When he got bored, my older brother sometimes made me play a
game called "Flinch and You Lose." The rules were simple. I tried to avoid
flinching while he wielded dangerous objects close to my face, raved like a
lunatic, or threatened to spit goobers in my hair. Flinching earned a punch in
I usually lost.
Looking back now, though, I realize I learned what turned
out to be a valuable professional skill: Not flinching if you can help it.
I once had a boss who must have suffered terribly at the
hands of her older brother because she seemed to delight in trying to make me
flinch by casually mentioning deadlines or assignments I didn't know about.
"I reviewed your report, but didn't see the Developer Tips
section," she'd say.
"What Developer Tips
section?" I'd silently scream in my head. "I don't know what you're TALKING about!"
Outwardly, I revealed nothing. Instead, I matched her casual
tone and asked her to help me remember the goals and target audience of the
section I'd never heard of but was accountable to deliver in five days.
Even if you didn't have an older brother, it's not too late
to master Flinch or You Lose. Use situations at home or with your friends to
practice. Your seven-year-old tells you at 6:30 a.m. that it's your turn to
bring birthday treats to school that day? Not a flinch. Your best friend
announces she signed you both up for a 50-mile bike race scheduled for the
following week? Nothing. Your wife tells you she has to be on the road for two
weeks leaving you solely in charge of the kids during your next quarter-end
rally? Not even a blink.
You're ready. You have mastered the art of looking like
anything is a walk in the park. Your boss can drop the most outlandish
deadlines on your lap-no problem. And then when the coast is clear, you can
casually walk outside, get in your car, and scream your fool head off. You
might want to leave the parking lot first. Cars these days aren't as
sound-proof as they were when I was a kid hiding from my big brother.
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