On floating through fear – and other tips for surviving a shitty business meeting

I’ve got a business meeting today that I’m concerned about – and ‘concerned‘ is the more socially acceptable way for a reasonably successful and reasonably old-fashioned Baby Boomer male to say ‘anxious‘ or ‘afraid‘.

As I put the toothbrush onto my old teeth, I caught my flawed (read: human) brain doing all the tricks it does in these situations where I’m basically scared:

  • drawing up a Plan-of-Battle (POB);
  • anticipating different attacks and how to recoil them;
  • thinking up arguments that diminish the credibility of my “opponent”, and;
  • digging through past injustices and scorns.

All that sounds real productive, yeah? Gonna make for a super successful set of results at the discussion? Gonna make me have a great weekend? Hardly.bundanon

So, I got in the shower and just kinda let the water flow down this battered body I lug around nowadays. I was reminded that the Buddhists have a concept called ‘upekha‘ (in the Pali language of their doctrine). If I understand it correctly, it’s basically ‘going with the flow‘ – or more specifically ‘equanimity‘. It’s about:

  • not assuming a bias – your own or somebody else’s;
  • not being attached to a preconceived view of what is or may occur;
  • not considering yourself, your interlocutors or this very moment as especially significant, and;
  • not presuming the worst.

A couple of smart people have commented on similar. The dude I’ve relied on for quite sometime, Prah Mana, who runs a Thai Buddhist forest monastery where we practice ‘noble silence‘ in the Bundanoon bush, once said: Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

Another mate, who has been CEO of two significant scale businesses, put it another way to me over dinner a few months back: It just doesn’t matter.coffee

Dont’ you love great advice that you don’t know how to use? That’s what a coffee on your own is for – figuring out how to go from theory to practice. Over my soy flat (yeah, yeah), I kept thinking about water, how it always soothes and guides me. How when I – too infrequently – get in a lap pool the world gets much better. Here’s how I’m going to do today’s challenging meeting based on that:

The Door. When I walk into the swim centre, I start to breathe long, deep and relaxed. It’s the pause button to my whole being to slow the fuck down and chill the fuck out. Same today with meeting.

The Change Room. At the swim centre, I get out of the clothes of the day and into the clothes of the present. Preparation reminds me I’m about to transition to something else. No, I’m not going to the meeting in my Speedos – not pretty. Rather, I’m just going to write down what’s being discussed as it’s discussed. Just record – but not judge or evaluate. Specific words being repeated; positive offers of cooperation; openings to value.

The Pool. I emerge from the change room and look at the pool, how many lpoolanes going, who’s fast or who is on my dugong-like pace. I just take it in the chlorine smell, the ripples on the surface, the big stopwatch on the wall. I decide where’s the best lane and place for my efforts in the pool. And so with today’s discussion, where / how can I actually do something worthwhile?

The Lane. I step down the ladder, duck dive under the ropes and off I go. Strokes. Paddles. Kicks. More breathing. More following the black line. My way – not Ian Thorpe’s perfection but Pete Shmigel’s progress. In a meeting context, it means talking and contributing where I can add something of benefit – and do it safely for myself.

That’s the intention! All set! And if things still go to shit, the swim centre will be open tomorrow too.





2 thoughts on “On floating through fear – and other tips for surviving a shitty business meeting

  1. I hear you. I think many of us can relate to your post… so good to be reminded of the need to put these types of events and days into perspective and read about some wiser and more sensible ways to get through them!


  2. how perfect and funny as well : ) Here is something to add for your consideration…

    A Verse for Our Time

    We must eradicate from the soul
    All fear and terror of what comes towards man out of the future.

    We must acquire serenity
    In all feelings and sensations about the future.

    We must look forward with absolute equanimity
    To everything that may come.

    And we must think only that whatever comes
    Is given to us by a world-directive full of wisdom.

    It is part of what we must learn in this age,
    namely, to live out of pure trust,
    Without any security in existence.

    Trust in the ever present help
    Of the spiritual world.

    Truly, nothing else will do
    If our courage is not to fail us.

    And let us seek the awakening from within ourselves
    Every morning and every evening.

    -Rudolf Steiner


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