#26 Passion, Motivation & Mindset – Trouble shooting – why do I freak out when facing a problem?

Even though, that I know how much I am suffering from this on a regular basis, I am still struggling with it a lot.

Trouble shooting

If there is no stress, no deadline, or simply it isn’t my problem, I have a clear mind. I think things through, I understand the problem, I find a solution, fast and effective, for every problem, all the time!

But do not talk to me, if it is my problem. In the moment I am linked to it, I am just a passenger in my own life, waiting for the impact in a fetal position.

But why is this the case?

  • Because I can not stand the pressure? No!
  • Because I am afraid of doing a mistake? Yes!
  • Because I lose control over the situation? Maybe!
  • Because I can not get my mind to stop wandering around from one scenario to the next, making the situation worst every time? Definitely!

How would you describe the situation?

It is basically the same every time. Everything starts with a kind of foreshadowing. Being an engineer, or at least trying to become one, you just have a “feeling”, if something might go right or wrong. Of course we could argue about that and interpret, that this is already a kind of negative upfront thought, that will get absorbed by the universe and therefore has a negative impact of the whole situation. But if we are talking about a bad feeling because of the attitude towards work from other companies, or the experience you had with them in the past, than this is something you just need to think through upfront, to get your risk assessment right.

What is next? Right, the problem does occur. An email in the evening, a telephone call, we have a problem with this special part, or that assembly step, or what ever it is. And what do I do? I immediately start panicking! I freak out! I lose control!

As Ryan Holiday describes it in his book “The obstacle is the way” in the subchapter “Control your emotions”.

“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.

Ryan Holiday, The obstacle is the way, Subchapter: Control your emotions

He goes on.

Welcome to the source of most of our problems down here on Earth. Everything is planned down to the letter, then something goes wrong and the first thing we do is trade in our plan for a good ol’ emotional freak-out.

Ryan Holiday, The obstacle is the way, Subchapter: Control your emotions

And this is precisely what I feel! I sometimes even know upfront, that is will happen, but either way, I just freak out! I can not help it!

But what did the NASA do with their pilots?

At 150 miles above Earth in a spaceship smaller than a VW, this is death. Panic is suicide. So panic has to be trained out. And it does not go easily.

Ryan Holiday, The obstacle is the way, Subchapter: Control your emotions

They practiced the launching process over and over.

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. They’d practice all the way through, holding nothing back but the liftoff itself, making sure to solve for every variable and remove all uncertainty.

Ryan Holiday, The obstacle is the way, Subchapter: Control your emotions

But this is not new! They did not reinvented the wheel! They just did, what everybody would do after thinking it through! But this is the problem, I can not think clearly in those situations anymore. Even though, I know this chapter for years, I still do not make that much of a progress.

So, what is Ryan suggesting?

Life is really no different. Obstacles make us emotional, but the only way we’ll survive or overcome them is by keeping those emotions in check – if we can keep steady no matter what happens, no matter how much external events may fluctuate.

The Greeks had a word for this: apatheia.

It’s the kind of calm equanimity that comes with the absence of irrational or extreme emotions.

Ryan Holiday, The obstacle is the way, Subchapter: Control your emotions

And he goes on, describing a way, to deal with those situations. Obviously, I can only give you the hint, to get that book and read it, because he did something very well. Instead of just writing, writing and writing and put everything in he got into it, Ryan chose another approach. Instead of letting himself speak about the different topics, he implemented life lessons. Real stories, examples from out there! Like, for example, as I already mentioned above, the training of astronauts. Those examples are giving you a completely new perspective.

But back to my trouble shooting.

I know that I have this freaking out problem! I know that others have them as well! I know how they did it! I have a book, where someone describes the process of dealing with it. I have everything I need! But still! I am missing something. Still, I can not conquer it! Still, there is something holding me back.

So, what do I want to do, to get over this? Freaking out? No! Doing nothing and just suffer? No! Ignore the problem and let others face them? No!

What I need is structure!

Sitting in an airplane 10 km above earth, trying to get all those tourists to their final destination in the south, a problem can occur some times. And what is the pilot doing? Freaking out?

Hopefully not with me on board! But normally they would get their checklist which leads them through the process.

Therefore, a checklist is exactly what I need. But what should be included? What do I need to check through, that will actually help me in the moment?


  1. Calm down! Breath in … hold it …. and out.
  2. This is not getting you anywhere! Do not be afraid! Do not freak out!
  3. Just analyze the problem. How big is it? Who can help you with? Do you need some support? How much time do you have?
  4. What steps need to be done? What is the workload!
  5. Working with the Pareto method. How can I get the most out of the limited amount of time I have?
  6. Just start doing it! You do not need to tell everyone how bad it is and how much stress you have! You do not sit there and think about what can go wrong! You do not need to think about why this is happening to you! Just accept the problem in your life! Welcome it! Tell the problem what you will do with it! Tell the problem its boundaries!
  7. Realize, that freaking out is not getting you anywhere!
  8. Focus on the tasks at hand, not about the tasks you may or may not have done wrong. This is over, you can not change the past! What matters is the present! Start solving this problem!
  9. Go through it again! Make sure to get your mindset right.

For me, the writing of this blog post kind of helps me to get over the problem I am currently dealing with. Of course, I could have invested that hour it took me to write it, in thinking about how bad it is and how soon this task needs to be finished, and so on, and so on. But this wouldn’t have lead me anywhere constructive!

If I accept, that this thing just happened and I can not change the past, then I can clearly see the options I have! Giving up, which is a not existing process in my life, or just go through it, and do the fucking job! I will have an awesome story to share with others later on!

Today, I guess this is enough motivation for me to get through the day! Thank you for this! Let’s see how it will look like tomorrow! Remember? One step at a time! Just make today a success! Just one step! Do you remember the “endless step?

See you next time!


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