How to Stay Calm and Effective When Chaos is Swirling Around You.


There’s a photo on the wall in a restaurant near the Grand Canyon. It shows a rubber pontoon raft in the middle of a rapid on the Colorado River in the Canyon. It’s in the process of flipping over, and inside are a bunch of folks about to go for a swim. This is not the photo, but it looks something like this.

I’ve had the opportunity to go on a number of rafting trips down the canyon because one of my best  friends is Brian Hansen, who has been leading river trips down the Canyon for 30 years.

Brian is one of the coolest cats I know. You have to be pretty steady to drive a rubber boat filled with passengers of all ages into a monster rapid such as Lava Falls, one of the biggest rapids on the river. A lot of things can go wrong, not just on the river, but on land as well. Brian recently told me about one of the most severe situations he’s had to deal with down in the Canyon.

It was a calm, placid day in the Canyon, and Brian and his river rafting passengers were camped out on a beach on the river. Suddenly it started to cloud up, and within seconds, a tornado, known as a microburst, hit the campsite with furious force.  The campsite was destroyed within minutes. The air was filled with swirling sand. Sleeping bags, cooking equipment, and tents were scattered to the four winds. One of the big rubber rafts was lifted into the air and came down on a passenger. The wind was howling so loud you couldn’t talk to someone two feet in front of you. People were freaking out, throwing up, running around with no idea what was happening and no clue what to do. One guy, plainly in shock, was calmly standing with a pad and pen in his hand, remembering out loud that he had missed a dental appointment. No one was able to stop the fury of nature, and devastation and chaos reigned supreme.

Now, you and I probably don’t have these things happen to us all that much. Nevertheless, from time to time we all  find ourselves in situations where there is a lot of pressure to perform, or things start falling apart, or there is mass disorganization, whether at work, home, or out there. Here’s some tips on what to do,  according to my buddy Brian Hansen, when the situation you’re in becomes FUBAR. (Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition.)

  • If possible, Anticipate, Prepare and Rehearse. You may not be able to do this. But if you know you are going into a situation where anything can happen, then rehearse in your mind how you can respond to possible challenges. See yourself acting calmly and in control. Write down what might go wrong and what you can do. Have resources that could help close at hand. Brian has received years of training in medical interventions and has been EMT certified for decades.
  • Can you be part of the solution, or will you be part of the problem?The first thing Brian did was to realize he could not do everything that needed to be done. Instead, he made sure he was OK, uninjured, and able to respond. Be honest in your assessment of your capability to handle the situation. If you’re in over your head, turn it over to someone else. Ask yourself, “Am I OK? Am I mentally, physically and emotionally able to handle this?” If not, bow out without shame.
  • Triage: what is the most pressing problem? For Brian, it was the guy the boat landed on. He could be dead or dying and that situation required an immediate response. Address the most urgent need first, and prioritize quickly as to what action can make the biggest positive difference.
  • What resources are available? If there are none, how can they be procured and used most wisely? For Brian Hansen, trying to get a guy out from under a giant pontoon boat required human resources: other people that could help lift the boat and pull the guy out. For you, it might be listening to suggestions. When Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise is in deep doo doo and his ship is about to be destroyed, he’s smart enough to shout out to his crew “Suggestions!” You might need to make a phone call, or instruct someone to find an answer, or run and get whatever you need.
  • Re-asess: is what I’m doing working? What impact are you making to get control of the situation? Is what you’re doing working? If not, what can you change? Maybe you need to stop and take a break or a breather and get a new perspective. When Brian got into action and got people to help assist him, this catalyzed others to wake up and think about what they could do to help out.
  • Analyze after the fact: how can I be better prepared/how can I prevent this from happening again. Learn from mistakes that were made. You may need to document what happened, and you’ll absolutely want to document what you learned. Perhaps you became aware of a lack of skills or knowledge that you should have. You’ll want to be ready the next time. (Most, if not all river guides are required by their companies to document incidents involving injury.)

Well, the guy the raft landed on lived. He had a few “issues” as Brian put it, but didn’t need to be airlifted out of the Canyon.

Having the capacity to remain calm, cool and collected while under pressure is a valuable skill that can be learned. If you are one of those people who has a tendency to run around like a chicken without a head, give me a call. I’ll have you wrangling tornadoes in no time.

If you liked this post, please leave a comment and/or share it with your social networks.  

Your companion on the journey to transformation,


Ted A. Moreno
Personal/Small Business Coach
Certified Hypnotherapist

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Ted A. Moreno is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Success Performance Coach. Ted empowers his clients to transform their lives by helping them reach their goals of success, abundance, personal development, health and happiness. To learn more, visit
7 replies
  1. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    One of the best blogs you ever posted. Love the links. I may be partial to those fricken awesome Grand Canyon river trip. The typo in one of the bullets gave me a good chuckle, too.

  2. Kyle
    Kyle says:

    Thanks Ted! I have always wanted to do that Grand Canyon raft trip, very cool that you’ve been there & done that!

  3. germishys
    germishys says:

    Wow, I loved your post, I was actually writting one on the same topic and decided that I probably needed some few winged words from someone else, your post helped with putting another angle to my post, and I needed the tips.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  3. […] I had the opportunity to raft down the length of the Grand Canyon more than a couple of times with my wife to be and my best […]

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