Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"What a great swerve!"

A close friend of mine, Roger Anthony, has a company with a most unusual name: "Crocodiles Not Waterlilies". A most extraordinary company story; and training that's both inspiring and useful. (Some of you may have heard Roger speak at BYU Education Week where he's a regular and a favorite with the youth.)

The principles Roger teaches in his courses are highly memorable because he uses animal characters and their stories to anchor the individual lessons.

One of these characters is a platypus named Swerve. The unique thing about the platypus with its odd looking duck-like beak is that it forages for food in the murky river bottoms where it is often hard to see. When it bumps into a rock, instead of getting upset, it gets excited. Why? Because it knows that the best food is often underneath the rocks.

The lessons that accompany this animal are all about composure. Things happen unexpectedly in life. Our initial reaction to these occurrences largely determines the level of resource we will be able to bring to the situation to deal with it. If our reaction is promptly negative, our judgment will tend to be clouded and irrational. If on the other hand we can muster a positive first impulse, we’ll tend to stay calmer which helps us in two ways: first, we’ll have a clearer head (higher resource base) to work with, and second, we’ll avoid acting in regrettable, foolish, or dangerous ways.

The classic example in Roger’s course is that of driving on the freeway. Inevitably, someone will cut you off, not signal their lane change, stop too quickly, block the fast lane, or any of a myriad of frustrating actions. When any of those things happens, what is your reaction? Do you tend to give them a special hand gesture, honk, say some choice words, or in some way get agitated and upset? If so, this unfortunate occurrence has just robbed you of essential resources such as calmness and clear headedness. (Road rage is an example of an extreme consequence stemming from impulsive, negative reactions.)

Instead of the normal negative burst following a road “surprise”, what if you were to simply say out loud, “What a great swerve!”

Now saying that in response to an otherwise negative occurrence doesn’t solve the problem you may be facing. What it does do is assist you in maintaining composure or getting composed. When an unexpected problem occurs, you want to have your wits about you and a full, clear head.

Not always easy to use or remember to say but Audrey and I have found that this simple phrase—What a great swerve!—can certainly take the harsh edge off tough situations. It doesn’t solve our problems, but it helps us to be calmer, not quit, and deal with our challenges more effectively. (As opposed to staying in bed and turning up the electric blanket.)

Just like the platypus gets excited when bumping into the rocks, we too can take a positive outlook when we bump into obstacles, trusting that great good can come from what we uncover or learn as a result of the trial or challenge.

We had another unexpected surprise today. Talitha was just supposed to go into the clinic to get her final dose of Vincristine. In the process, they took her vitals as they always do and found she was running a high fever. And because her ANC is still at zero, they admitted her to the hospital…again.


(darn it…)

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