“Mind and mitigate”, Is that even a thing? I mean those two words packaged together to form a clever way of coupling situational awareness and risk controls. OK, If I actually just coined it, then you have to mention my name every time you say it 😀! Anyhow, what I’m really trying to convey is “MIND your surroundings and MITIGATE the risks”. I’ve said it so many times while writing this article that I’m now channeling a Liam Neeson voice to make it sound even more illustrious and dignified. Try it with his voice, “Mind your surroundings and mitigate the risks”. Sounds like something he would say, right? Nonetheless, I think I’m screwing it up because I sound more like the Sean Connery character from the SNL Celebrity Jeopardy skit. Well, I digress
Situational awareness is a critical skill. Our ancestors would have literally been eaten if they didn’t keep their head on a swivel. Additionally, they had to implement certain controls to reduce risk of being eaten alive, like hunting and foraging in groups, fashioning weapons for protection and using natural terrain to their advantage. Today, with all the creature comforts mixed with a relatively safe society, it’s easy to decline into a false sense of security. As humans, we actually come equipped with some cutting edge technology for minding our surroundings. It’s called natural instinct, aka “gut feelings”…”negative vibes”…”a hunch”…”somethings in the air”…”bad JuJu”, or whatever you want to call it. Yet, many of us will be quick to dismiss this subconscious superpower when it kicks in. In our modern civilization, you can often times fall prey to normalcy bias, “Nothing bad has ever happened to me, so it probably never will”. In other words, the old fan favorites, “Denial and Complacency”, that dreaded two-headed monster. That duo is just like the two creepy Savage Brothers from the classic film “Mystic River”, that smooth talk you into some friendly drinks at the bar right before they dump you in the river.
Do you know that scene? Here it is in a nut shell (Spoiler alert). Dave (Tim Robbins’ Character) feels his instinct screaming “stranger danger, wave off!”. But, Dave doesn’t want to offend anyone and hopes everything will be fine. So, he ignores the alarm bells and reluctantly accepts the Savage Brother’s invitation. Then it off to sleep with the fishes!
Can you imagine this same behavior by other animal species? Imagine a zebra (lets call him Marty – “Madagascar” reference) is hanging out eating some grass on the Serengeti. A lion stalks him just out of sight. The zebra’s instinct communicates to him that danger is nearby (Run Marty, Run!). The zebra thinks, “Ah, it’s just me overreacting, I’m good”, and goes back to eating grass. As the lion sinks his teeth into Marty’s neck, his last thoughts are, “I can’t believe this is happening to me”. Probably an unlikely behavior for most in the animal kingdom. In contrast, seems only the smartest species on the planet behaves like this!
So, how do you avoid Denial & Complacency, or the Savage Brothers for that matter?
Cultivate the Right Mental Attitude.
Like the Boy Scouts (I mean “The Scouts”), adopt a “Be Prepared” mindset. Acknowledge that it’s not all seventh heaven and cloud 9 out there. While rare, it is possible that you could cross paths with an aggressive sociopath, be in a catastrophic car crash or just come face to face with some nasty trouble. Remember, we are preparing for that one single incident that could happen tomorrow or twenty years from now. That one incident is a game changer. So, get in the proper head space.
Practice Situational Awareness
Get your head out of the sand. Don’t watch Dawson’s Creek on your smart phone or check your Instagram feed while you’re in public. Head up, shoulders back! Now, look around and practice those observation skills. Establish what the baseline looks like for that environment so you can recognize an anomaly when it happens. It’s that simple.
Take Some Risk out of the “Sitch”
Put some risk controls in place to offset your vulnerabilities. For example, the average EMS response is around 7 minutes once 911 is activated. Two preventable types of death that can occur in that first 7 minutes is from a massive hemorrhage or an airway issue. Therefore, learn how to use a tourniquet, get certified in CPR, stage necessary equipment in your home, car and office. The Las Vegas Massacre resulted in 58 deaths and 422 wounded by gunfire. Some of the concert-goers were prepared, had training, and jumped into action to keep many of those wounded victims from becoming part of the death toll. They used improvised tourniquets, applied pressure dressings and rushed victims to nearby trauma centers in private vehicles. There was no lack of valor on the streets of Sin City that fateful night.
Trust your Instincts
Don’t be like Dave or Marty and ignore those alarms. So much is taking place in your subconscious brain all day and night, it’s a constant series of programs in action. It rarely lets you get a peak behind the curtain, but when it does, pay attention. Trust it and take a reasonable action in response.
We learn through repetition. Every habit you have, good or bad, got that way via conditioning. This is exactly the regimen your subconscious brain responds to when the goal is to program a new behavior. Keep practicing your observation skills and minding your surroundings on a daily basis, it will take hold. Continue to look at your home and work life and assess how you can make it safer.
Congratulations, your new security posture looks marvelous, wear it with pride. Meanwhile, keep working on your Liam Neeson voice, that way when your kids ask you for the latest smartphone, you can respond with, “I can tell you I don’t have money… but what I do have are a very particular set of skills…”