Seven Tactics for Turbulent Times


Seven Tactics for Turbulent Times

1. Be Ready not to be Ready

This tactic sounds like it was conjured up over a couple of pints in a pub, but it makes complete sense. We need to embrace uncertainty and chaos as part of the very tenor of our lives. We also need to begin living by a bad plan. No plan is perfect or fool-proof so we need to navigate with a plan that is open to flexibility and interpretation. It won't always work, but that's when you make the needed adjustments to another bad plan. After all, no one ever took a driving trip by waiting until all the lights were green. Take a deep breath and get moving with whatever plan you got at hand.

2. Make Full Use of the Present

Time is a wacky concept. It is fluid, relative and experienced subjectively (it can go either "fast" or "slow" depending on the task). The past is gone but its memory still lingers, the future is out there and unpredictable. All we really have to work with is the present moment- a small sliver of time that is put before us over and over again every day. You can make substantive use of the present by realizing that it is short and it is valuable. Those two features of the present moment can lead to long lasting significance. I dare you to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and admit to yourself you are going to die someday. That isn't is morbid, it leads to good stewardship of every moment of every day.

3. Live with the Long View

Our greatest fear should not be failure, but succeeding at something that really doesn't matter. This tactic asks us to attend to life's long term investments beyond the financial kind. We need to deliberately nurture our pursuits and our perspective. How you view life will determine the hope you have for tough times and the life you choose to live. You gotta have a "Big Why", an underlying mission that gives meaning and action to everything you do. Few can live well outside a stable framework of meaning. Boil the core of who you are to a sentence. Try it. It will stretch you and force you to really focus. Mine is, "Re-imagine a hope-filled world." A friend of mine's mission is "Live Well by Doing Good". What's yours?

4. Let Go of What's Going Away

I've had to do this with my hair...This is a tough tactic to implement because we can get so enamored with the safe and familiar. Yet safe and familiar are relative unknowns to the changes we are experiencing. Sociologists say we have the propensity during change to default into what they call "Ambiguity Aversion". That is, we would rather stay in a bad, but familiar situation than to take the risk to realize a much better, but unknown future. We need to be adaptable in order to take advantage of the next round of changes. Remember the bad plan? Use the "F word" liberally during these times: "flexibility". It will help you outperform, outlast, and outmaneuver the gauntlet of change.

5. Take Time to Think

We are googling more and thinking less. There is so much information "downloaded" into our lives every day that we become numb to it all. We become narcotized to its messages and paralyzed in the face of its onslaught. Taking time to think means being intentional about contemplation. We need to carve out time in our day to sit in silence with the information we are receiving every day and think deeply about its value and application to our life. Good teachers take information and turn it into knowledge. Great teachers take knowledge and turn it into wisdom. Be a great teacher to your brain. Take the time to be wise.

5. Don't Go it Alone

Given the cultural conditioning of the "rugged individualist" and the "self-made millionaire", we tend to bite the leather strap and get through turbulent times on our own. We're tough after all. We can handle it. Baloney. You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. So reach out to your relational resources. Interact with your social networks online and especially nurture the intimate bonds in your life. These are the handful of people you know you could wake at two in the morning and they'll be there for you no matter what. Let people in on your struggles and let them join you on the journey (and visa versa). If you are wounded by the changes, give people the privilege of ministering to you.

6. Laugh Deeply and Often

That great American philosopher Jimmy Buffett wrote, "If we all couldn't laugh we would all go insane." How true. Humor is the heart sweating. Laughter provides a much needed release valve for life's pressure and releases "feel good" chemicals in our brains that can alter our outlook toward a more positive light. Humor has the uncanny ability to turn something into nothing. It can bring situations down to size and put them in their place. That's why satire is such a critical component to life. If we can make fun of serious situations we often can get to the heart of the matter faster and respond with renewed confidence. So, have a glass a wine tonight, and watch your favorite comedy.

7. Practice Bricolage

"Bricolage" is an obscure word in the English language but critical for effectively facing turbulent times. It comes to us from a French verb meaning "to tinker, or fiddle with". Bricolage means we make great use of whatever resources we happen to have on hand. It requires we stop thinking "outside the box", which is an over used cliche anyway, and begin thinking "inside the box" to utilize the assets we already have near by. This takes imagination and persistence, as witnessed by the engineers of NASA who brought the fateful Apollo 13 space craft safely back to earth by practicing bricolage(Check your history books). You'll be surprised at how much you can do with very little.


Jeff Vankooten is a highly regarded keynote speaker inspiring career agility and professional resilience in extraordinary change. He has spoken to a wide variety of public and private organizations in virtually every arena, from the tech sector to financial services, manufacturing, health care, hospitality, entertainment, retail, legal, and the US government.

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