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How To Stay Calm During Turbulence | Learning To Be Clear Headed During Chaos

One of my superpowers is the ability to stay calm during stressful moments. I know how to think without my emotion overrunning my ability to look at the clear and present situation. For me, being able to do this is the #1 skill every CEO and leader needs to develop.

It is the CEO of the ‘Zen’ moment.

The challenge with developing this superpower is that you need to put yourself in stressful situations and make you feel out of control. But, who would willingly do that? We don’t go looking for discomfort, and we look for the opposite. Comfort. Less stress. 

Oddly, I learned how to develop my superpower while building my music business, first as a Dj, then a promoter and now, for the last 15 years, CEO at DESIFEST, Canada’s largest South Asian Urban Music festival. When you walk into a new club or venue to set up for music, a 1000 things can go wrong. No power, equipment doesn’t work, and the internet is shitty, mic and speakers are not working or loud enough and on and on. The first time I DJed, I couldn’t hear my mix because the CUE broke on my way there. How do you DJ if you can’t hear your mix! Similarly, every year at DESIFEST, for 12hrs, we face a consistent and constant list of issues while running the show. It is my job as the captain to solve the problems, support the team, and make sure the show runs smoothly.  

Let me share tips, 

  1. Breath. The first thing you subconsciously do is change your breathing. It becomes faster and intense. I recognize and try to control my breathing asap. There are lots of breathing techniques you can find, and mine is straightforward. I do the 3-3 process, 3 Deep Breaths and 3 Deep Exhales.
  2. Understand the scope asap. For example, we had an artist who was running over 30 mins late. Before we can decide on a solution, we need to understand the scope. What is the impact? Can we bump them? Can we swap them? Can we stall time? Are we late or running early on the show? Take a step back and looking at the full scope will help you in step 3.
  3. What elements can you NOT control or impact? The sooner you figure out what you can or cannot affect, the smaller the problem becomes. When things are not going your way, your brain’s job is to protect you and to do so, and the brain’s job is to create the most magnificent, fearful scenario that stops you cold. It is our natural defence, and to disable it; you need to reduce the problem’s size. 
  4. Finally, when your breathing is back to normal, you have a better scope of the problem, and you know what you control, you are ready for the last step. The final step is to decide – don’t overthink to make the perfect decision or the right decision, just a decision to move forward. Then, make another decision, and continue taking small actions. This step creates momentum and starts to open up your closed mind, coming out of fear. When you can transition your brain back into supporting you, you know you can develop an abundance of new ideas! 


These four steps have helped me manage stressful moments across startups, personal and health challenges, relationships and more. When you have the process to help you maintain your CEO Zen, you also take more risks and get out of your comfort zone! 


Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

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