When I was younger, my family and I used to do a week-long trip down to the Florida Keys every year. My younger brothers and I were year-round competitive swimmers, so we felt perfectly at home in the water. We spent a lot of time snorkeling the beautiful reefs in the area, enjoying a variety of sea creatures from colorful fish to lobsters and more. Naturally, the reefs were also home to predators – most notably, barracudas.
Barracudas earned their villain status in Finding Nemo. They are barrel-shaped fish with a pointed head that’s filled with teeth, and they can get up to five feet long. The barracudas float above the reefs, looking for prey, and were constant companions on our snorkeling adventures. My younger brother, Steven, became terrified of them. To the point he would refuse to get in the water when they were near. A skinny preteen, some of the larger barracudas matched him in size, and looked much meaner.
Steven was frozen and one day my dad explained the barracudas were more afraid of us than we were of them. I’m not sure Steven was convinced. The next time we hit the water the first thing he did instead of freezing when he saw a barracuda, was swim directly at it as fast as he could. Sure enough, the barracuda swam away. To my mother’s dismay, this became Steven’s habit – he would get in the water, and seeing any barracudas he would swim right at them, fast. And then, once again, enjoy his time in the amazing undersea world.
Through movement he was able to move past his fear.
Scott Mann introduced this concept to us at the TeamStrength Leadership Workshop 2021, when he was asked how to help team members who were frozen.
“When you’re stuck in freeze mode, MOVE. Movement and meaning are inextricably linked. You gotta move. We find meaning and purpose in movement.”
Scott had some movement he had to work through himself then. On the day of our workshop, Scott and his community of veterans were still reeling from the events unfolding in Afghanistan – worried for their allies and their friends and watching decades of work evaporate almost overnight.
Scott shared some of his frustration with us at the workshop. When asked about how he felt, he opened up and vulnerably shared how angry, upset, frustrated and scared he was. And how helpless he felt.
After sharing with us the power of movement when we’re frozen, he put that tactic to use the very next day. Not only was he able to mobilize and get his mentee Nazam safely out of the country, he banded with hundreds of veterans and set up the Pineapple Express, an underground railroad that safely moved over 500 people out of Afghanistan by moving them through sewers and flashing pictures of pineapples on their phone to let them know they were safe.
Scott refused to stay frozen. He found his path forward and used movement, one step in front of the other, to get there and have impact.
We’ve heard more of our members express feeling overwhelmed in these tumultuous days. Sometimes you need to team up with others and create a movement. Sometimes you just need to swim at the things with the pointy teeth to get them out of your way.