes and multiple alternates.
Sure enough, the next morning, the police escort made a wrong turn. I didn’t follow him, the Senator noticed and asked about it. I reassured him with a calmness that only comes from the confidence of the prepared, and drove to the next stop.
Can you imagine the pressure I would have felt if I hadn’t prepared for that contingency, and just went to sleep instead? My anticipation of such a turn of events led to my preparation, and boy, was I lucky…. Not so much. My preparation directly fed into my level of confidence. I had no second guessing, I wasn’t “winging it”, and therefore didn’t need luck.
You don’t need luck either, just some good old fashioned prep work.
By Andrew D. Wittman, PhD
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” Wayne Gretzky
Previously we looked at pressure proofing by raising our level of confidence. Today, let’s focus on anticipation. A large part of reducing stress and inoculating yourself against the kind of pressure that stymies performance, is being able to see ahead and execute. In order to anticipate problems or mere course changes, one must raise their perspective to the 50,000 feet level.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be trained in vehicle dynamics and evasive/protective driving skills. One of the primary axioms of my driving instructors was to “keep your eyes up”. The effective and proficient driver must keep his/her eyes as far into the distance as possible. Taking the long view helps the operator to anticipate problems or mere course changes.
One of the training evolutions I participated in, was in fact, a racing school. The instructors taught us some wild moonshiner-type moves, the kind seen in the movies. They also taught us that during high-speed progressions, if there was a wreck in-progress, to drive towards the wreck. At high speeds, when cars collide, they will keep moving beyond the point of impact. In steering toward the point of impact, my vehicle would clear the wreck, and make continued evasive/protective action possible.
The same is true for the deer hunter. The rifle must be aimed at where the hunted game is going. Shooting where the game is, instead of anticipating where it’s going to be, makes for an empty freezer.
When you get up out of the weeds and get a bird’s eye view of things, you give yourself an enormous vaccination against pressure and stress. Why? Seeing things in the distance gives you tons of reactionary time, so much so, that you actually become proactive instead of reactive.