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Advisor alert: Do... nothing?

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Recently friend and colleague Lynn Schaber told a story in her weekly e-newsletter which I feel inspired to share with you:

More than 20 years ago, Lynn heard a tale from speaker Danny Cox, a professional trainer known as the “Sonic Boom.” Cox was known for his work as an Air Force spokesperson, addressing communities affected by the first flights to break the sound barrier. Before that, he had been an Air Force pilot on some of those same flights.

One day, Danny was pushing 700 mph to break the barrier when he went into a death roll, his plane tumbling end over end. (You can imagine how a death roll usually ends.) In such terrifying circumstances, instinct tells you to do everything you can to fix the problem. Danny’s quick thinking got the plane under control, and experts later told him his actions had probably saved his life.

So what did Danny do to save himself? Nothing. In the initial seconds after the death roll started, he didn’t make a single move. Then, after his mind spiraled through the options, Danny calmly chose the course of action that stopped the jet from spinning.

Don’t take this the wrong way. None of us (Danny, Lynn nor I) think you should do nothing about your problems. That could be deadly! Dangerous anxiety and stress, for example, can wreak long-term havoc on your health, so quick decisions are often necessary to save your life, too. 

What we are suggesting is that in a situation of dire panic, it’s perfectly all right—even optimal—to take a few moments to be still. If possible, take a long walk, breathe deeply or, as Lynn put it, “step back and assess the landscape. Give your brain a chance to disengage from the panic and think logically.” In other words, figure out exactly what’s happening and assess your options.

You can, as Lynn recommends, ask yourself some questions:

1. What do I want to avoid?

2. What can I do to help the situation?

3. What would happen if I didn’t do anything right now? 

During times in my life when I’ve been worried about something or confused by the alternatives (such as when my dream-job earnings were down or when I faced surgery for my second battle with cancer), this “do nothing” approach has served me well.

When the pressure’s on and there’s an issue that needs to be resolved right now, pause for just a few moments and do nothing. Let the plane continue spiraling until you’re clear on the course of action to right it. Then do what logic tells you to do—or better yet, just do what feels right. As I discuss in The High Diving Board, there are no “wrong decisions” when you operate from that intuitive place inside you—a place you can’t possibly reach without a moment of reflection.

Start by doing nothing. And then, when that moment of clarity comes (and it will), trust it and do what you need to do.

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Sandy Schussel is a speaker, business trainer and coach who helps sales teams develop systems to win clients. He is the author of The High Diving Board and Become a Client Magnet. For more information, go to


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