0224 – When Life Gives You Lemons, Train!

Today I was pretty motivated to bring a podcast that was a little bit more focused on the practical side.  I would hate to have folks lose interest because I spend too much time talking about the philosophical points.  The fact is though, like I mentioned yesterday, the software is where it is at.  Not to mention that as I was working on today’s more practical show, life provided me with an opportunity to train.  I had to put into use some of the skills I talk about all the time.  Here is the scoop.  I’m at my computer pounding away at the keyboard trying to layout an organized presentation for you folks and bantering back and forth with Pincus about accuracy and precision on Facebook when i hear some frustrated grunting in the background.  I turned around to see this:

"O.K., this is not going well. I think I'm going to need some help!"

A 3.5 year old head stuck in between the stretchers on a dining room chair.  I had a little chuckle to myself, but it wasn’t long before I realized it was “Game on!”  No ones life was in danger, but this was a perfect opportunity to train!


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Challenges = Opportunities

Every day we face “problems.”  I have never been a fan of the word problem because it has such a negative connotation.  I like to think of those problems as “challenges.”  They are positive.  A chance to overcome adversity and a chance to learn.  As soon as we realize that we can learn from our challenges, we turn them into opportunities.  Life is full of opportunities it is simply up to us to make sure capitalize on them.

An Opportunity to Organize

When we face a challenge we have to have the ability to quickly determine our purpose(s) and how we are going to achieve the purpose(s).  Our purpose is commonly referred to as a goal and the method to achieving a goal is a tactic.  The faster we are able to organize our thinking in relationship to what we want to accomplish and how we want to accomplish it the more quickly we will be able to engage in the actions that are going to make a difference.  Familiarity helps us to increase our speed.  It would be no surprise to any one if I were to explain that we often have the ability to do things more quickly when we have done them before.  This is a pretty simple concept, it is easier to recall and do than to do without having that prior experience to recall.

When you face a challenge, use the opportunity to organize your response into Goals and Tactics.  The more we practice this line of thinking in everyday situations the easier it will become to apply in stressful situations.  Our hope is to bring the skill to the level of (as Peter put it on FB) unconscious competence.  Where we don’t think about and or realize the manner in which we are responding to the stimulus.  Lets look at some challenges, and corresponding goals and tactics.

Situation                                       Goals                                                                                              Tactics

Whats for Dinner                                         Use ingredients on hand to eat                                                                              Search www.allrecipie.com by ingredient

Flat Tire                                                          Get back on raod safely and quickly                                                                    Change the tire, call service truck, drive to a safe location.

Laceration                                                      Stop the bleeding                                                                                                        Direct pressure, elevation, clotting agent, tourniquet

Lethal violent encounter                          Prevent/Avoid, Dominate                                                                                      Awareness, use locks, light, numbers, strategic positioning, create time and distance with unarmed skills to deploy a lethal tool

Mass casualty situation                             prevent further injury, extricate and treat injured, etc.                           Secure the scene, evaluate safety, SAR, triage and provide aid.

We can use these organizational skills in virtually any situation where we have challenges that need to be addressed.  You probably use these organizational skills every day and don’t even notice it.  Pay attention to it.  Home those skills and put them to use as an immediate response to the stimulus of the challenge and you will develop that unconscious competence that you will need when you need to take action for real.

An Opportunity for Stress

One of the issues that makes serious situation serious is the consequences.  When the stakes are high stress becomes a factor.  Maybe it would be better to say that stress becomes THE factor.  Stress changes everything.

  • The balance of chemicals in our bloodstream.  Adrenaline dump, rush, combat cocktail call it what you want.  When we face stress, it happens and it modifies how we operate.
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Shift in blood flow in the body
  • Fine and complex motor skills compromised
  • Gross motor skills enhanced
  • Increased visual acuity
  • This list goes on
What we need to understand is that the less stress we are under, the less extreme the above effects are, the less extreme the physiological response are in our body the more effectively we will be able to respond (to a point) to a situation.  How do we keep the stress level down?  Research shows that the biggest factor is experience.  Just like we talked about when we spoke about the organization of our goals and tactics when we are using recall to select our actions we are able to effect a response more quickly and are able to do so with less agitation.  A reduction in both of these factors increases our ability to effectively and efficiently respond.
It all boils down to experience.  We need to face relevant, realistic and stressful challenges in training and we need to train when we are facing stressful challenges in life.  There are lots of situations where the stakes are not life threatening but the stress levels can build. When you feel the stress building, take a deep breath and dive in.  The more you do it the better you will get and the larger you will build your recall database.

An Opportunity to Exercise Your Software

Back to my situation:  The stakes weren’t very high today in the situation with my adventurous little daughter, but there certainly were some issues that caused stress.  These provided the perfect opportunity to live in the pressure cooker for a few minutes.


  • My daughters stress level
  • Possibility of injury from predicament
  • Possibility of injury from extraction
  • Possibility of property damage from extraction

My Plan:

You already know the problem


  • Prevent Injury
  • Keep Calm
  • Extract without further injury


  • Make M comfortable in current position, employ tactical breathing (for her)
  • Communicate plan
  • Solve the puzzle, or spread the stretchers, or hammer out legs, or press out legs, or cut stretchers.
Keep Safety in mind as you move through your tactics.  In this situation the farther I progressed in the tactics the higher the risk for injury during the extraction.  We have to continue to reevaluate our plan as we progress through it.
Everything turned out fine.  We are both pleased with our performance, happy and healthy.  Life is what it is, but at the same time our experiences today shape our future.  If we can influence our present experiences, and I believe that we can, then We can shape our future.


Every one is out and O.K. Notice the bottle jack and 4x4 used to spread the legs of the chair to allow the stretchers to be spread.


Property damage was minimal and after a few minutes the chair was put back together and strapped to dry.

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