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Set Your Course

Dr. Rob Bell
Ball State University

“The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” shouted Chicken Little. Hopefully, you remember this classic fable in which the moral is don’t believe everything you hear. Yet, the larger message is that a rumor can create mass hysteria. Imagine how the story would have turned out if Turkey Lurkey and Henny Penny had stayed their course and not made a rash decision.

General Omar Bradley once stated, “Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.” Today’s economic situation has, in effect, a large component of “the sky is falling” mentality. Economic times are indeed difficult, and it is during such times, especially in business, that people are apt to overreact and change direction. In fact, a “herd mentality” often develops because “something” is occurring - whether the sky is really falling or not. What we do know is that the herd mentality and overreaction happens out of fear, rather than rationality and logic. John Wooden preached, “Concentrate on your team, not the opposition.” He was famous for not worrying about what other teams may do. He was only focused on preparing his team.

While others follow the herd, it is imperative to remain un-common during times of distress. The only sure way to resist the herd mentality is to reaffirm your course. First, set your sail and rudder in the right direction. Evaluate where you are and the resources available. Often, people set too many goals instead of focusing on one target. Thus, set your sights on one (1) goal and put all of your energy and resources into reaching that goal.

Next, assemble your crew so everyone is on-board with the direction of the course, and so you do not bear the burden of every responsibility. Also, it is not enough to merely state our course we must revisit this course often. For example, Bill Baxter, formerly of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, set his course every day. Every morning he would look at his goals written on a 3x5 card as he walked outside his house. 

Lastly, difficult times must be viewed as challenges and how they will make us better performers. It is easy to play with confidence when your team is ahead. Only when a team is behind that can we measure the resolve and mental toughness of that team.

“The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands in moments of controversy.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.