Crisis is not a word to be taken lightly. You're probably reading this either because you're experiencing a crisis yourself either small or big and you'd like some help.
Every step you've taken has resulted in unpleasant surprises and you might be fearful of your next move. Your current state is deteriorating and you must find, no matter how difficult it is, greener pastures.
I'm Jimi. Here to help.
Crisis defined by Cambridge Dictionary:
a situation that is extremely difficult or dangerous, when there are many problems:
I work for one of the top 4 Banks in Australia managing incidents, crisis and a bit of politics on the side. I've both worked in a soup kitchen during my university days to close to living on the streets. Slept on hard cold floors with my wife during winter and dealt with a divorce case that didn't end after the divorce. I've even had a falling out with my chinese family attempting to force me to divorce my Japanese wife (current marriage) by taking away everything I owned, hoping I'd crawl back on my knees to beg forgiveness.
And yes there were a lot of times I was thinking, it is easier to just end my life. Looking at my kids now, I'm glad I didn't.
So how did I stride through?
It was Learn and Fail, Learn and Fail, Learn and Fail...etc until I understood the fundamentals of Crisis management. Thank God I learnt it just in time, with the many around me providing support and a boss that is an expert in this field offering great person advice.
Whilst Crisis management can be a large topic to cover, I want to only touch on 3 stages as a high level overview on the approach.
Why only three Steps?
Every Crisis is different. Learning and retaining feedback is part of what makes this simple Crisis management method work.
Under DIRA which you might classify as 4 steps. DIRA stands for Denial, Instigate, Resolve and Attenuation.
Managing a crisis really only involves DIR.
Attenuation is an engineering term for "Error" to be introduced into every equation and feedback you use. Doesn't make sense?
It will when you get to that chapter.
Have you every watched Kitchen nightmares (Youtube) by Chef Gordan Ramsey, where the chef and or restaurant owner would say in front of the camera "My food is delicious, every body loves it. But I don't understand why no one comes into the restaurant." .
Then Chef Ramsey goes out and asks the Diners their real opinion and they'll say "That food was awful, it's undercooked, over cooked, chicken tastes like bread" ... etc.
Keep that thought in mind.
For now, let's start with the good, the bad and the ugly ... in reverse.
You've lost control of the situation and you solely blame a person or group of people for your misfortunes. It is as though for their whole life they have been targeting you. You have nothing else to give to solve the situation, it's chaos.
You're in Denial.
Congrats! You've recognised you're in Denial. This is the first step to all Crisis management.
Denial is a naughty word. No one wants to volunteer to be a loser and even more so with being in Denial. But that is exactly what I am asking you to do... later this week? By the end of the chapter?
Right bloody now!
... yes now. Do not read on until you say aloud where no one can hear you but yourself.
Say aloud "I am in Denial".
Why? Why am I making you feel bad?
I'm not. I'm taking your mind out for a walk, fresh air, let go of all that baggage. Being in Denial is not as bad as it seems. It's just a word, a temporary state of status... nothing more, nothing less.
My purpose in Crisis management, when working with stake holders is to take them to ground zero.
Yes. Back to the "Start" on the monopoly board. Back to the starting line before the sprint. Back to hitting Control-Alt-Delete, killing the Word processor that you've spend 3 days non-stop typing and it's crashed and nothing is saved... and I'm asking you to close it down and open a blank word document. You're drowning because you have your business suit on, but you can't let go of it just incase the rescue boat has your boss and you think your boss would want you to have full business attire since you fell off the cruise from the End of Year party. And whilst you're drowning, I'm telling you to strip naked, let it all go, go to the surface... live and take a breather.
Sounds crazy doesn't it? Drowning with business clothes on. But that is that type of logic often seen in Crisis.
For example: When a fire is detected within the Carpark and the fire wardens instruct everyone to exit the supermalls or shopping centres into designated firesafe areas. Why do most people rush straight to the car-park in an attempt to get their car out?
What on earth is that Logic?
To understand this, you need to understand how the brain functions. As we age we acquire experience. That experience dictates how one person would act and decide given a similar scenario. For most situations this works.
Under a crisis, experience can be as much of an obstacle as the problem itself.
The brain acts using the same logic as how you'd function normally, it looks at the problem and picks out the similarities of that problem and applies the solution to it. The brain also dictates an expected outcome.
Let me repeat that. Your brain dictates an expected outcome.
Under a Crisis the outcome is far outside the scope of the expected outcome that your mind panics. At times the problem gets worse and again the brain wants you to re-apply the same in-effective solution only to watch it fail again.
To understand the carpark incident, most people simply applied multiple experience of a false alarm. When they arrive at the carpark to find the security and police seal the exits to the carpark, they panic and throw tantrums simply because the brain is expecting a different result. Going into a raw emotive animalistic mode to get what they want is simply an innate nature of focusing on the goal.
Forget about their lives, in the time of panic the brain simply focuses on the goal. Martial arts often train the brain to understand that innate behaviour and change the programmed goal, so that when a situation arises the new goal becomes the focus of how the mind manages the Crisis.
This book takes a different route. I'm not here training you up to handle a future Crisis. I'm talking about the Crisis now.
The recognition of your Denial state effectively means you need to tackle the problem from the start. This will switch the brain into listening mode, absorbing material and evidence around you without bias to find the root cause.
Now how do we know your brain has fully reset?
You don't, I sometimes don't either.
Here is the test.
Step 1: Write down what you think the problem is. Step 2: On a new sheet of paper, write down the symptoms of the problem. All of it. Step 3: Looking at the sheet of paper with all the symptoms. Do they point to the original problem you wrote down in step 1?
If the answer is yes. Then the mind has not moved on from the Denial state.
The Denial state in the mind is not a choice. Don't get stressed if you're in Denial. It's ok, we've all been there :)
So what can you do?
Easy. Go out for fresh air, go for a run where you've never been. Do something outside with a lot of oxygen. Relax, meditate, listen to new music, do something very new. Even going to a hardware store and buying a drill might be new. Do it.
If you still feel like the old you, do something out of the ordinary (with the exception of self harm or any thing that may cause further problems in the future). In fact what started my journey into understanding Crisis Management begun straight after I was divorced. It was a bad time, Lawyers and family were heated and I had no idea what to do with my life and the future for my daughter.
I travelled to Hong Kong with my mum to be part of the wedding of my cousins. But during that time, my Auntie wanting to detach my mum whom seem to always follow me, sent me to a trip to Japan. Despite my birth language being Cantonese, English is my strongest language. With that I was booking some trip to Japan with my mum and Aunt and the Travel agent said I was going to some city called Big Board (literal translation from Japanese to Cantonese). The other night I was reading about Okinawa so I asked if the english name was Okinawa to which they said "I think so". Later they clarified it was Tokyo.
So I flew to Japan and landed in a place called Nagoya, it threw me off because I was expecting the words Tokyo or Okinawa somewhere. Later travelled to Kyoto and stayed mostly in Osaka. I didn't even know the names until post Japan when I did more research as to where I went. But that one trip into the unknown threw me into a crisis that was visible in front of me. English did not suffice and there were very little guide as to how to navigate around. Unlike Hong Kong and China where I can somewhat understand basics of the language or even French or German or Spanish as their derivatives of Latin, and how I learnt latin was my hobby of growing Orchids during my university years (I did telecom engineering if you're curious).
I learnt some of the Japanese language via body language and repetition. The rest of the time I was simply admiring the culture and methodology the Japanese use in their day to day life. That trip threw me off the current denial state I was in and set me onto a realisation of how little I knew of why my life fell apart.
What I learnt from that journey was that my previous state my decisions were calculated in my mind based on past experiences and parts that I hold to be true. When my brain sees a crisis, it looks for similarities and matches a past experience and truths that you hold and formulates a solution. That solution then becomes an expectation, slight deviation is acceptable. A large deviation creates panic.
When you experience a crisis, the result differs significantly from the expectation. Your first reaction is to go back to the beginning and again when you assess it, it looks the same over and over and over again. There isn't anything wrong with you, it's just how a brain functions.
What happened in my trip was simply the numerous "Truths" and "Experiences" my mind held suddenly weakened and they became optional. Many "Truths" I held became questionable because what I experienced in Japan contradicts what I hold true.
My passion is nature. The study of plants. I've always been told from a Child up to my young adult days from my typical Chinese family that Biology and a Science degree will lead me to sadness and poverty. Instead engineering, finance, medicine and law degrees will lead to success and happiness.
So what happened in Japan?
Neofinetia competitions, Orchid showcases, Bonsai mania...etc. I see old happy elderly people all around the streets. They're respected by the community, all with new clothes, smiling as they appreciate a daisy or the random orchid on the street. I thought... aren't they meant to be miserable? Weird.
I see cats that have human personalities.
In the business district. I saw a lot of miserable workers braving a face but work long hours. Their arms too thin to not be a white collar, a few you could tell easily that were lawyers. They're all professional but barely happy, after work however they're drunk and happy as one that can be.
Now you're probably thinking... that happens everywhere. True. But I was in absolute denial.
It took 3 or more old Japanese gardeners with smiles on their faces for me to trigger an internal response for my mind to reset what I know about happiness. Once that took place I could see the world in a different light.
When I returned back to Hong Kong, my cousins that my mum told me to look up to, looked different. I didn't say that at the time, but I was asking questions about their income, their debt, their weekly costs...etc all of which is highly inappropriate. But they were the right questions.
Other cousins that were not as successful, I looked at their faces and again saw a different light. I can see they're struggling with money but they're actually happy to see me.
For someone like myself to have suffered depression close to 20 years and even had a few close calls with death itself. Seeing a cousin appreciate me even though I can't really speak cantonese and I've barely known him/her. For a depressed person that is like winning the lottery.
But this new perspective that I gained didn't change my life. Why? Being in Denial is comfortable. Being an expert in what you know makes you comfortable. Why stress on the new things... right? Soon I was back to my old habits, but my crisis kept getting worse and worse and worse. Each time I switched mind sets from Denial to Reality. Overtime I simply gave up being in Denial mode and tackled the problem head on.
That was a long way around getting out of Denial. But I've got to say this, there is nothing to be ashamed of. It's just being human.
Getting out of Denial is generally the first step of many self help books. Whether it's Anthony Robbins with awakening inner power or Marie Kondo with the power of a clean open living space, these two amazing role models have changed countless lives. They throw a person from an excuse generator into a productive machine, simply because the people that persist with their techniques see very clearly what they hold to be truth is now gone.
So after all that...
Do something new, go on a trip. Read & practise Anthony Robbins or Marie Kondo. Or just do something crazy but safe. Something different. Allocate a good size of money to make sure the experience you acquire is not half baked. It's the real deal.
Afraid of Snakes? How about own a pet snake then. Do you have a fear of heights? Sky dive and tick it off the list. Do something that represents the new you, but do it so that it'll knock your biological logic out of the comfort zone.
Now do step 2 again and expect different results.
How do I know I've succeeded?
If your step 2 sheet leaves you with more questions than answers. Congrats! You're ready to move on to the Instigate stage.
Remember the image I set up at the start of the chapter. You're that Chef that believes your own food is amazing but can't understand why no customers are rushing through the restaurant door. And yes most of those Chefs are taken out to better restaurants or having a taste at Chef Ramsey's own cooking to see how they fare in terms of quality. It's a way to shock the brain out of denial.
Any good Crisis managers will tell you the key start in any Crisis management is knowing what you don't know and never let hind sight pull you down.
The whole point of Crisis management is to navigate your way through the unknown. In fact if you know the root cause of the problem then you're over 80% of the way there.
Instigatation is focused on creating the correct tasks of identifying the root cause and the knowledge necessary to move items or people around so that you can focus on identifying the problem.
Let me tell you a true story about the time I was about 8 years of age. I was in hospital after fainting at school. I had severe cramps in my stomach area, so bad that my body could not handle it and ended up in hospital. I had three doctors examine me. Two of them read the document and deduced without further investigation that I had appendicitis and scheduled myself for operation in 3 days time. The last doctor was a young Indian doctor, he looked at me and prodded the regions where the cramps were originating. The he prodded my appendix, there was no pain.
I can recall he had a discussion with the two earlier more senior doctors about my condition. He believed my symptoms point to Salmonella, this was characterised by diarrhea I later had. A family friend came to the hospital to feed me the most garlic of all garlic breads I've ever seen. Raw garlic on top of a toast. It was disgusting but I still ate it. Almost 6 hours later I was fine. The cramps had gone and I flushed everything out of my system.
You see the example above highlights how the human errors can occur. We seek to find an explanation in circumstances by taking a short cut due to our confidence. Imagine I had my appendix removed whilst my body was still recovering from my first really bad Salmonella infection. My gut would be forever damaged.
I was lucky to have a young indian doctor examine me. Unfortunately not everyone else has that luxury of luck.
Plot a course for being lost.
The first tool you'll learn is the plotter. Go and get your blank sheet of paper and a smooth ink pen.
Why smooth ink? Because you'll be drawing.
Recall the questions that you wrote down in the previous chapter, have them beside you as you plot.
On the brand spanking blank sheet of paper, I want you to start from one corner write down the objective of solving the crisis at hand. Do not start in the middle.
There are three edges left on the sheet of paper, those are three possible end goal solutions. <Insert picture>
Identify road blocks
Have you ever played the game Battleships? This is where you guess the enemy ships location and if you land a hit you'll know the rest of the ship is nearby. Likewise with people you really need to test them out. To begin with there are those you need to absolutely avoid and others you'll need to control how they manage you but they're too important to avoid.
Matthew 5:37. If you're Christian you'd know what Christ is referring to. For everyone else that is not Christian here is the parable from Jesus:
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, q‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’34 But I say to you, sDo not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for tit is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
If you're not Christian, please don't be put off by the following phrase, I've included it because it highlights a very ancient innate human character that my Lord Jesus picks up. For all the non-Christians out there, it's a fantastic tool to show how hypocritical some Christians are if you ever choose to use it.
Have you ever heard a Christian say "Oh come to church, we have this worship session and I promise you that you'll have an amazing time."
I'm Christian and even I struggle with that. I'm a person that looks for relationships as the bridge and language to know people. Mass worship sessions just isn't for me unfortunately. But it's the use of the word "I Promise" that horrifies me.
Promise makers are by instinct always throwing promises out. Why?
Because the counterparty ( you) will accept their proposal.
Ok, nothing wrong with that right?
Everything is wrong with it!
Stop right there. You have in your life people that promise. If you have time, only if you have time, write down what they promise and see if they have fulfilled it.
Can't remember? Maybe you can but don't think that big deal of it.
Guess what... they're using you.
Promise makers are unreliable people. You need to cut them out of your life if possible, where possible. They will show up whenever they feel like it.
I want you, from now on, to actively listen to a person speak. The moment they say "... I promise... " I want you to raise the alarm bells. Call the Feds, because you're about to catch a Brain Terrorist.
Promises are made only by...
I'll repeat. Unreliable people make promises because their reputations stink so bad that their personal marketing smells and sends others away. But the poor sympathetic you happen to eat their promises.
Now you're probably one of the many people out there with Promise Making parents or family members like myself. How do I deal with it? Set up a militarised zone. Do not get pulled under by emotional ransom. The moment they do, make sure they get caught out and fire back hard, make them burn for every promise they throw at you. But also guide them in the right path and give them compliments when they don't make promises and are reliable.
Think about the hurt caused by their empty promises in the past, now remember them over and over again. But do not let that bad memory get to you or affect you. Remember you're in a Crisis, you need to focus.
Whenever this person asks you for a favour, have your diary ready and ask them why they failed their promise. They will attempt to dodge the question, look for other ways around your brain to make you submit. But don't let them. It's a game.
Bring them back to the empty promise. Say to them clearly, "Sorry, last time it didn't happen. I can't afford it again."
They'll say "But I promise this time is different."
Your response. "It is different this time. You're on your own. You must build your trust with me. My patience has ended".
If it is a medical emergency or any other crisis they're going through, call the appropriate authorities. Let them deal with it, but get it off your hands ASAP. You pay your hard earned tax to the Government, so call their services to deal with it.
Ok, so what does that mean for you?
If you make promises then chances are you're unreliable. Stop that today. Be the reliable person that does things either as a Yes or does not do things as a No.
Keep it simple.
The expert is someone that you have a love hate relationship with. You can't avoid them like the promise makers. They're valuable for Crisis management but they can lead you astray.
The expert is someone that has devoted so much of their life into a particular subject matter that when they see your crisis, they will attempt to segway and fit your crisis into their expertise.
Because it feels good when someone is relying on your expert opinion.
But it's wrong.
Your root cause is not identified, it may or may not be in their expertise.
Best course of action, call upon the roman god of Janus. Have two faces, they'll believe that you're wanting their help but your true face is still focused at the problem. Keep the experts close to you because you may need their help.
What is the biggest weakness in you?
Have an answer? It's not good enough but don't fret about it. I'll tell you the answer. It is the same as for everyone.
"Not knowing your own weaknesses".
You're thinking right now... Am I being a troll? Are you saying I don't know my own weakness?
Perhaps. If you do know your weaknesses then why are you in a crisis?
In my mind I suffer the same problem. I think I know my weaknesses but in reality I don't, it's my own mind fooling me into a false pretence of confidence.
The worst part about not seeing your own weakness is someone else seeing it and right now they're probably using you and you probably haven't noticed.
Luckily statistics is on your side. For every honey mouth manipulator out there, there is a sharp brutally honest person willing to help you out.
The trick to finding the truth about your weakness? Get as much feedback as possible. If it is hard to extract out of a person, then it's going to be painful but generally accurate.
The manipulators, just like the promise makers, will say words like ... "Trust me on this" and "they're all liars out there, only my words are the truth".
Don't be fooled. They could be trying to plant the idea that your weakness is something else why they still control you knowing you're blind to your own weakness.
For example, I'm bald. Been bald since 20. My mother once did exactly what I described above. Made me distrust the public and said her opinion is the true feelings of my managers. Sure enough as a young guy, I was living with an embarrassing comb-over for 4 years. When I discovered my weakness and controlled that part, my Tiger-parent mum went berserk.
Since then I've moved into better roles within my work. It wasn't my physical appearance that held me back. It was my denial being fed by a family member and this curse affected how I perceived reality. When things don't make sense at work, explanation from my mum was that the workplace could be racist and I should shut up and do my job.
Luckily I had a awesome manager, Adam Fuller, that guided me out. Things made sense when I focused on the weakness he described to me. Over time my perception changed to see reality and long story short, I'm a lot more confident of my shiny chrome head. Adam is brutally honest. If you find these people, my recommendation is to keep the, close by.
But if you don't know of many, collect as much feed back no matter how awkward it is. You'll find a pattern very soon and you can find your own weakness to control.
Timing makes all the difference. Under a Crisis, every second counts just as every wrong decision throws you back a few steps. The situation is only going to get worse.
But if you panic, you lose. The objective of this session is to pull you out of the mindset that you need to rush to solve the crisis.
First of all you need an action plan on what you're going to do to solve the crisis. But you don't know where the root cause is so you have no game plan at this stage.
What you need to be doing now is taking a deep breath. If you feel you only have 1 month to solve the Crisis, cut that time in half so you feel the urgent need. But at the same time don't think it needs to be solved the next minute. There is a fine balance, and you'll learn what that balance is with experience. But every situation is different.
Sometimes you feel put off calling an loath-worthy person. Other times it's hard work lifting or doing the required work. Either way you need the urgency to do the pre- work before you can manage the crisis.
This topic touches part of Marie Kondo's push for being tidy. Now you're one of two people, Messy or Tidy. Both states will require different actions.
Look at your room or office right now. It is a mess. You're likely to be bias towards the right hemisphere part of your brain, that is, you're probably creative. Your current weakness is that everything in the room is noise, it all attracts your attention. You lose focus.
In your room right now, I would estimate that 80% are non-essentials. So what I want you to do is arrange the room and all the items from least important to most important. As long as you can visually see it. Along the way feel free to throw out rubbish.
Now place aside essential. This includes photos, computers...etc.
Non-essentials are going to be decimated. They represent the old you, the items of distraction are almost like idols that live in your room. They breath life because you give them life but they take up space with little benefit. Now think of it this way.
Imagine you're the mayor of your room, you need to lease out the space to tenants and they all pay rent. Which items currently pay you value in rent, which do not. Kick out the items that have no value. You're the king of your own space, your material goods are not your Lord. Own it.
Aim towards reducing it to 1/10th. That is you're throwing away 90% of non-essential stuff. Whether it is storing it away in the basement or giving those items to your friends/family or even just loaning it.
(Note: this does not include pets. Classify pets as essential)
Once you're cleared, tidy your war-room. You'll need it to manage this crisis.
For the rest of the population laughing at the hoarders above thinking you might have it easier. That is absolutely correct you do have it easier physically. Mentally this is going to be a big challenge.
The current state of your home or room makes your brain comfortable and fall back into denial. Yes it is tidy but it is a false sense of comfort.
What you need to do is change the room you want to manage your crisis in, into a different style. Say for example your place of work is in the kitchen in the home. Change the arrangements of the plates, knives, fork...etc. Not to make it into a messy state, that won't work because you're programmed to automatically change the messy state into tidy state.
Rather it's to change it from one tidy state to another tidy state. You may have no plants on the window sill, go out and buy yellow flowers and change the place the toaster sits. Moving a few tables around. If the family asks, just respond that you want to try something new.
Once you've moved things around, you'll quickly notice your brain switches to attempt to optimise the space based on your innate preference. So whether you've always wanted to move the table to the centre of the room and get rid of shelves with stupid memorabilia from your partner's teenage ego to storing away collectors items plates that your grandmother had.
In a Crisis your grandmother's spoon collection is not going to help with the exception of being worth millions to a billionaire who also happens to be collecting spoons. Possibility is unlikely. But store them away and rearrange or even remove things that are collecting dust.
Time to make this room yours for you to be the Lord of the room.
Clean state objective:
The whole point of having a clean state is simple to prepare your mind to focus at the crisis at hand rather than feeling comfortable or distracted. I could write a whole book on some of these topics. However I'm assuming all adults should know how to clean or re-arrange their own living area.
I'm going to force this skill into you. You must learn it whether you like it or not, and it is going to be one of the most used skill set in any crisis.
Truth is you don't know the root cause and if you've never won the lottery like 99.99% of the population then chances are guessing the root cause has the same likelihood of you winning jackpot. You've worked through the "Denial" component of this book to give up on your original thoughts on what the root cause is. Your actions always take a different turn.
Isolation is about planning then determining what is relevant and what is not. Context is used so that you can hone in on only relevant areas.
<Draw diagrams where symptoms and problems on one chart>