Taming the Tempest

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Living in the Philippines, where we experience typhoons, I almost named this article, Taming the Typhoon. … In the end, “tempest” seemed more earthy, older, of ancient times, and more “electric.” Almost as it if the tempest itself were alive! Either way, this is a short article on how to deal with the challenges we face in our lives. Challenges will come, of that I’m certain. At work. At home. At play. In the physical world, storms come so regularly that there are “seasons.” Just like Major League Baseball or English Premier League futbol, these seasonal storms are part of our life and some weather fans, eagerly anticipate hurricane season as eagerly as futbol fans the world over anticipate the EPL season.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about tempests more than usual. Why? Maybe because I’m in the middle of a tempest. Maybe because I’m sharing some “change leadership” best practices at a leadership conference in a couple weeks. Maybe because I know that we’re either in a tempest or about to face one. You and me both. We’re either in the season, the post-season or the off season. And just like the physical storms that prowl the earth, the figurative storms we face are routine. They may not follow a pre-defined schedule, but they’re either here or they’re coming.

So the trick then is not to despair. You can’t hide from the tempest and you can’t prevent it from coming (ok, sometimes you’re the creator of a tempest because of wrong decisions and dysfunctional behavior, but that’s another article). However, you can learn (from others and yourself) how to better stay afloat during the tempest, navigate the stormy weather, and successfully reach your destination with your crew, passengers, and cargo intact.

What I want to share with you are a few tips, a few ideas, and a few suggestions, that will help you Tame the Tempest. A couple caveats upfront. This is not an exhaustive list. Anyone can try them without risk (though there may be risk if you don’t try ‘em). They must be personalized. You must make them yours, to fit your style, your personality. Deploy these tempest tamers in a manner that is congruent with who you are. Be authentic. Be congruent. Be in alignment. Be real.

  1. Recognize the storm.
  2. Don’t panic.
  3. Be transparent. It’s ok to be afraid. Just don’t let it debilitate you.
  4. Communicate clearly and frequently. In the tempest, it’s better to over communicate.
  5. Continue to care for the welfare of others. Show concern. Talk to them. Be present. Don’t hide.
  6. Eliminate the “BS” if it exits. This is not a time for internal politics and nuance. This is a time for straight talk and action balanced with compassion and concern for others.
  7. Demonstrate confidence. Not false confidence, but a deep faith that shows others you’re confident of success, of taming the tempest. Others will be watching.
  8. Focus. Focus on the mission at hand. Adjust your vision (reset your sights) and then focus on its attainment. You might have to change course or your destination due to the tempest. Being flexible and adaptable is ok (actually, it’s a requirement), but keep focused on where you’re headed even if the destination changes due to the dynamic forces of the tempest.
  9. When possible (if the tempest allows): a) get rest, b) eat well, c) exercise, and d) pray. If the tempest is short (eg a day), you may not have time for these actions and they may not be necessary. But if the tempest lasts days or weeks, you have to maintain energy and refueling is required.
  10. Watch out for others. Others on your team. Others in your family. Members of the crew. The captain. The cook. Watch each other’s back. Shout out encouraging words. Shout our warnings when necessary.
  11. Finally, the best time to build a team or develop tempest taming talent is not in the middle of the storm. Yes, successfully taming the tempest can make us stronger and can draw the group (project team, family, athletic club, etc.) closer together) but it’s important to have a good foundation prior to facing the tempest. Successfully taming the tempest (or successfully overcoming any significant challenge) can build the team, but there has to be an existing foundation to build upon.

The waters and sky looked calm when we left. However, by the time we reached our destination only 30 minutes away, the conditions had changed. We saw the tempest coming. Fast. Though we’d planned to enjoy a couple dives, we changed our plans and headed home. On the way back, we had to tame the tempest. The waves were high. The current was strong. The winds were wicked. The tempest seemed alive, even angry! But the boat captain and the passengers remained calm. We made necessary adjustments to the trim, speed, and angle of the boat. We communicated clearly to each other (giving and receiving directions). We set aside our egos and followed the orders of the captain and crew. We made it back to port safety. We had tamed the tempest.

How ‘bout you? Are you in storm? How are you taming the tempest? What are your tips? Are you a victim of or a victor over these storms?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

4 thoughts on “Taming the Tempest

  1. Great article! I especially appreciate statement about recognizing the storm. Too often I see friends show surprise when the storm makes landfall when it is apparent to everyone surrounding them that landfall is imminent. (I always smile when people complain about the money they spend on Christmas gifts. Didn’t the know previously that Christmas is on December 25 this year?)

    However, I respectfully disagree with your last statement in suggestion #11. You state, “Successfully taming the tempest (or successfully overcoming any significant challenge) can build the team, but there has to be an existing foundation to build upon.” While an existing foundation is extremely desirable and HELPFUL in taming the tempest, it IS possible to tame it without that foundation also. A scenario that comes quickly to mind since we are a day past the anniversary of 9/11: Todd Beamer, United Flight 93 …. “Let’s roll.” He organized a group to overthrow the hijackers aboard the flight. An existing foundation among the passengers was absent, but his leadership was present.

    Am I a victim or a victor? Always a victor. My Father taught me that … Philippians 4:13 – I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me. (emphasis mine, of course)

    Thanks for the great article! Keep ’em coming!

    • Hi Amy! Thanks for reminding us of the story of Todd Beamer. I’m always open for other points of view and I appreciate yours.

      I agree, as you point out, that it is possible to tame the tempest without a foundation (even if it is not the norm). It is encouraging to know that there are “rule breakers” like Todd who defy the averages.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! 😉

  2. Hey Robert! Great writings! Speaking of “storms”.. i just re-read ‘Kafka of the Shore’… one of the best quotes within..

    “Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

    An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

    And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
    ― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

    • Hi Aimee! Thanks for the feedback. … I’ll have to check out “Kafka on the Shore.”

      I agree that you never walk out of the storm the same. For better or worse, it will change you. So, I choose to allow it to change me for the better. 😉

      Again, thanks for reading and for sharing!

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