How to Navigate Stress in a Storm

How to Navigate Stress in a Storm

Sailors don’t resist the wind.

You can’t deal with the storm until you acknowledge the wind.

Fretting over things beyond your control is impotence stressing over incompetence.

The worst stress comes from resisting unalterable realities.

Image of stormy seas with a lighthouse. Sailors don't resist the wind.

We’re all sailors in a storm that isn’t ending soon. Teams are often stressed about things they can’t control.

Life isn’t returning to normal anytime soon. So why are you stressed about something you can’t change?

It’s ridiculous to stand at the helm and rage against a contrary wind. In a storm, the best you can do is lash yourself to the deck and steer into the wind. To rage against unalterable storms is arrogant futility.

Resisting the inevitable squanders resources, drains energy, and increases frustration.

Figure out how to navigate the storm in ways you can brag about around the table.

How to navigate stress in a storm:

#1. Accept the world as it is, not as you wish it was.

Stop looking for magic fairy dust. The only answer is to turn into the wind.

#2. Determine how you want to show up – before you show up.

Don’t let unalterable turbulence distract you from things within your control, your attitude for example.

#3. Focus on the way you treat each other.

The most important thing about us is the way we treat each other while we do the work.

#4. Give yourself and others some grace.

It’s nearly impossible to achieve the same results in a hurricane as in calm seas. Yes, aim high. Challenge yourself AND stop raging against the storm.

#5. Ask your team three questions.

  1. “How soon do you believe things will settle down?”
  2. “With reality in mind, how do we want to treat each other?”
  3. “What does success look like TODAY?”

How might leaders best serve teams that are experiencing long-term turbulence?

What suggestions do you have for navigating stress in a storm?

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24 of My Most Important Quotes

Are you familiar with Reader’s Digest? In business since 1922, it famously condenses books and articles to make information more quickly and readily accessible.

I’ve been speaking full time for 36 years. I’ve written eight books and have coauthored several more. I have hours and hours of material I’ve presented and still frequently present. What follows is a “Reader’s Digest” version of what I consider to be my most important ideas and lessons.

I’ve condensed each as a stand alone idea that hopefully doesn’t need explanation. But if what follows piques your interest, most can be found in the books I’ve authored to date.

     Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be extraordinary.

     You don’t need a title to be a leader.

     Inspiration is motivation to the power of purpose.

     Better always beats best.

     Different isn’t necessarily good. Different that is valued is good.

     Leaders don’t just tell a better story, they make the story better.

     Fear nothing but to waste the present moment.

     We all know how good we’ve become but none of us know how good we could be.

     Leadership is an invitation to greatness we extend by example.

     Customers don’t remember sameness. They remember different that they value.

     Experimentation and agility beat process and planning every time.

     Your resume and your legacy are two different things.

     In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it is deadly.

     Position never determines performance in life, ultimately performance determines position in life.

     To give great service, treat customers and clients like friends.

     Take life one day at a time, and make each day better than the last.

     Don’t copy the crowd, learn from the leaders.

     It is hard to be thoughtful if you’re moving too fast.

     You always accomplish more cooperating with people than you do competing against them.

     Add value to the important work you do.

     To get full credit for your successes, you’ve got to take credit for you failures.

     Life puts us into classes we wouldn’t have signed up for. The choice is to learn or languish.

     Don’t just have a hero. Be a hero to someone else.

     Nobody gets really better accidentally. Only wine improves over time without effort.

Have you read or heard any other ideas from my work you’d suggest including? Please let me know.

I hope these little ideas give you big insights into how you can live your life and do business better.


Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit 

Author: Mark Sanborn

Mark holds the Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association (NSA) and is a…

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Thieves of Thankfulness – 3 Traits That Inhibit Gratitude

Thieves of Thankfulness – 3 Traits That Inhibit Gratitude

I searched, “What’s good about ingratitude,” and the article at the top of the page was titled, “14 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude According to Science.”

I searched, “Benefits of ingratitude,” and the first article was, “The BENEFITS of Gratitude.”

Google must think I need help.

Benefits of ingratitude:

  1. Anxiety.
  2. Resentment.
  3. Sadness.
  4. Distrust of others.
  5. Isolation.
  6. Weak relationships.
  7. Poor health.

The only thing good about ingratitude is thankfully you’ll die sooner than grateful people. You’ll be out of your misery. Positive emotion can help you live 10% to 15% longer.

Image of R.I.P. The only thing good about ingratitude is thankfully you'll die sooner than grateful people.

Thieves of thankfulness – 3 Traits that Inhibit Gratitude:

Philip Watkins’s research indicates narcissism, cynicism, and envy/materialism are thieves of thankfulness. Narcissism is most deadly.

I decided to see if I was materialistic, cynical, and/or narcissistic. The results were disappointing.

You might be a narcissist if you:

  1. Have an excessive sense of grandeur. I want to change my last name to ‘Grande’. Danny Grande’ has a real ring to it. Don’t you think?
  2. Feel you’re worthy of special treatment. I don’t really feel like I deserve special treatment, but I seem to enjoy getting on airplanes ahead of others.
  3. Often monopolize conversations. (The trouble with this one is you don’t notice it.)
  4. Have shallow relationships. People are important only as they bring benefit.
  5. Think others are always out to get something from you.
  6. Love perfectionism.
  7. Struggle to deal with criticism.
  8. Frequently demean others.
  9. Blame others for your behavior.
  10. Can’t compromise.

Why gratitude is difficult:

If you don’t need others, but others need you, gratitude is a strain.

Gratitude acknowledges benefits received.

If you get bent out of shape when others don’t respond quickly to your emails or give you special treatment when you show up, gratitude is a burr under your saddle.

Entitlement and gratitude don’t play together well.

A little humility might up your gratitude game.

Why is gratitude difficult?

Note: I’m saving cynicism for tomorrow.

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4 Ways to Practice Gratitude when You Don’t Feel Grateful

4 Ways to Practice Gratitude when You Don’t Feel Grateful

If you believe ingratitude creates a bright feature, good luck.

Ingratitude is toxic to you and destructive to your future. Gratitude delivers unequalled benefit.

Image of a spoon being filled with honey. Unexpressed gratitude is ungratefulness.


The Big Five have been used for years to predict wellbeing and success. I’ve listed them below for your review.

The Big Five are undeniably important, but gratitude is a greater predictor of wellbeing than the Big Five. (Wood, Joseph, Maltby)

This doesn’t mean the Big Five aren’t important. It means gratitude is disproportionately powerful.


You’re not a hypocrite if you practice gratitude when you don’t feel grateful.

It’s virtue, not hypocrisy, when you feel like losing your temper, but don’t.

It’s character, not hypocrisy, if you show up for work when you’d rather be on vacation.

It’s always good to do a good thing even when you’d rather not do it.

Aspiration means you aren’t there yet. You can sincerely aspire to a good thing, even if you don’t feel like doing it.

Act your way into feeling instead of feeling your way into acting.

A collection of ‘trivial’ actions creates substantial impact.

4 ways to practice gratitude when you don’t feel grateful:

#1. Reflect on negative experiences you have overcome.

#2. Record one thing in a gratitude journal every morning and evening.

A few years ago I started writing five things in my gratitude journal every morning, but five was burdensome. I became ungrateful for my gratitude journal. Now when I journal about gratitude, I write ONE THING. Sometimes I write more. Other times, one is enough.

#3. Start gratitude conversations.

Ask people what they are thankful for. Better yet, ask, “Who are you grateful to?”

#4. Express gratitude.

Unexpressed gratitude is ungratefulness.

  1. Lower your expectations. Notice little things.
  2. Say, “I appreciate you.”
  3. Say, “I notice xyz. Thank you for doing that.”

How might leaders practice gratitude today?

What prevents people from practicing gratitude?

Image source

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How Managers Become Leaders

How Managers Become Leaders

Only 1 in 10 managers actually have the talent to manage. But lacing on leadership shoes is like discovering you’re lactose intolerant after devouring a container of ice cream.

Leaders manage and managers lead. The line between manager and leader is often fuzzy.

The closer you stand to the frontline, the more the needle shifts toward manager. But the needle always shifts toward leader when you move up.

Moving from management to leadership requires letting go of activities that earned you a promotion in the first place.

John Kotter explains the difference between manager and leader here.

Leaders who struggle after being promoted manage too much and lead too little.

Image of a coach training a female athlete in the gym. Leadership challenges become opportunities when you enable talented people.

The more and less of becoming a leader:

Manage projects – less.

Develop people – more.

You’re great at managing projects. Now you manage people who manage projects.

When you don’t make the transition well, you disempower your team with meddling.

Both managers and leaders develop people, but successful leaders spend more time developing people. I heard Jack Welch say he spent at least half his time as the CEO of GE developing people.

Leadership challenges become opportunities when you enable talented people.

Solve problems – less.

Help others solve problems – more.

Leaders create environments where people solve problems, instead of solving them themselves.

Give answers – less.

Ask questions – more.

You aren’t the expert anymore. You have a team full of experts.

A leader who knows too much is a pain in the butt. If your boss did your job before she was promoted, I pity you.

7 Shifts:

Michael Watkins, author of, “The First 90 Days,” describes 7 seismic shifts managers face after they’re promoted. (HBR)

  1. Specialist to generalist.
  2. Analyst to integrator.
  3. Tactician to strategist.
  4. Bricklayer to architect.
  5. Problem solver to agenda setter.
  6. Warrior to diplomat.
  7. Supporting cast member to lead role.

How do managers become leaders?

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Victims: The People Leaders Deal with Everyday

Victims: The People Leaders Deal with Everyday

Self-destructive responses to life multiply like flies on roadkill. The worst response is pervasive and sinister. It’s the lie of victimhood. This lie, like breathing, usually goes unnoticed.

The worst thing about victimhood is there’s truth in the lie. You are a victim. Life is, for the most part, beyond your control.

Rain on your wedding, the time the mail comes, and an undetected tumor in your bowel are all beyond your control. You can’t control people, including your teammates. It’s a good thing you can’t. Everyone would be less than human if you could.

One thing:

The one thing you can always control in a world gone wild is your response to it. Response is where the subtleties of victimhood take root, grow, and strangle your potential.

Things victims don’t say:

Victims don’t say, “I was late because I slept in.” Who hasn’t blamed traffic?

Are you a victim of heavy traffic? Absolutely! You can’t control the idiot who is texting while driving and rear-ends the car ahead of him.

Politicians are professional victims. Republicans blame Democrats and Democrats blame Republicans. The current administration always blames the previous one or two or three administrations.

Comfort in victimhood:

Victimhood is a cozy fire in a cold world.

Things outside your control are freedom from responsibility. “But he hit me first.”

You aren’t accountable for something you can’t control.

  1. Victims subtly proclaim innocence.
  2. Every claim of victimhood affirms helplessness.
  3. Helplessness is always frustrating.

Image of a long-horn steer. The only thing you can control - for sure - is your response to things you can't control.

From victim to victor:

  1. Choose to do something different next time.
  2. Shift direction instead of spiraling.
  3. Forgive and move on, even if you can’t reconcile.
  4. Explore instead of looking for sympathetic partners that affirm your helplessness.

The only thing you can control – for sure – is your response to things you can’t control.

What expressions of victimhood are you seeing in others? In yourself?

How might leaders defeat the enemy of victimhood?

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The Secret to Managing How you Feel

The Secret to Managing How you Feel

Sometimes I feel jazzed. Other times I’m just dopey. I come alive while I’m doing something. Lying in bed drains my vitality. The less I do, the less I feel like doing.

Feelings follow actions.

Image of a group of wooden pawns with one out in front. Feelings follow actions.


The things you feel are consequences of the things you do.

Feeling grateful is the result of acting with gratitude.

Feeling kind is the result of doing something useful for others without expecting payment.

You aren’t a victim of feelings. You create them.

The secret to managing feelings is creating them.

Will Durant summarized Aristotle when he wrote, “You are what you repeatedly do.” I’m shifting the focus of that statement. You feel in alignment with what you repeatedly do.

Behaviors drive feelings:

The physical act of smiling when you aren’t happy increases happiness. If you don’t believe me, walk around with a big grin on your face. It’s a silly illustration, but it’s still true.

The act of standing like Wonder Woman with your hands on your hips boosts feelings of confidence. (Youtube)

Actions drive feelings.

Suppose you’re a pro at feeling grumpy. The problem isn’t the feeling. It’s your lack of doing. Grumpy people aren’t doing what they think should be done. Usually they want someone else to do it.

Over a hundred years ago, noted psychologist William James wrote, ”We feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble.” Not everyone accepts these observations, but it would serve you well to practice the truth behind them, even if it feels weird.

Suppose you want to feel vitality today. Act like results depend on you. Do something that matters. Waiting for permission to act is an invitation for exhaustion and frustration.

How do actions drive feelings for you?

How might leaders leverage the idea that actions drive feelings?

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3 Ways to be a Leader Worth Following Today

3 Ways to be a Leader Worth Following Today

If you’re proud of yourself for leading, you’re doing it wrong.

Leaders worth following feel joy for occasionally getting it right, but they don’t strut around like bantam roosters followed by flocks of adoring hens.

The leader worth following is always learning. The cocky leader walks in circles with a compass that points in the wrong direction.

A leader worth following always cares, especially in the throws of difficulty. Anyone who enjoys kicking people down is a lousy leader.

Compassion and arrogance don’t scratch in the same barn yard. Arrogance cares more for itself than anyone else. Leaders consumed with themselves don’t have space for compassion and empathy.

Puzzle with piece out of place. Leaders who have it all together, don't.

Lousy leaders take offense easily, quickly, and frequently. Thin-skinned leaders are sandbags in everyone’s balloon.

The leader worth following extends forgiveness.

The leader worth following lifts the fallen, teaches the ignorant, and encourages the weak.

The leader worth following feels grateful to contribute.

Generosity, not greed, makes leaders great.

3 ways to be a leader worth following:

#1. Develop yourself more aggressively than you develop anyone else.

Leaders who have it all together, don’t.

  1. Read.
  2. Listen.
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Consider alternatives.
  5. Practice structured self-reflection.
  6. Hire a coach.
  7. Spend time with mentors.

#2. Extend kindness.

Kindness always applies, even when terminating someone. Meanness disqualifies you from leadership.

The foundation for the tough side of leadership is kindness.

Toughness without kindness is closed and abrasive.

#3. Think highly of others.

Arrogance is frequently angry and seldom pleased with others. Joy and arrogance are incompatible.

You look like a ding-bat when you walk around like the cock-of-the-walk.

You don’t have to put yourself down to lift others up.

  1. Appreciate desirable character traits.
  2. Expect people to perform up to their capabilities.
  3. Respect potential.
  4. Challenge people to rise to challenges.

What is true of leaders worth following?

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