Respond, Don’t React

I spend a lot of time on Twitter. I also have a hot temper.

Those two do not go together like peanut butter and jelly. I’d more say they go together like oil and water.

They are a bad combination and that’s gotten me into trouble more than a couple times. It’s hurt some of my career prospects, as I was told in the past that certain conferences wouldn’t invite me to speak because they thought I was “a loose cannon.”

It stung, but to be honest they weren’t wrong.

I’ve grown up a lot over the last 6 years running my company. I’ve learned to wear my heart on my sleeve less. It still happens from time to time when I haven’t been taking care of myself (meditation has been huge for me), but over the years I’ve become much more even tempered and harder to bait into losing my cool.

It feels strange to say, but I’ve found that knowing I could lose my cool on someone and then being able to not do it feels like a superpower. I know I can muscle my way through something if I do lose my temper and lay into someone, but I’m very aware now of the consequences of those actions.

Because of my journey to discovering my inner peace and thus how to channel my inner anger for good, I’ve come up with some tenets of my life that I try to live by.

One of those is also one of my company’s Core Values.

That value?

Respond, Don’t React

So why’d I start off talking about Twitter? Because in their Trending Topics (which I have blocked on desktop by the way, which has greatly improved my productivity and reduced my anxiety), there is often a topic where the description reads something like this:

People share their reactions and thoughts after political commentator and sports journalist Clay Travis commented on gymnast Simone Biles pulling out of the women’s team final at Tokyo 2020

”People share their reactions and thoughts.”

First off, we really shouldn’t care what the general public’s reactions are to something, especially on social media. They’re not anything any of them would ever say to the person’s face.

But more importantly, is reactions really what we want to celebrate? Twitter does, because their business model only works when people are addicted to their product and getting someone stuck in an outrage loop is a great way to do that.

But do we, do you, do I want to be held hostage to our unfettered emotions and snap judgment reactions to things?

I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to be.

So I set out to change it.

Here’s what worked:

  1. I decided I couldn’t give others power of me to make me upset.
  2. I learned to check email less often, which meant I was less likely to get caught by an email when my guards were low because I was working on something else.
  3. We parted ways with customers who were making up a small percentage of our revenue but were causing a large amount of stress and taking up a lot of our time. Basically, unprofitable customers.
  4. I established a daily meditation practice which has enabled me to recognize when I’m angry, and then take a step back and a few breaths before firing off an email that I shouldn’t send. Basically I am now able to recognize when I am on tilt (a poker term for when someone is making stupid mistakes to try to make up for a hand they lost a lot of money on, but all they actually do is lose even more money. They’re on tilt).
  5. I streamlined my calendar to eliminate things I was doing that caused stress but were not moving the business forward. Also hired for positions to do things that I should not be doing at this stage of the business.
  6. Honestly, I quit caring so much and started taking things less personally.

This is what has worked for me. I made the decision that I didn’t want to be that way anymore, I put processes in place to reduce the frequency that I was exposed to things that I know will throw me for a loop, removed bad fit customers, began meditating to take care of my mental health and to be more mindful of what I feel, streamlined my calendar and eliminated things from it that I shouldn’t be doing, and decided to practice caring less and taking things less personally.

Overall, at this point, I am much happier than I have maybe ever been as an adult.

The work has been hard. The inner work (meditation, therapy, etc) has been the hardest.

But over time, it’s the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done.

2 thoughts on “Respond, Don’t React

  1. HI John,
    Thank you for sharing your story, as a conference planner, I never thought of you like that and am thankful you have been able to talk for us! I must admit, I too was a “loose cannon”-but have found ways to work thru it – I’ve also completed some extensive executive business coaching – where i was given the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – it changd me forever, changed my business and personal relatiionships, helped me learn to understand why I was reacting versus responding, what triggered me to be angry and to help me work through that. I could go on and on . . . This is highly personal blog for you, and I hope writing it has helped you. Thank you, thank you for sharing your personal story. It’s appreciated and nice to know i’m not alone. Cheers Sir!

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