Responding to The Punch

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

That’s how Mike Tyson responded to media’s concerns about a competitor’s boxing strategy. In case you only know Mike Tyson from “The Hangover” with the tiger and playing air drums to “In the Air Tonight” (one of my favorite movie scenes), he was the most feared boxer in the world in the 1980s and 1990s (and maybe ever). He won 50 of 58 fights in his career, 44 of them by knockout. His average fight lasted just over three rounds – many didn’t finish the first round. Thanks to his reputation, he often won before he even stepped into the ring because they knew what was coming … a powerful punch.

Have you ever gotten punched in the mouth (metaphorically speaking)? Have you ever been in a situation, as an individual or part of a company, where you had a plan for every conceivable scenario and outcome and then reality hits in such a way that your plans are useless? Where you started with a Plan A but ended up using Plan Z?

Of course you have. It’s called 2020.

Sometimes change – or bad things – are incremental, which gives you an opportunity to see them coming and adjust. And sometimes they are suddenly explosive, like Hurricane Harvey or a California wildfire or COVID-19 WFH or a cancer diagnosis.

So how do you respond to that punch? Several words come to mind: Persistence; Agility; Perseverance; Tenacity; Creativity; Adjustment; Stick-to-it-iveness; Adaptation; Introspection; Recovery; Positivity.

All of that can be summed up in a single word: Resilience. According to Merriam-Webster, resilience is defined as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” According to Psychology Today, resilience is defined as “find(ing) a way to change course, emotionally heal, and continue moving toward their goals.” According to General George A. Custer, resilience can be defined as “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up” (somewhat ironic).

That is true for a country, an industry, a company, a community, a family, an individual. Because everybody – and I mean everybody – eventually gets “punched in the mouth.” How you react to adversity, not the adversity itself, defines you. The problem is sometimes you don’t know how you will react until you must react. So how do you handle that unknown?

  • Build character – in corporate policy, as an individual – that can withstand the onslaught
  • Champion homeostasis – persistence regardless of what’s happening around you
  • Embrace flexibility – not only may you need to think outside the box, you may need to recognize there actually isn’t any box
  • Create community – the obvious but often more difficult opposite of isolation
  • Self-analysis – retracing your steps to identify and strengthen the weak link(s)

I’m sure you have your own methods for making lemonade out of lemons (or in the case of 2020, making lemonade out of sour milk). To some degree, we’ve all been there. So maybe in addition to creating a tactical plan for responding to a crisis, it’s just as important to also create a philosophical plan. Because when that “punch” lands, your response needs to be as a resilient overcomer.

Mark PewThe RxProfessorEducator and Agitator