As we loaded the grenades into his under-armored Humvee, he snapped. He was talking to us one second and violently throwing up his lunch the next. Apparently, loading live explosives into the vehicle you’ll be living in for a few days makes reality more – well – real.
Amidst retches, he would would propose a “What if?” “What if…retch…what if…retch…what if?”
This was his first time going on a new route in the combat zone with new troops. And to make matters worse, he was in charge. The uncertainty of it all was taking over him.
We did what any leader in the situation would do: we finished loading his grenades and ammo while he continued to rid himself of his lunch. To hold his hand and reassure him would make matters worse in the culture we were in.
Later on we walked through the entire plan with him again. We did another map recon. We walked through almost every possible scenario and worked with him and his team on how they’d respond. We double-checked all of his equipment – especially his navigation and communication equipment – and told him he had every tool he needed to make it through. It was time for him to lead.
Talk to anybody about to launch something big and you’re bound to hear them say they’re ready to hurl – or they can’t talk about it without hyperventilating – or they’re scared shitless. The same fear of uncertainty that caused our leader to lose his lunch strikes just about everyone doing anything worth doing at some point or the other. Especially if they’re in charge.
And working through that fear requires the same principle: 1) acknowledge the fear and its consequences, 2) work through every bad scenario that runs through your head, and 3) figure out ways to work through that scenario. The fear that there’s something you’re forgetting will be there, but you have to trust yourself and your processes enough to know that you can get through them when it happens.
After you’ve done that, it’s time for you to act. The fear will still be there, but you’ll do better than you think you will as long as you keep moving towards your goal.
Be careful with those grenades.