Real Rule #12: Authentically Navigating a Crisis
Not long ago, I got a phone call from a close friend at 3 a.m. She had just received an email from me, saying I was “on my way to England to help a bereaved family and desperately needed money to pay for the trip.”
The catch? I hadn’t sent an email. She knew me well enough to know I never would and that I was the victim of an internet scam.
What unfolded over the next few days was one of the most embarrassing and unsettling things I’d ever been through. My email account had been compromised; hackers had accessed my contact list and sent out this phony letter to my database of over 1,000 people, soliciting money from clients I do business with, bereaved families from all over the world, old classmates—every imaginable person I’ve had contact with in the last 10 to 15 years.
And the worst part was: they erased the entire contact list after they sent out the emails. I had no way of notifying my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances that it was NOT me—that this was a scam.
It was horrific: people I knew and loved were going to be duped into sending money to wherever these criminals were instructing them to send it. In the name of caring about me and wanting to be there for me in a time of need, they were going to be swindled into sending money. I felt such a deep sense of violation—not to mention helplessness and humiliation—that something like this had happened.
So at 3 a.m., I started reconstructing my contact list, trying to remember whatever addresses I could and asking for help to fill in the blanks. Then I launched an intensive campaign of phone calls and emails to notify people that the email was a scam. I contacted the local FBI, the San Diego District Attorney’s office, the police department in London (where the money was supposed to be wired), as well as the fraud departments at Western Union and AOL.
As I’d feared, there were a few people who were going to send money as the email requested. But what I hadn’t expected was that, in the middle of my nightmare, I had one of the sweetest experiences of my life. The first day after the emails were sent, my phone didn’t stop ringing. I had people calling me from all over the world, saying, “Ken, are you all right?” “Ken, we love you. What can we send?”
Those street-smart friends who immediately recognized it as a scam started calling to joke with me. Each phone call was funnier than the next. A woman friend of mine who recently got divorced and went back to college told me, “I knew it wasn’t you—anybody who would ask a recently divorced college student for money is out of their mind!” Another buddy called and said, “Don’t worry—I sent $2 million. Hope you’re having fun in England!” After a while, I started answering the phone with, “Scam central! Can I help you?”
Old friends I hadn’t spoken to in 10 to 15 years called, saying, “This gives me a great excuse to say hello and tell you that I miss you.” Old consulting clients whose names were on the list called to say, “You know, I’ve been thinking about having you come back and do some work for our company. Are you available?” Suddenly, I was generating new business, refreshing old friendships, having these wonderful catch-up phone calls with people I hadn’t spoken to in years, and breathing fresh air into a spontaneous network of love and support that I’d been building for more than a decade—all because of an email scam!
Now, I’d be lying if I said the ordeal didn’t continue. But in the middle of the nightmare was a lot of love and affection. I answered about a hundred phone calls that day; got close to 400 emails from people expressing their concern. It was a mixed blessing. Most of us don’t ever get that outpouring of love and affection until the day of our funeral!
What’s the moral of my story? Sometimes, just when it looks like the ship is going down, it’s not. Faced with a full-blown crisis or the threat of one, take a deep breath and do everything you can to stop the bleeding. Look the sources of embarrassment straight in the eye with integrity, courage, and even a sense of humor. And don’t be surprised if somehow, some way, the lemon turns to lemonade.
Real Rule #12: a breakdown can be a breakthrough. But only if you know how to authentically navigate a crisis. Say your “aw, shit”s. Get it all out. Then, take a deep breath. Stand tall. Don’t get caught up in the drama. And then, take action to correct the problem as much as possible by making integrity-based decisions. Remember that, even at the appearance of impropriety, nobody can take your honor or integrity without your permission.
We are taught our whole lives to view breakdowns as destructive and counterproductive mishaps. But sometimes a breakdown leads to a breakthrough. When things take a turn for the worse, when we screw up or get caught in a bad situation, our character is tested. It is nothing less than a moment of truth. We make a definitive statement about the person we are. We may choose to cover it up, blame others, justify our actions, make excuses, or deny responsibility. Or, we may choose to assume responsibility for what happened, take the hit, apologize, and do whatever we can to rectify our mistakes. The choice is ours, and it defines our integrity. We are either honest and trustworthy, remorseful and responsible, humble and apologetic—or not. If we navigate the crisis with honesty, courage, humility, and respect, we can often stop further damage, face into the adversity, and fortify our character.
If you like this article, please share it!
Copyright Ken Druck, Ph.D., resilience expert, speaker, consultant, and author of The Real Rules of Life (Hay House). Permission to reprint granted with proper credit.