The military training instructors (MTIs) boarded the bus and the screaming began. Thus started my USAF officer field training. There were quite a few Citadel, VMI, and Texas A&M cadets on my particular bus. We immediately stood out. As the screaming began, we calmly grabbed our gear, filed off the bus, and got into formation, expeditious like. Those that weren’t from those military schools? They looked like the folks in every movie that tries to cover the first few days of Marine boot camp or Army basic training. The volume stresses them out and they start reacting in very funny ways.
Having gone through a similar experience before, the military school types were able to keep their cool. We didn’t flinch when the MTIs stepped on the bus. We were already grabbing our gear. When the screaming started, we were already in the aisles and moving to the exit and once we stepped off the bus, we were immediately looking for the MTI pointing to where to go (as he was yelling it). Once we saw where we were to go, we lined up as we already knew how to do. Our prior training prepared us. We were “good to go.”
A lot of times the key to keeping cool is knowing exactly what to do and having the experience of having been through a similar circumstance. What this means, with respect to life, is actively preparing for the challenges you might face. For instance, if you’re going to give a speech, it means taking it and presenting it over and over again to folks who will give you an honest assessment. If you’re going to speak regularly, it means training yourself regularly like with an organization such as Toastmasters. If you’re go to work on natural gas lines, it means understanding the procedures and being prepared to execute them immediately if there’s a gas line breach. It could save lives.
Do you want to be able to keep your cool in particular situations and scenarios? Practice them. At first you’ll likely be stressed out. At first it will likely be difficult and you won’t enjoy the experience. Sometimes we place too much emphasis on enjoyment. If it is something you need to be able to do, practice until you become more comfortable. Practice until you can react with a clear head and a calm spirit. Overcome your unease. Practice, practice, practice. And then when the real situation happens, you’ll keep your cool. And you’ll stand out.