Murphy's Law states: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." This is especially true and especially painful when there is an audience involved.



This blog was active from April, 2008 to July 2012.
It is no longer being updated. It will continue to be maintained for reference purposes.

Post 101: “The dread of possible contingencies…”

chickenlittleThis is the one hundred and first post on BML. Noticing this milestone gave me an opportunity to take a look back and review what’s  happened so far. One thing I noticed is a tendency to focus on the disaster and the aftermath. Makes sense. These posts are usually entertaining  to both read and write (as long as whatever happened didn’t happen to me).

Moving into the next one hundred posts, I’m going to try to dig a little deep and deal more with how planning and preparation helped when the fecal matter met the fan blades. In other words, a little less debrief, a little more anticipation.

To start off, I would like to offer this thought-provoking quote (as well as some thoughts the quote provoked).

“There is little peace or comfort in life if we are always anxious as to future events. He that worries himself with the dread of possible contingencies will never be at rest.”

~Samuel Johnson

That sounds about right for day-to-day living, but does it make sense for a speaker or the person responsible for making sure that a meeting or presentation is successful?

Since when are we supposed to be peaceful, comfortable or at rest? We get paid in part to think long and hard about those future events and possible contingencies he’s talking about.

You need to be able to develop and apply a certain frame of mind to in order to see around corners and be prepared to deal with issues that no one else is even aware of yet. This frame of mind requires a special kind of focused or contained anxiousness.

If you are too nervous or if you are worried about everything, you can become paralyzed and find yourself unable to take the necessary action to prevent an actual crisis. You can also lose credibility with other team members if you become  “Chicken Little” and continually to try find new ways to deal with the remote possibility of the sky falling.

On the other hand, there are those who are too optimistic, who are never anxious. They also tend to also be incapable of working up the frame of mind that will allow them to anticipate how things might go wrong and to understand how truly bad things can get.

Is being able to operate in the sweet spot between these two extremes merely a matter of having enough, but not too much, experience? Enough to know what to worry about but not so much that you are jaded or complacent. Is it an innate trait?

Would you rather work with someone who is too anxious or not anxious enough? Which is most like to do to most damage?

[Thanks to Michael Wade’s for the quote.]

Comments are closed.