Friday, April 13, 2012

Getting from A to Z: A Short Guide to Tuning In, Tuning Out and Turning it On

I’m never late.  I set multiple alarms, prepare diligently and build in time for unforeseen circumstances.  I also never stress in advance; but, it takes fail-proof preparation to ensure this model is successful. The key, I have learned over time, is to know when to tune out, when to tune in, and when to turn it up! Way up.

A very wise companion- ok, my husband- once assured me that in anxiety inducing situations I needn’t worry ahead of doom as should it actually come to pass, I’ll have adequate time to stress about it then. The assurance that I would be afforded the opportunity to worry eventually, allowed me to give up the privilege of worrying about things beforehand.  As the old adage goes “If it ain’t happening now, it ain’t happening”. I was previously sure that if I fretted ahead of time, the exercise might avert the anticipated crisis. I was unwilling to surrender my right to the uneasiness. Assured I’d have this chance should the need arise, I truly now let it go until the impending disaster is upon me.

For example, as I vigorously bobble on this tinker-toy of a regional jet in turbulence-the likes of which I've never before experienced- I'm soothed by the notion that I will indeed get a chance to shriek all the way down should we ultimately plunge to our deaths. Rather, I resist the urge to allow anxiety to take hold, my palms cooperate by not sweating, and I’m able to flash a smile of assurance to the nervous woman beside me.

Back in my skydiving heyday I was on a jump plane once where a jumpmaster was lecturing us experienced jumpers on the importance of wearing helmets. A follow skydiver, who was also a pilot, remarked that actually in the event of a crash the helmet would only melt into our heads as we burned in the fiery fuselage.  We all had a laugh and wouldn’t you know it, not a one of us perished on that day.

I am always prepared, but never too far in advance and this seems to work. Over the years I have accepted that I, in fact, do not blow deadlines, miss airplanes, or sleep through alarms. If my daughter were reading this she would no doubt remind me of the time I forgot her 2nd grade science fair, and the other parents had to come look at her creation out of pity since she seemed to have no other support, but I was younger then. I had not developed the tools I have today, and this is only a blog, not an exact science. Everyone is perfect in a blog.

I travel extensively these days.  In the next 3 weeks I will take 12 airplanes, experience 24 takeoffs and landings, and meet with well over 100 people. I’ve become a master at tuning out things that don’t require my mental presence; thus amassing critical cerebral reserves. I don’t pay attention most times to where I’m connecting through and don’t look ahead much further than the next few hours. The key though is in knowing how to innately tune back in just in the nick of time. Most trips, I tune out the connecting city and often find myself looking at my boarding pass to see where I am. So this is Chicago? Good to know. However, when I take a call, respond to an email or meet a client or colleague for dinner, I don’t miss a minute, a look, a vibe, or a word.

When I travel, I sleep well, drink very little and make sure that my A game comes with me into every meeting. Someone once told me as I was preparing for a negotiation not to worry because my “B game was everyone else’s A game”. That felt good, but the truth is home and work get my A game. Everywhere else? Well, you’re lucky if you see my Z game.

Come to think of it, where did I park my car?

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