Updated: Aug 7, 2020
Can you recall the most insane day you’ve had at work? Was it a positive and quirky type of hectic, or an anxiety-producing torrent of professional misfortunes? For me, it was a day working patrol on the ski slopes. I arrived beneath a canvas of stars and snowflakes sporting all my gear, ready for a morning of avalanche mitigation. Loading my pack with bombs I trudged out into the blizzard. My nose burned in the icy cold as I zipped up my coat and plummeted down the mountain with my team. It was as I cut into our route that I felt the avalanche break beneath my skis. Skidding with the mass of fluffy death I thought, “Keep your head, you are trained to deal with this and deal with it you will.”
We strive for organization, control and domination in our careers. This is an important and natural behavior; the only catch is that change and uncertainty are capable of disrupting even the best laid plans. Most of us accept this in theory, but when the unexpected erupts in the midst of our big project, it’s natural to feel disconcerted. While we may not know it, we need this kind of stimulation. Such unforeseen obstacles can be frustrating but they are also what ultimately promotes advancement and development. Monotony is not the source of creativity and innovation; startling diversion from the original course is, more often than not, what feeds growth in the long run.
Whether you work from an office, school or mountainside, we all have lessons to learn from our most unprecedented days at work. To put this concept into perspective, let’s take a look at three of the world’s most extraordinary jobs. While the content of their work may be vastly different from what most of us experience, exploration of their methods will shed light on approaching our own workplace challenges with innovation, determination and creativity.
PADI Scuba Instructor
A PADI Scuba Instructor’s days are filled with ocean breezes, salty dives and dramatic underwater scenery. The primary task each morning is to load the boat with appropriate gear, including tanks, regulators, BCDs or buoyancy control devices, wetsuits, masks and fins. Dive computers and compasses are musts for the pros. Before performing the backwards roll into the water, students recite the classic mnemonic, “Beluga Whales Really Are Fun” to assist them in remembering their final gear checks: BCD, weights, regulator, air, fins. “Beer, Wine, Rum Are Fun” works just as well if you prefer a different kind of entertainment. Every day as an instructor is different, bringing fresh challenges in the form of new students, water conditions and coursework. The Rescue Diver course is one of the most enjoyable and intense to teach. Instructors do several underwater scenarios in which they pretend to act like panicking divers so their students learn to make rapid on-scene decisions. Adaptability, quick thinking and precise communication are essential qualities as a dive instructor. Though there’s no speaking as soon as the descent has begun, discussing the plan before and debriefing the dive afterwards are crucial to maintaining a successful workplace. Once beneath the waves, clear hand signals, good situational awareness and a flawless buddy system are absolutely fundamental. While not all of us dive for a living, we should remember not to underestimate the power of solid communication and flexible thinking throughout all phases of a project.
Walt Disney World Imagineer
Being a Disney Imagineer is an exciting career path that brings together such disciplines as engineering, art, mathematics, history, computer science and anthropology. Their work revolves around immersive storytelling designed to plunge guests into fictional worlds where sight, sound and taste work together to support a vision. Creating worlds depends upon the collaboration of such diverse specialists as: color experts, whose task it is to catch the eye with appropriate use of tones and shades; fragrance creators, whose job it is to design the subtle smells that make each land feel real; and even rock technicians, whose sole focus is on digitally constructing boulders for the parks. Buildings, landscaping, signage, costumes, music, food and special effects all go into making worlds and characters come to life. It takes a tremendous amount of vision, research and skill to create something that has never been seen before. Though designing entire worlds doesn’t likely apply to most of us, interdisciplinary collaboration, abundant use of creativity and resourceful problem solving apply to almost any work scenario.
Equine therapists use the power and presence of horses as an instrument for therapeutic healing. Their primary goal is to assist clients in reprogramming thought patterns by replacing negative mental pathways with positive ones. The role of the therapist is to create a safe space for relationship building, self discovery and emotional healing. People with severe anxiety, depression, behavioral disorders and general life-stress would be ideal candidates for such treatments. A therapist’s day requires relating on a deep level to each client and focusing energies on internal growth. It’s their job to facilitate a thoughtful and rewarding emotional connection between horse and student. They must confront adversity on a daily basis, constantly striving to encourage clients to retain a healthy mental state. They must possess a tremendous amount of patience, emotional stability, empathy, compassion and perseverance as they perform their duties. Such characteristics are essential for quality performance and are often overlooked in today’s busy workplace. Finding balance between energetic efficiency at work, and rejuvenating recovery from stress is crucial for maximizing focus, memory and productivity. Remembering to prioritize the subtle components of success will increasingly be a factor in professional achievement.
My avalanche that day ripped the ground out from under me, quite literally, but it also reminded me to expect the unexpected. There I was at the bottom, heart pounding, buried up to my waist in snow. I was exhilarated from the ride, humbled by the unknown and motivated by the uncertainty. Good business needs adversity to innovate, challenge to create, and an occasional dose of crazy to advance. While there’s a whole arsenal of attributes that define successful people, there’s no doubt that our most extraordinary days at work require good communication, adaptability, creativity, collaboration, patience and perseverance. So the next time something epic hits you at work, remember to keep your chin up; because while it may not have been a part of the initial plan, there’s no question that it’s necessary to the plan.