One problem at a time Sarge (One problem at a time)

The other day I was caught up in what seemed to be a never-ending stream of problems, you know the sort of day.

Nothing was going right, everyone and everything was conspiring against me. One problem after another, mounting, crushing, the world on my shoulders, leaving me pleading why was this happening to me?

In reality the world wasn’t going to come to an end, the sun had risen in the east, and in all likelihood it was going to set in the west, and a few deep breathes would probably have dispatched the garbage that was mostly going on inside my head to the trash…

But it did get me thinking why do we allow seemingly insignificant problems to morph into something that requires the Fantastic Four to resolve?

Human nature was my guess.

And then I recalled a quote by Frank MacAlyster, a member of the US Military’s elite Delta Force. Frank was involved in an operation to help free US hostages being held inside the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, in the early 1980s.

The story is recounted in the book ‘Inside Delta Force’, by Eric Hany.

As the doomed rescue attempt unfolded Frank was sound asleep in a US C-130 Hercules aircraft that was parked on the ground inside Iran.

He awoke to intense flames licking all around him, the aircraft was on fire.

Frank thought the aircraft was airborne, but the intensity of the fire left him no choice, he jumped from the plane without a parachute and went into a skydivers arch.

Of course he fell for only a fraction of a second before hitting the ground.

Frank had assessed his options and jumped. It must have taken a lot of courage. Death was almost a certainty, but he was buying time at least.

I reflected on this and thought that even under intense pressure Frank was still thinking through his problems and wasn’t letting the situation clutter his thinking, and by this time there were any number of problems to deal with. Of course the first was to survive.

What could I learn from that?

Meteor Peak
Meteor Peak

How could Frank’s experience help me as I pursue my goal of high altitude climbing, and how might it help others to deal with their own ‘burning aircraft’?

When asked a few days later by his Superior what he was going to do once he was out of the plane without a parachute, Frank replied…

“One problem at a time Sarge, one problem at a time.”


11 thoughts on “One problem at a time Sarge (One problem at a time)

  1. Beth March 21, 2013 / 9:01 am

    In all seriousness, you should read “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell. If you liked “Inside Delta Force”, I think you’d love this book. And yes, I’ve been woefully behind on my blog reading so I’m catching up. Going backward… if it works, who cares? 😉


  2. Birgit Nazarian March 1, 2013 / 1:04 am

    I’ve gleaned a lot from military and law enforcement folks. One of the things that sticks with me in tight situations was from a police officer who noticed my tendency to over think things to the point of letting doubts creep in when I had to act immediately. He grabbed me by the shoulder and looked me in the eye and said “Don’t think–just do!” and I was pretty much cured. Sometimes you just have to let your instincts take over and stop worrying about What if?


    • Baz - The Landy March 1, 2013 / 3:34 am

      And usually it ends up being the right thing to do! There is a lot to learn from military style thinking, especially elite forces!


      • Birgit Nazarian March 1, 2013 / 7:36 am

        True, I have several as friends that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. I am trying to learn basic survival techniques for my outdoor adventures since I have a tendency to go solo. Earlier in life I spent time traveling around the world and focused on self defense and martial arts.


  3. Carol Page-Potter February 24, 2013 / 10:03 pm

    I don’t know if this was the case with what you were describing, but I used to manage twelve direct reports and 60 indirect folks. In the beginning it was a constant stream of people parading through my door with “problems” that needed solved. I instituted a two problem a day rule, and advised my staff to use them wisely (obviously this did not include life threatening emergencies – 🙂 ). This encouraged people to think problems through on their own. I also insisted that when they did bring a problem to me that they come with ideas of how to solve said problem. That along with the implementation of updated standard operating procedures and policies which enabled them to exercise more authority allowed us all to live happily ever after. Good luck!


    • Baz - The Landy February 24, 2013 / 10:13 pm

      That is it!

      Very similar to the way we approach things…


  4. Sas February 24, 2013 / 9:39 pm

    That’s exactly what my driving instructor used to say to me sixteen years ago – one problem at a time – and I still think back to it now when situations start to overwhelm me.


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