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Monday, September 23, 2013

Ain’t Nobody Dying Here

While I was principal of a large high school in the city, I once served with an assistant principal who saliently captured an excellent measure of “emergency” response.  

When others would be “on fire” about bells not working, buses being late, a food fight in the cafeteria, a malfunctioning fire alarm, this assistant principal regularly brought the team back to reality with a phrase that we had heard from him a million times: “Hey, there ain’t nobody dying here.” 

He had a way of helping us sift through the clutter of urgency and the perceived level of emergency by framing it against a REAL barometer of alarm – life threatening situations. 

Whatever our workplace, there are perceived “emergencies”:  Late shipments, phone systems that don’t work, spilled milk, flat tires, rain when we need to be planting, etc., etc., etc.  Almost all of those “emergencies” are best dealt with in a calm, reasonable, and attentive fashion – just without panic.  

I once read that emergency room physicians are taught to respond to all emergencies in a leisurely fashion.  There is a reason those physicians don’t panic – it never improves (and almost always worsens) the effectiveness of response.  (And those folks frequently ARE dealing with life-threatening situations.)

Reacting to adversity in a measured and judicious way (without panic) is a learnable skill.  We can launch that learning beginning NOW (especially if being "on fire" doesn't seem to be working for us).


  1. I used to work with a network administrator who had a similar saying with the same philosophy. My son has been an ER nurse for almost 10 years and he is one of the most calm people I know. It certainly does help put one's problems in perspective.

    1. In one of his books Tony Dungy mentions the fact that former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers had a consistent theme he imposed on his players: "Panic is not part of the game plan."

  2. You modeled this behavior for us everyday when you were my principal. I soon began to apply it to my everyday life. Whether standing in line to check out and allowing those with less items to go ahead of me or to helping my husband find an item he has misplaced, panic and being "on fire" just doesn't make any of these tasks go faster. Thank you NC for giving my blood pressure a slower and longer life! Just another blessing God dropped into my life.

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