Here at RUCKUS, we are going through a big learning curve. Really assessing what our future is, where we want to be headed, what we want to be about. When writing out our quote-unquote Mission Statement, we all agreed that at RUCKUS, we are not going to just be about helping you LOOK good, we want to really invest in what it looks like to help you actually BE good, DO good, and ultimately - help you reach your own Goals. Part of that journey is going to include a lot more articles on things we find relevant, not simply company updates or fashion trends.

So today, we are going to look at something I stumbled across in the book DECISIVE, by Chip and Dan Heath. In this book they go through a ton of different scenarios about Decision Making, because when it comes to standing out, setting yourself apart, beinf efficient, being productive, at a very basic level it comes down to making the RIGHT decisions at the RIGHT time.

But, lets go ahead and just admit it up front, we all make a lot of bad decisions.

With our Careers:  Over HALF of teachers quit their jobs within four years. In fact, one study in Philadelphia schools found that a teacher was almost two times more likely to drop out than a student.

In our Jobs: A recent study showed that when doctors reckoned themselves “completely certain” about a diagnosis, even though they were wrong 40+% of the time.

And in our Personal Lives : An estimated 61,535 tattoos were reversed / covered up / taken off  in the United States in 2009.

So how can we all make better decisions?

When life and death is on the line what methods do the Top-of-the-Top consistently rely on?

It’s called “arousal control.”


That’s a fancy word for keeping a cool head.

Have you ever been so angry — or so happy — you can’t think straight? Exactly.

  • - Astronauts
  • - Samurai
  • - Navy SEALs
  • - and Psychopaths

What can you learn from them about staying calm and making good decisions under pressure?



It’s the 1960′s and NASA is going to send people to the moon for the first time. A million things could go wrong.

How do you make sure astronauts don’t freak out in the cold darkness of space where there’s no help?

Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle is The Way, wrote about the challenges faced by the first moon landing crew:

When America raced to send the first men into space, they trained the astronauts in one skill more than in any other: the art of not panicking.

When people panic, they make mistakes. They override systems. They disregard procedures, ignore rules. They deviate from the plan. They become unresponsive and stop thinking clearly. At 150 miles above Earth in a spaceship smaller than a VW, this is death. Panic is suicide.

The research shows one of the key ways to fight panic is to have a feeling of control.

Anything that provides a feeling of control will improve performance and help you make better decisions when things go sideways.

And that’s exactly what NASA did. They systematically and repeatedly put the astronauts through everything they’d experience while in space. This level of familiarity produced a powerful feeling of confidence:

Before the first launch, NASA re-created the fateful day for the astronauts over and over, step by step, hundreds of times — from what they’d have for breakfast to the ride to the airfield. Slowly, in a graded series of “exposures.” the astronauts were introduced to every sight and sound of the experience of their firing into space. They did it so many times that it became as natural and familiar as breathing.

This is why when top bomb disposal experts approach a bomb their blood pressure actually goes down. Control and confidence.



What does the baddest samurai to ever carry a Katana have to say about warfare? Stay calm:

Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm. Meet the situation without tenseness yet not recklessly, your spirit settled yet unbiased.

Like astronauts, samurai knew the power of a feeling of control through training. But they had another trick up their sleeve.

Emotional preparation.

In training, the Samurai focus on mental training as much if not MORE than physical training. Both are equally important — and require equally vigorous exercise and practice.

What did they do? Specifically, they thought about death. A lot. - No, I’m not recommending you get all emo. Stay with me.

Thinking about the worst (and in their case it was having your head separated from your body) can help you be calm and rational.

You already do this, now its time to harness it - every time you say “What’s the worst that could happen?” you are already there — whether you know it or not.


Special Forces

Go without food or sleep for days. Jump out of a plane at 35,000 feet. Trade gunfire with Al Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan while outnumbered.

This is not what Navy SEALs call a nightmare. It’s what they call “Thursday.”

Kevin Dutton and his friend, Andy (a former SAS soldier — the British equivalent of a SEAL) had their vital signs monitored during a study.

Both were similar under normal circumstances. But what happened when they were exposed to stimuli that screamed “DANGER! TIME TO PANIC!”?

Dutton’s brain went wild with fear. But his friend Andy’s response was very, very different:

His pulse rate begins to slow. His GSR begins to drop. And his EEG to quickly and dramatically attenuate. In fact, by the time the show is over, all three of Andy’s physiological output measures are pooling below his baseline. Nick [the researcher] has seen nothing like it. “It’s almost as if he was gearing himself up for the challenge,” he says. “And then, when the challenge eventually presented itself, his brain suddenly responded by injecting liquid nitrogen into his veins. Suddenly implemented a blanket neural cull of all surplus feral emotion. Suddenly locked down into a hypnotically deep Code Red of extreme and ruthless focus.” He shakes his head, nonplussed. “If I hadn’t recorded those readings myself, I’m not sure I would have believed them,” he continues. “Okay, I’ve never tested Special Forces before. And maybe you’d expect a slight attenuation in response. But this guy was in total and utter control of the situation. So tuned in, it looked like he’d completely tuned out.”

Elite military units vet for the toughest characters. And they go through punishing training. But what silly little thing makes a huge difference?

Breathing. Yeah, breathing.

Teaching recruits to monitor their breathing helped increase Navy SEAL passing rates from 25 to 33 percent.

Research shows meditation-style breathing can make you courageous, increase your attention span, and even boost happiness,

At this point you might feel like emotions are a total liability. Like effective decision making means you have to be the Terminator 24/7.


To learn about how to balance cold rationality with the power of emotion. We turn to the psychopaths.


Stone Cold Killers

What does it mean to be a psychopath? Often it means a congenital lack of empathy.

So psychopaths aren’t raving and wild-eyed. Actually, in many ways they’re overly rational.

When researchers make people play a betting game, who acts logically and isn’t swayed by irrational (but common) fears?

Yup, psychopaths:

“This may be the first study,” comments George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon, “that documents a situation in which people with brain damage make better financial decisions than normal people.”

You may want your stockbroker to be a psychopath. Seriously:

“The most successful stockbrokers might plausibly be termed ‘functional psychopaths’— individuals who on the one hand are either more adept at controlling their emotions or who, on the other, do not experience them to the same degree of intensity as others.”

Oh, and I guess I should also mention some psychopaths, um, murder people…

So being extremely rational often leads to better decisions — but without some empathy it can also lead to some very bad things.

This might seem confusing. How do you know just how rational to be?

For Best Results, Add Empathy

There’s a reason why they give it the name “arousal control.” You’re not trying to kill your emotions, you just want a leash on them.

You don’t want to be incapable of empathy. In fact, empathy, when controlled, can be an enormous positive when trying to make good decisions.

We always think of doctors as very rational. But research shows doctors who feel empathy make better decisions.

What’s that mean? Ask yourself, “What advice would I give my best friend in this situation?

A Duke professor explains:

If I had to give advice across many aspects of life, I would ask people to take what’s called “the outside perspective.” And the outside perspective is easily thought about: “What would you do if you made the recommendation for another person?” And I find that often when we’re recommending something to another person, we don’t think about our current state and we don’t think about our current emotions.

So what - Where does all this information leave us??


Based on the above, here is a simple five step process for making better decisions:

  1. 1. Maintain a feeling of control over your situation.
  2. 2. Emotional preparation. Consider how things could be worse.
  3. 3. Monitor your breathing.
  4. 4. Controlled empathy.
  5. 5. Ask “What advice would I give my best friend in this situation?”

Can this style of decision making, over time, lead us to being not just smarter but wiser?

Actually, it may be the only system that can.

We’re not robots. We’re fundamentally emotional creatures and forgetting that fact is a huge mistake. We are all in this together!

Josh. 1.9 Question / Comments / Hate / Etc -

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