Get ready for a punch

There are two times you get punched: when you’re expecting it and when you aren’t. Sometimes you know what’s coming, but there might also be times where you get punched, seemingly out of nowhere.

Spoiler for those that haven’t tried this: getting punched hurts, no matter what.

The question is, what can you do to make it hurt less?

In some ways, knowing you’re going to get punched is worse because you know what’s coming. I’ve only boxed a couple of times, but it turns out that the ring is really (really, really!) small. Half the people in there want to hurt you, and the other half isn’t going to stop them. You also realize that three minutes getting hit by someone feels a lot longer than three minutes of Game of Thrones.

As soon as the bell goes, you know you’re going to get hurt. At least when you get slugged out of nowhere, it’s over pretty quickly.

But you get hurt in both situations so what do you do about that?

First, you plan and train. If you know you’re going to be in an adversarial situation, make plans and prepare for that. Do your risk assessment, understand what the risks are, and mitigate those. (See? This really is about risk management.)

Second, respond. Don’t just stand there getting hit: hit back or run away. Hit back with measures to respond to the threat, protect yourself with mitigation, deploy contingency plans to reduce the impact. (And seriously, running away is always an option. We just call it risk termination.)

The important thing is that you’ve prepared so, even if the punch comes out of nowhere, you aren’t as surprised. You knew it was a possibility and you can do something about it. Again, it still hurts at first but you can overcome that more quickly. But remember, this is an endurance exercise. You must prepare for the long haul, so you can outlast the opposition whether that’s a rival, an illness or an economic downturn.

Third, you have to recover and get back on your feet. You have to get back to normal as quickly as possible because 1) you need to get on with life and 2) you might get punched again. And if you get punched again, you need to make sure you aren’t already in a weakened state.

So prepare, respond and recover. Simple, right?


Most people don’t do any of this.

Most corporations don’t do any of this.

They don’t do anything because they haven’t been punched in the mouth yet.

No doubt, they will have had bad days, but it’s easy to underestimate what getting punched is like until you actually experience it. It’s also easy to forget over time how much it hurts.

When I used to train corporate crisis management teams, people would often ask ‘how do you know when you’re really in a crisis’? There are lots of ways to address that but the simplest answer was ‘when you feel sick.’ Some people didn’t get that but the people who had been in a crisis agreed.

Oddly, it’s a bit like being in love.

You think you know what that’s like because you’ve watched a lot of Hallmark channel. But when you actually fall in love, you have the ‘now I get it‘ moment.

You have the same with tragedy. You think you’ve experienced hardship until you experience real hardship. It’s a similar, but much worse, ‘aha!‘ moment.

You might be watching a loved one going into hospital, unsure of the outcome; your product might be failing and you realize you need to announce massive layoffs; you see the police pull up outside.

You’ll feel sick and it’s going to feel a lot you just got punched.

The problem is that a lot of people and corporations haven’t been punched. They are underestimating what it’s like and aren’t preparing for what might happen.

I’m not advocating you head out and look for a fight to see for yourself what it’s like.

But I am advocating that you start thinking about what could happen and to prepare accordingly. Remember, if you’re under 30, you haven’t had to work in a bull economy and we are way overdue for a downturn. Someone’s health can deteriorate very rapidly. Markets can disappear overnight (Remember Kodak?).

Like the ads say, life comes at you fast.

At the point when you’ve already been punched, it’s too late to plan. All you can do then is respond in the moment. That’s going to look a lot like a brawl and one you probably won’t win.

Instead, do something now. Getting punched is still going to hurt but not half as much.

Photo by Bogdan Yukhymchuk on Unsplash

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