If I am guilty of anything, it’s overthinking. To be honest, I’m guilty of lots of things, but overthinking is something I will admit to. You could probably guess that by the state of this opening paragraph.
I’ve had a few job interviews – although not as many as I like – and the question of how I handle a crisis has occasionally been asked. This creates a problem for me, as I’ve never had to handle a real ‘crisis’.
Sure, things have sometimes not gone “to plan” but I’m hard pressed to think of an actual shit-hitting-the-fan crisis. The nearest I can get is the time we deep-cleansed Burley Park Rail Station before a press visit the day after, to show how we were tackling graffiti and vandalism. Overnight, the station was re-graffitied and vandalised. We went ahead with the media call, and showed what we were up against – same story, different way of telling it.
But for everything else… Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.
Come up with a plan, a programme of events. Run through it. Look for the ways in which it might fail, and come up with ways to mitigate. Pass all of this on to colleagues to see what you might have missed. Run various scenarios through in your head. Decide what is relevant and what isn’t. See the day’s events in your mind.
No, you can’t anticipate everything. In the two weeks between formalising the opening date for Kirkstall Forge Rail Station and the opening event we had one murdered local politician and the EU Referendum vote. The former was sad, but ultimately made no difference; the latter came under the “what if the minister can’t make it?” scenario, so we had a capable MP on standby. So still not really a ‘crisis’.
And when it doesn’t work
My overthinking does mean I have two problems. Firstly, I’ve scenario-planned things in my head so much that I’m not actually interested in what’s happening on the day – I’m already looking at the next problem. I have to really concentrate on the realities of the day.
The second problem is relationships.
To give an extreme – but everyday – example: I met someone once. She was, and is, lovely. She is intelligent, witty, talented, knowledgeable, caring, nurturing. And attractive. Pretty much all the things I’m not, really. We met, we became friends. We’re still in touch, just about. And, at the time, she was single.
So why have I never asked her out? Overthinking.
What if she says no? Worse: what if she says yes? “No” I have a plan for, because it happens all the time. I’ve never had a “yes”. If she says “yes”, how bad will I feel when she eventually gets fed up with me?
At which point you, and the small bit of self-respect I still have left, are screaming “for God’s sake man, stop dithering and just ask her out!” After all, the worst she can say is “no”.
You can’t plan everything. You can’t determine your future before living it. Sometimes you need to live for the day, to crash and burn, and rise from the ashes.
And, like a forest fire clearing away the dead wood to allow new growth, sometimes you need a crisis to happen.