Stress Management: Coping, the Dune Way

Stress Management: Coping, the Dune Way

I must not fear stress.
Fear Stress is the mind-killer.
Fear Stress is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear stress.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear stress has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain. – Bastardized from Frank Herbert, Dune

One of the things that crushes productivity and creativity is our reaction to undue stress. We can’t control when a stressful situation will arise, but we can (and must) control how we react to these situations. In order to take control, we need systems.

My Old System:

I was once a callow, hot-headed youth with no coping mechanisms. My reactionary habits typically followed this pattern: 

  1. I am fine…

A Little Bit of Dune

Frank Herbert’s classic book, Dune, is a phenomenal work of science fiction and of literature in general. I will attempt to do some justice to describing a few scant concepts from this masterpiece in order to give some context to my metaphor (I’m told that the sign of a good metaphor or joke is when the explanation is much longer than the actual piece).

In Dune, Spice miners on a desert planet operate with constant vigilance against sand worms. These worms are ginormous, and will destroy anything that encroaches on their territory. To keep life and property safe, members of the team are assigned to scan the horizon for “wormsign,” which are the disruptions of the desert sands that indicate a worm’s arrival, allowing the crew to extract themselves before the sand hits the fan.

Okay, still with me? Good. Another concept from Dune are the Bene-Gesserits. In the interest of brevity, we’ll just call them witches (though this is an unfair oversimplification). They practice a level of emotional modulation that allows them to be in control of themselves in any situation.

My System:

Back in the real world, stressful situations had the ability to instantly throw me into a negative spiral, crippling my confidence and effectiveness for the rest of my day or week. I first needed to learn recognize when I’m in a situation that can trigger that mindset. I needed to channel my inner Bene-Gesserit, and attune myself to the emotional cues and external triggers that precede these situations.

I begin my subroutine as soon as these triggers come to light…at “wormsign.”

  1. Upon wormsign, I remove myself from the situation. I let any necessary parties know that I’ll be back in 5-10 minutes.  This allows me to clear my head, align my thoughts, and continue the subroutine.
  2. WWMDD – “What Would Muad’Dib Do?” Just as the hero of Dune is able to overcome his fear in order to lead his people, I must focus my thoughts and channel my actions. I clear my head and spend the next 5-ish minutes developing three possible courses of action. I specifically look towards removing the personal aspect from the equation and to getting the best possible result for the client and the company (if this particular sandworm is personal or non-work related, the beneficiaries change situationally).
  3. DWMDWD – “Do What Muad’Dib Would Do.” After thinking of three possible courses of action, I choose the most effective/most realistic/most advantageous and return to the original situation to implement this solution. The act of removing the personal aspect of the stressful situation transforms it into an opportunity to solve a problem.

Things to remember:

  • Stay off the sand! – Be mindful of your triggers, and work to avoid sandworms before you are in a stressful situation.
  • Think like an Entrepreneur and Creatively Develop Smart Solutions. – Two of the core values at goBRANDgo! become perfect mantras for coping. When you let the problem take control, you’ve given up your edge, and you become a tool for mediocrity.
  • Read Dune. – This is actually advice for anyone who’s gotten though this wiki. It’s an incredible, rich book, written by a polymathematical wizard.
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