Imagine this. You have been looking forward to one of the leading conferences of your industry for months. You are going to moderate a panel with MDs and thought leaders with whom you have spent time mapping the questions and content of discussion. You have packed your bags, you check in for your international flight and you are filled with anticipation and excitement when suddenly.......shooting pain. The kind you have never known. The kind that makes it difficult to speak!
This was me. As I got ready to board my flight for the annual National Human Resource Development conference to Mumbai, I had to cancel my tickets on the spot and go to the emergency room straight away.
I have to admit it was a bit surreal. One always assumes things like this happen to “other people”. While I will spare you the gory details of what happened around diagnosis and recommended course of action, I do want to share what this taught me about decision making and self leadership in a crisis situation.
Three things I will try and remember for next time:
Don’t look back
I admit, albeit sheepishly, that even as we drove towards the hospital I had thoughts about the pain reducing and catching a later flight! Two hours later despite high intensity pain relieving injections, I was still writing in pain and they called a surgeon in for consultation. The answer was clear. However, the self induced anxiety I inflected on myself was needless. I was confusing the operational and the emotional! Operationally, I knew it could not be done emotionally I was not wanting to let go of my trip. Lesson learnt: Agonizing over what could have been or could be only makes it difficult to move forward. Accept what is and move forward with conviction. Don’t look back once a decision is clear (as a side note - make health a priority over work!!).
Know your professional SWAT team
I knew I did not want to leave the team in a lurch. I had to find someone to step in. I was able to get hold of one such expert right away who I knew was attending the event. She graciously took over the mantle. Lesson that I have known always was reinforced: Networks are your networth. You are only as good as the network you are plugged into. Nurture and celebrate the strengths of your network. If you network only when you need it, it is like digging a well when you are thirsty. Your networks raise you tall and- as was evident in my case - catch you when you fall ! (as a side note - SWAT stands for special weapons & tactics -a group of elite marksmen who specialize in high-risk tasks such as hostage rescue)
Marvel at what went right
The flight was an hour late- which meant if it had been on time, this crisis would have unfolded mid-air ! I shudder to think what that would have been like. Some times events make sense only in retrospect. Things could always have been better but things could also have been worse. This lesson was taught to me by my father in another crisis and I have adopted it as a mantra—look back at marvel at what went right! One can’t control a crisis, but one can learn to make peace with the aftermath.
Ultimately, we can’t choose our crisis, but we can choose the lessons to curate out of them. When crisis calls, we have to answer. And most of all, be grateful for every mundane, healthy, regular moment of your life because things can and do change in an instant!
Agonizing over what could have been or could be only makes it difficult to move forward