Sunday, April 8, 2012


Equanimity is the second aspect of Personal Mastery. Equanimity is calm when conditions are stormy. Keeping afloat when the waves grow higher. Having all the time in the world when an urgent reaction is essential for survival. Now zombies are always calm. They are half-dead. I don't mean that kind of calm. That is the kind of calm that kills when we need to respond to survive. I mean the kind of calm that ensures a proper response.

It reminds me of a story about Von Moltke, the architect of the Prussian Generalstab during the war against Austria in 1866. When the High Command, filled with the king and many princes of the blood got word of a lost battle, they clamored for immediate action. Von Moltke agreed that certainly something needed to be done and that he would do that right away: smoke one of his best cigars. He lighted that cigar with the utmost care and precision. They ran over Austria anyway. Why? While they had an excellent strategy that could easily absorb a tactical setback. Von Moltke knew this. He retained peace of mind.
The opposite of equanimity is uncontrolled, blinding excitement: bursts of emotional words and impulsive deeds. I guy called Adolf Hitler did that, drove his generals crazy and wasted his armies. Two cardinal sins, especially the first.
A lively mind under calm conditions that is calm under lively conditions, that is personal mastery, an aspect of personal mastery.
Clear-mindedness, what I discussed before, certainly helps to retain equanimity, as it puts things in their proper perspective.

So equanimity is a quality that almost sleeps under normal conditions and shines brighter when the conditions darken. It has survival value in crises. Equanimity is important in meeting enemies, but also in working with allies who are impulsive, petty-minded or weak.
Managers who are meeting one crisis after an other, usually try to dampen fires that they let burn for too long or - even worse - they have lighted themselves are well-known. In Brazil they are called bombeiros, fire-fighters, running from one fire to another. Often, they wait for fires to flare up, as they are incapable to deal with threats that are foreseen, but not yet actual. Of course, the best way to deal with crises is to nip them in the bud, not to wait for the full-grown variety. Those people are addicted to conflict and crisis, like some fire-fighters are actually arsonists.

Also in private life, we know people that are running from one problem to the other, always running after the facts, huffing and puffing, complaining, blaming everybody, sometimes even themselves. How do you recognize such a person even when meeting him or her for the first time? They make a lot of unnecessary movements, they talk a lot of unnecessary words and they drain your energy. People without equanimity often hate people with it.

What kind of people need equanimity the most? Judges, mediators, marriage counselors. Police. And real fire-fighters.
Equanimity ensures effective, even graceful response. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

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