Stress is Good

Explicitly triggered by Syp’s post, but something my wife and I have been chatting about recently.

Plain and simple, people grow through challenge.  If you’re not challenged, you’re not growing.  And we all know people who have opted to stop growing.  One of the side-effects of challenge is stress, or out ability to manage the challenge.  Some people crumple, some people thrive.  Everyone is different and everyone has their own level of comfort.

I was on a course recently related to career progression.  I’m at the point in my career where the next step is not really an increment but a leap in responsibility.  The burnout rate at that level is substantially higher, and the training is supposed to help folks come to terms with that reality.  We were 25 in the course and after the first day, about 5 had decided it wasn’t for them.

On the 2nd last day was a group exercise.  It was a mining simulation where you mined for a particular resource in order to gain credits.  These credits could be exchanged at the local market for a variety of items, including the ability to automatically mine more resources.  There was a distinct lack of details and direction, and there was a rather strict time factor.  Every 15 minutes the prices at the store changed, the clerks either became helpful or impeding, and stock levels would go up or down.  It was very hectic.

As a player, we were tasked with collecting credits to leave the mine within the allotted time.  No one knew how many credits were necessary, you just guessed and tried a special door.  If you go through, there was no way to tell the others.  You needed to work individually for that goal, but in order to get resources/credits you needed to work with other people.  At various parts, there were rules and instructions.

I would think that most people reading this blog would have excelled at this particular game.  The wide majority of online games use this model.  So for me, I just went with the flow.  I mined the optimal path (after a few minutes of reading additional instructions), bought excavators very early and soon had a massive amount of credits.  I wasn’t sure how many were needed to win.  I found a rather obscure rule entry that stated I could buy and item (for half my credits) that allowed me to see how many credits were needed and then tell the rest of the group.  Time was short, but I did it anyway.  I found out I had enough credits, ran back to the group and told them if they had X amount to follow.  Those that had more, they could share with the others.

Of the 25 that played, 1 guy succeeded without group play and was sitting alone in the other room.  I brought over a dozen people with me.  When we finished the simulation and broke down what happened, those that didn’t get out had one of two responses.

  • That was too crazy, I had no idea what was going on, panicked and just gave up
  • I didn’t find it fun, so I gave my credits to other people and played dead

Which upon reflection is how most people deal with stress.  They either succeed alone, succeed with others, crash and burn, or simply give up.

While there were people on the fence before that simulation, once it was complete it was rather clear who was cut out for the next step in their career.  From 25, there were 3 of us left.  And that’s a good thing because everyone learned more about themselves.  Folk had started with assumptions, and through trial, they grew.  They all learned how they dealt with stress, and at what level they were comfortable.

I enjoyed it.  Not only for the actual activity, but for the lessons I learned about myself.  I found that I have great focus when under stress, and that I will make efforts to bring people along through the journey, if they want to.  I much prefer a team victory than a solo one, but that I won’t hesitate to leave someone behind who has no interest in success.  (side bar, my wife fills in that gap, with a very large heart for other people in times of stress).  There are things I can tweak here and there, some additional techniques that I can hone up on, but generally I am quite happy with the results.

Now for another escape-the-room event…



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