I would rather swim than sink, thank you very much

I was struck by this quote, which is supposedly attributed to an anonymous Navy SEAL:

Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That is why we train so hard.

Archilochus, a first century Greek lyric poet expressed a similar sentiment…

We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.

Whichever version you subscribe to, the essence remains the same, both highlight the need to underpin actions with a solid foundation of knowledge and skill if they are to withstand the pressure of stressful environments or demand high performance levels – or a combination of both.

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High-stress environments are prone to human error.

What exactly constitutes high-stress will of course differ from individual to individual, but without a doubt there are any number of everyday – and not-so everyday occurrences – in the life of a climbing arborist which ought be considered as such.

From setting the line under the skeptical eye of a client, dismantling a tree with structural damage, managing traffic on a job site at a busy intersection to mediating a conflict in your team, managing an emergency situation and administering first aid on site or performing an aerial rescue. As such situations will expose the operator to high stress levels, in order for him or her to respond correctly it is essential that  the correct responses to such instances should have considered and rehearsed in advance in a safe, non-critical environment.

Training is one way to do so.

By this I do not mean simply applying a bit of spit and polish or a superficial veneer, but rather to aim for a holistic, well-founded understanding of your position in your team, the tasks you are expected to perform and the degree of competence required therefore. Yes, of course this is a challenge and by necessity an on-going, evolving process, but it is also interesting and fun to expand your horizons – and if push comes to shove it also allows you to respond to difficult or stressful situations in a more coordinated fashion.

Think of training in all its guises as a buoyancy aid, allowing you to float right on the surface, consequently the distance from the occasion mentioned in the SEAL quote above to the level of your training is a short hop rather than a long drop.

Yup, count me in, I would rather swim than sink…