HOW TO HONE YOUR
conff idence focus… AND
THE MOST STRESSFUL Y E A R O F M Y L I F E was
Plebe year – or Freshman year – at West Point. Real world situations may be tougher, have higher stakes, or take a greater emotional toll, but the restrictions placed on Plebes and the marathon of that first year intentionally tests the mettle of every cadet. Plebes are exposed to a year of little sleep, long days, and challenges that are designed to scare or stress them. The scare comes in the form of physical challenges: walk a wobbly log, suspended 50 feet in the air, with a set of 3 stairs in the middle. The stress comes in the form of endless tasks, none of which are particularly difficult but on top of a heavy academic load, with no sleep and not enough hours in the day to complete them you are going to fail, fail badly, and everyone will know it.
L K N e x p e rt
Ms. Richardson is a former military officer and owns Cygnal Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing clients with processes, tools, and leadership for Project, Enterprise, and Emergency Risk Management. She is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. The statements here do not represent advice or risk assessment.
Particularly stressful for Plebes is being limited to four responses: “Yes, Sir (or Ma’am)”; “No, Sir”; “No Excuse, Sir”; and “Sir, I do not understand.” Every Fourth Class Cadet quickly realizes the toughest response is “No Excuse.” Prior to college, teenagers are filled with excuses. It was eye opening for me. Being held responsible for all outcomes regardless of who was at fault sharpened my focus. Incredibly, I learned I could influence outcomes in the toughest of circumstances. The results were terrific. It taught me to prioritize work, know my resources, prepare properly, and to be
creative. It taught me personal responsibility and I learned that leaders – good leaders – take full responsibility for failures while delegating success to their teams. Living the results, I developed an incredible sense of confidence. Confidence beyond that of a good student and varsity athlete; the confidence of someone who knows how to complete the mission. Everyone should challenge themselves to two months of these responses in their professional and personal lives—and perhaps we could challenge our teenagers! Imagine replacing the sounds of, “But Mom! It wasn’t my fault…” with “No Excuse, Mom.” And seeing rooms cleaned, grades improved, and curfews met. No really! Limiting ourselves to these four responses is a clarifying, eye-opening experience. I challenge my risk teams to assess what is truly within their realm of influence when they develop their response plans. For example, a contractor threw his hands up and said once their manufactured part leaves Europe it is out of their hands. Customs could take months. I quietly, relentlessly challenged the standard practice of ship and wait. As a result he identified – and avoided – common border delays. The parts in fact were early. It is a life-changing perspective, and I am grateful for being forced through it! w
WRITER VANESSA RICHARDSON
November 2019 Lake Norman Woman Magazine