“Be on guard! Be alert!” – Mark 13:33
It has been suggested that there are three kinds of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who ask, “What just happened?” The obvious question for all of us is, “which one am I?” The answer is all the above; for depending on the circumstances in which we find ourselves at various times, we may be in one category or the other. At times we may be the instigator, other times the observer. But then there are those occasions when – well, we are simply blind-sided by something that we didn’t see coming.
It was exactly eight years ago I had one of those experiences. Tee and I had risen early to go out on our routine morning jog through the neighborhood. We had not gone far when without warning I collapsed face down in the street, requiring paramedics and the whole nine yards. In the emergency room it was discovered I had suffered a double pulmonary embolism – blood clots in both lungs – an event that is often fatal. Further tests revealed a rare blood condition that caused the clots, for which I now take medication. The point is, it was one of those moments that – after I came to – caused me to ask, “what just happened?”
There’s an old saying; either lead, follow, or get out of the way. That is, whether we are making things happen or watching things happen, either way we are involved or at least aware. It’s when we are unaware that we are the most vulnerable. Had I known, for example, about my rare blood condition, the blood clot incident might have been avoided.
We are all subject to blind spots, things about ourselves of which we are unaware. That is why for those of us in the profession of coaching leaders and executives, part of our purpose is to help create awareness with clients of their blind spots – either behaviors that cause one to be less effective than she or he could be, or behaviors that are highly effective if used more intentionally. The goal is to try to minimize those moments when we look up and ask, “what just happened?”
No one can completely avoid being blind-sided. The best we can do is take steps to become more self-aware, and otherwise “Be on guard! Be alert!”