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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

The Art of Fighting Without Fighting

Have you ever had one of these days, that seemed wrong from the very moment you opened your eyes and then they progressed to be an accumulation of bad luck, negative events, unfortunate coincidences? Whether superstitious or not, all people have experienced negative or troubling “gut feelings” that turned out to be true. 

In order to explain this, should we be looking to religion? Luck? Supernatural forces? Or is it maybe an integrated mechanism inside our brains that allows us to process information at a much faster pace than our conscious minds can grasp? 

We are receiving millions bits and pieces of information every second through our 5 senses and these are all processed simultaneously to produce conscious thoughts, decisions, responses. But our mind rarely catches up with our brain, and the outcome might be a hunch, an idea, a gut feeling, something that cannot be traced back to a rational decision making process that is strong and efficient, nonetheless. 

Your brain has reached it’s conclusions a little bit sooner that your mind and this is something that should be worked towards, rather than fighting against. So much of today’s training is styled and formatted in ways that are counterintuitive and ultimately, counterproductive. Instead of using our brain power effectively, to promote immediate responses during a crisis, we struggle to tame our ability to perceive our environment through all of our 5 senses, and instead we try to cram all thoughts in predetermined boxes which look nice on paper but prove useless in real life situations.

Especially for hostile environments, becoming situationally aware is the difference between life and death. But in order to be truly aware, two things are needed: to be knowledgeable about conditions, situations, characteristics of the region and location and be able to discern the early signs of an upcoming crisis. 

Knowledge about conditions, situations, characteristics of a region and/or a location means more than reading a brief or listening to a lecture. It involves the actual engagement with the culture and the people, so that everyday practices and norms are not only a “touristic attraction” or a “cultural hassle”, but an everyday reality. That is why the role of cultural advisors in consultancy and training is so important. Because it bridges the bags and it allows for a true communion of ideas, beliefs, customs, traditions. Becoming familiar with what is considered normal and acceptable, being able to immense yourself in a local culture, is the first level of protection and one that provides the perception of being an honored guest rather than a hostile operative.

Once that knowledge has been gained, practiced, engrained, then people have mastered the ability to operate seamlessly within a foreign culture or region, and should be able to identify the factors influencing common practices and actions. Then it is time to move on to becoming acutely receptive to the very early signs of an upcoming incident or a potential crisis. 

Societies, cultures, environments are all dynamic, chaotic systems. That means that they exhibit sensitive dependence upon their initial conditions, a tweak here will produce results miles away or will affect a social structure in complex, yet wonderful ways. In order to train people in HEAT trainings, the basic understanding of reality as a dynamic, ever changing system, is crucial. Instead of attempting to categorize people, cultures, structures into rigid frameworks, it is better to acknowledge them for what they truly are: an everchanging web of interactions that spread from individual onto global level, producing minute changes every step of the way.

Being vigilant to those tiny changes, is actually a skillset that allows for not only knowledgeable forecasts but actual meaningful predictions. Power through observation, awareness, knowledge. No incident happens without some form of warning; it is often the case, however, that the warning signal is lost amidst all the noise produced by our rationalized thinking process. 

Most people would believe a Crisis a major incident that involves death, destruction, and a potential detrimental outcome. In essence, though, Crisis is nothing more than a point in time and space. Just a tiny dot on the time/space continuum where multiple paths overlap. Choose wisely, and you will return to normal operations; act wrong and you are heading for a disaster. That point in time rarely extends more than a few seconds or maybe minutes in time; which means the window of opportunity is extremely narrow. 

However, when one has detected the early signs of the upcoming crisis one can buy some more time to prepare and pave the path that will lead back to safety, security and normalcy. In the same way, one would boost both business resiliency and continuity. Moreover, during the crisis, one would limit the amount of time necessary to process facts and would allow for faster, more accurate, efficient decision making.

If we can accept that the above holds true, why is it that most trainings are proven ineffective during crises and disasters? How come people who have excelled in trainings are paralyzed or making irrational decisions that often prove fatal? In hindsight, it is often the case that the training was both off the mark and poorly delivered. Instead of working against our subconscious workings, processes, feelings, attempting to dismiss the amazing results of our brain power, we should work towards combining those skills to current knowledge, practice, action. 

Generate content that is unique, customized, efficient, scientifically valid, innovative and valuable to those who seek to recognize the early warning signs before any of the events have even started to unfold. The tiny changes, the silent shifts, the fragile balance on which we all hang. The silence that precedes the snowstorm. Much like nature, culture will also speak to those who are willing to listen.

Stay tuned for more.

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