It’s easy to know what you should do. It’s easy to decide what you want to do. The problem, as always, is that life gets in the way of these well-laid plans. Other people get in the way. Friction, apathy, inertia, indecision—they all get in the way.
Les Snead, the general manager of the Los Angeles Rams, explained on the Daily Stoic podcast recently that inside the Rams organization they talk about having panic rules. What do you do when everything gets mixed up? When the other team calls an audible, when the coverage is confusing, when the play breaks down and there’s havoc on the field, when the play clock is running down and the play call hasn’t come in yet because the headsets aren’t working.
“When there’s chaos and your brain is panicking,” Snead said, “go to your panic rules. Slow down and go to your panic rules.”
This isn’t just an on-field thing. As a GM, Snead has to have panic rules too. Like when a player gets in trouble, when there is a controversy, when a tempting high risk, high reward player hits the waiver wire, when somebody wants to renegotiate a contract, when he’s being savaged in the press. If you don’t have panic rules…you’re liable to make panicked decisions. You’re liable to do something emotional, something short term, something that violates your principles and hurts your cause.
Stoicism, in theory, is a philosophy. As a practice, it is a set of panic rules.
“Just that you do the right thing” is an amazingly pithy and prescient panic rule, straight from the mouth of Marcus Aurelius. “The rest doesn’t matter,” he concluded. He’s saying don’t get distracted, don’t overthink it, don’t be led astray. In the language of football, play to the whistle, stick with your man, know your assignment.
“Remember you always have the option of having no opinion.” Another panic rule from Marcus’s writings. Meaning, when things get crazy, you should step back. Wait until you’ve made up your mind before you say or do anything. Don’t just add your judgment on top of things based on reflex.
If life was easy and perfect, we wouldn’t need panic rules. But it isn’t. Things are complicated. They go awry. We get mixed signals and we get overwhelmed. When that happens, we must always revert, at once, to our panic rules.
The key is to make it really simple. So simple that we can’t screw it up. Then, once we’ve gotten a hold of ourselves and gotten through that down, Les might say, we can huddle up, catch our breath, call the next play, and hopefully do better this time.
You can listen to our full interview with Les Snead here on The Daily Stoic podcast, which has hit over 70 million downloads worldwide! Thank you to everyone who has listened. And if you haven’t already, please subscribe!