Emergency Management Do You Have True GRIT?

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[TODD] Hi, welcome to EM Weekly, and this is your host Todd DeVoe. Today, we’re are talking to Doctor Paul Stoltz, who is considered the world’s leading authority in integration and application of GRIT resilience. He is the premiere expert on the science of mindset. He’s an international bestseller, and a keynote speaker. Dr. Stoltz has been on ABC, CBS, NBS, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, you name it, he’s been there. He is also a guest lecturer at MIT and at Stanford University. And he is part of the distinguished lecture series in Singapore. He has been called the “thought leader” in Hong Kong, he was an operator in national faculty members for the Young Presidents Organization. So, I’m happy to have Dr. Stoltz here. You wanna jump into it and just kind of get started?

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Sure, let’s start right in, sounds like a plan.

[TODD] Ok, so how did you get into your line of work? This is kind of fascinating to me.

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] You know… short version is, ever since I was a really young kid, I’ve just been really fascinated about the difference between the people who keep the lights on, and those who seem to dream prematurely. I always wanted to understand what’s underneath all that, and what really fuels all that. And that fascination led me to my research, which really started on my undergrad days, and sort of evolved into sort of this never ending quest to excavate down to the bed rock of human endeavor, and try to really understand, what’s sort of the deepest, most solid foundation we can discover, about what really underlines everything we are trying to do in life. And our chances of success and making that happen. So, that’s just an old question of mine, and something I just wake up thinking about with burning passion every day.

[TODD] That’s great. When I was reading through the book, it really kind of hit home about how we do things, and the people that kind of get into this business of emergency managers and first responders, and the military, the people who I’ve always been aligned with in my life, and I can see how a lot of this applies to it. And I know in some cases, you know, those of us who are in this business forget that we are that person who does keep the lights on, and sometimes for millions of people.


[TODD] How can emergency managers or first res-ponders apply the lessons that you have… not just in your book, but also on your website, and the other work that you’re doing?

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] You know, I just gotta say, the people who take on that responsibility are just my absolute heroes. I mean, you think about… if you unengaged the importance of anything, you ruined it. So, if you wanna engage the importance of emergency responders, and look at the world of mess that we’d be in without them, so for people to go in that line, it says a lot. There’s a difference between intention, effectiveness, and the long-term toll it takes. So, what I’m really concerned about and scared about, I should say, about the people who might be listening to this, is first of all, how do you optimize the way you respond so that you can bring the optimal response for the people you’re serving? And then number two, how do we fortify you, so that rather than it taking a toll on you over time, physical, and mentally, and emotionally, over time, have it be something that just really sort of holds and strengthens you, as a human being, so that you’re kind of what I call, weird in a good way, so that doing the work… which is often the most demanding thing, having that be something that in a cellular level, you really can thrive upon, when most people who are dealing with people, who are on the bloodlines, in desperate need for care and help, often get beaten up, and beaten up pretty badly. So, that’s what I care about. So, going to your question about, so really what can we do? There’s a couple of things that come to mind. One is, a big piece of my work that was a pioneering piece we did, we realized: you know what? And it speaks right to the heart of what you guys are all about. And I think we were having this conversation, is that the heart of it all is how people… what happens to a human being when they confront adversity. And you guys are in the frontline of adversity every day. I mean, you are the ones who are going into the storm, and dealing with some of the ugliest, toughest, scariest stuff out there. And so, if you’re gonna be that human being, you wanna bring your optimal response. And what I discovered, is hey! Guess what? A person’s AQ, there are patterns to how they respond to adversity, and it dramatically outpaces your IQ in terms of how well you do in the world. So, there’s four… let’s get super practical, right? Here’s what the science says. We’ve had the chance to test in the past 30 years with more than a million people in all different walks of life in almost every country on the planet, and there’s four core dimensions of how you respond to an emergency. And this has two sides for you guys. One is yourself, first and foremost, and then second of all, how you help others do this. So, core stands for control, ownership, reach, and endurance. Control is when the stuff hits the fan, what facets of the situation can you potentially influence? You perceived the ability to influence whatever happens next. So, what’s interesting is people with high AQ’s honestly, they can’t even imagine something you can’t influence, even if it’s just the ability of that person to take the next breath, you know? And the people that score lower on AQ tend to feel a bit of helplessness, especially in crisis or disaster, they feel like: “it’s out of my control, I hope someone figures out something”. And that helplessness can be crushing. So, even in the most overwhelming circumstances, so take something really radical, like a massive terrorist attack, or multi-point attack, or all the worst case scenarios that many emergency responders are training for today, if that really happens, the response inside of you, and the immediate instinct to just focus on the facets of the situation, whatever they are, that you can potentially influence right now, is the difference between life and death. The second part, ownership, is about how you step up. The likelihood to actually step up and do anything to improve the situation, no matter how bad it is, or whose job it may formally be to do that. People who score lower on this, they can sort of step back and become almost like a joke of the government bureaucrats, because they’re: you know, that’s not my job qualification, but you’re welcome to contact… well, people are dying, ok? I mean, if you were in a crisis situation, regardless of your role, regardless of your formal or informal authority of power, how do you step up and make the most immediate positive impact on the situation to the benefit of the most people possible? That’s the ownership part. So, control and ownership, just those two, just view action and energy, and pro-activity, and a positive power into the world. And they also create followers, because people notice this. I mean, I’m talking nanoseconds here. If you’re in emergency response, any facet of it, you are so trained to be able to handle such situations and handle them quickly; we’re talking about that next level, where you are the one who is able to do it quicker and better, ever quicker, ever better, than the people around you. Then we have reach and endurance. Reach is really powerful, because it’s about when adversity strikes, how far do you perceive is gonna reach into and affect everything else? People with lower AQ’s tend to perceive it as reaching into and affecting everything else. There are people that when 9/11 hit, they thought it was the end of the world. There are people with global warming, thinking the world is ending. There are people who have one bad thing happen, and there goes their whole day. There are people who, you know, keep calling in sick on their way to do their shift, and they’re shorthanded, and things are messed up, and technology is not working, and everything else, they will just feel like their world is spiraling out of control. The thing to focus on is two things. One is, what can you do, no matter how bad it is, to immediately minimize the potential downsizes, and this one sounds really weird, but how do you maximize the potential upside? In other words, in the worst imaginable circumstances, what can you do to generate more hope, generate more help, to generate more healing, to generate more possibilities, to generate a better response and outcome, right now, when most people think it’s only going down; how do you create an up?

[TODD] Right.

Dr. Paul G. Stoltz

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] And that’s an incredibly game-changing question and response to be asking. So, control, ownership, reach, and then endurance is one that can affect so much, because it’s a question of how long do you perceive it’s gonna last or endure? And you know, if you’re in emergency response and you feel like your shift is gonna last forever, and you’re never gonna get home, and you’re never gonna get some rest, there’s masses that are gonna take forever to get through, or you just sort of see the downward spiral, and how things are going. And maybe leadership, or maybe any number of things that are just making it hard for you; being able to see and get past the adversity better and faster than everyone else is just an incredibly powerful thing to do. And that’s what emergency response is. I mean, this is the core of emergency response, which is emergency management, which is how do you focus on what you can influence, step up and do whatever you can as quickly as possible, minimize the downside, maximize the upside, and get past this whole thing as quickly as possible. That is the core response that determines the effectiveness of emergency management and emergency response. I mean, that is the DNA of emergency response, not just according to the science we’ve been proving all these years, but to the real time in the moment, dude is on the ground, make it happen now, stuff that we’re training people to do, and that is more important than ever.

[TODD] That’s great. You know, it’s funny you said that, because I know some people who do emergencies and disasters really well, but their daily function sometimes is a little bit harder for them to do. There’s stuff they just can’t handle, it’s kinda funny that you say that, that’s kind of in the DNA, and I can understand that completely.

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Well, you know, that’s a great one Todd, because here’s what we found, and it’s about what you’re saying, which is… there are a lot of people who are adversity junkies, and they become kind of adrenaline junkies. If something bad happens, they are on fire and at their best. It is the day-to-day, more mundane, that just stacks them. And so, the same stuff, the same core response applies to the little and the big, you know? And the other part of it, you know, there’s two parts, which is the second thing I said I wanted to kinda talk to you about is, there’s this thing in the world of material science that emergency management people run into all the time, which is called robustness. What robustness is… you know, how long to you stand up to the unexpected, and also, what’s the wear and tear factor overtime? And you know, in emergency management and emergency respond, I think it would be kind of like, thin paper. Cause most people you meet are kinda like cheap sandpaper. You go to Home Depot, and you go up and go: I’m gonna buy some sandpaper of some serious grit. As soon as you start to put that grit to use, guess what? It starts to wear thin, it starts to wear out, and pretty soon you won’t have so much grit. Same thing applies here, you know, it’s what I always tell them, I think I told the GM group as well. There was a guy that sort of craftsman and wood worker guy, who was doing some work on our house, and I want to see his shop, I want to see what this guy is about. So I went to the shop, and I said: show me what you do, and what you’re passionate about. And he reaches inside this hand-carved box he had obviously done that was amazing, that alone… and he pulls up a scroll of weird looking paper, and he starts to unfold it, and I go: what’s that? He goes: that’s my sandpaper. I said: wow, why do you keep it in there? And he said: Paul, I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a kind of sandpaper that if you use it right, gets better over time, gets better with use. And I thought: wow! That’s it! Because when you think about being in the world of emergency management and emergency response, you’re feasting of adversity every day. That’s your day job. And so, the question is… you may answer it with a lot of grit, and you may enter a new shift with a lot of grit, you may enter a new week with a lot of grit; but what happens over the course of the day, of the week, of the month, over the years of doing it? Think of the burnout that we see on this field, which is so tragic, because of the burnout we lose effectiveness, and with that burnout we lose wisdom and experience that can be the difference between life and death. We lose something really precious. First inside ourselves, but of course, for the collective good, which is what we signed out for when we do this line of work. So, being more robust, and thinking about ways to do that is really, really important, and the ways to talk about that… I think that point about what it does to you is really big. And the other part of that, which you nailed it, the why. You know, it doesn’t matter if you’re in health care, it doesn’t matter if you’re in emergency response, it doesn’t matter what field that you’re dealing with, human beings are in the frontline, and it’s bureaucratic, and filled with idiots sometimes, and incompetents, and all this kind of stuff that can just make you crazy. But you have to go back to the why, because I’m guessing that every single person who is listening to this, to answer the question if I said, “why did you go in this, besides making a paycheck and having a job?”. You’re going into it, because at some rate, you care about making a difference in people’s lives, and you probably love it in a way, because you can see it so materially, and immediately, the kind of difference you can make in people’s lives. But the problem is, idiots who stop and mock gets in the way, and that why can dim, and you’re going in for another shift, and you can kind of forget the raw power of why you went into this in the first place. But it’s like I always say, without the why, you lose your try.

[TODD] Right, right.

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] That would be tragic. So those things, the why, the robustness, and the correspondence are the very DNA of what makes one great in what you do.

[TODD] Yeah, you know, you’re right about the burnout, it’s kind of interesting, because I’ve had some really good friends who are near the end of their careers, both really older guys, and it does sometimes get a little bit harder to get up in the morning, throw the uniform on, and do what you have to do. Because you’re right, the why sometimes, it goes away. Especially with some of the guys in law enforcement today, that see this anti-law enforcement trend happening, or at least they feel like it’s that way, and sometimes the why does get hard. And then you get that one call, the one time that you get out there, and you see the great humanity again, and say: “ok, yeah, this is why I’m doing it. I’m here to make a difference”. And you’re right, I think that’s why a lot of guys and girls get into this business.

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] You nailed it, Todd. Just one quick thought of that, is here’s a difference between the best and the rest. The best are the ones who find a way to help people and do their job, in spite of all the people and all the things that can conspire against them. And by the way, that may be the person they’re trying to help! I mean, everyone… and that’s not just in law enforcement. It’s like: I’m gonna make you safer in spite of yourself. I’m gonna help you in spite of you. I’m gonna make this world a better place in spite of all the idiots and short-sided, and the lack of appreciation and understanding for who we are and what we do. I’m gonna show up and I’m gonna do this noble work in spite of all that.

[TODD] Excuse me. That’s so true, I’ll tell you a quick story, a personal story. We had this guy that was… he was an older gentleman, he liked to be in the streets a lot. And every time we would go, and this is when I worked as a paramedic, and we drive with our license siren, and he would get mad at us, and flip us off and yell at us, and you know… one time he even threw a rock at us, and you know, whatever, we just let it go. And then it was a few weeks later, we end up running on him, he was having a heat stroke, and of course, we went in there, we treated him just like we would if he was never that way to us. And it’s kind of ironic, we get there, and we go: “oh, it’s him! This is ironic, now we gotta treat this guy, who hates us”. So, we do it.

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Exactly! Exactly.

[TODD] That happened a few times. I have… I’ll tell you another quick story. We had this guy, he was a heroin user, overdosed, we pushed a substance to reverse the effects of the heroin, and he got mad at us because we ruined his high. But we saved his life! The guy was going into respiratory arrest, and we saved his life, and he got mad at us for ruining his high. Yeah. So, I took your grade score, and I got these numbers, I don’t know what they… I kinda know what they mean by what it tells me, but I got a 338 overall. My “R” score was 55, and then my quality or “Q” score is at 94. Now I know, it’s kinda funny, because I focus on the R score, because according to your thing is a little bit below average. How do I improve that? How can I improve my R score?

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Well, you know, grit is growth, resilience, instinct, tenacity. G-R-I-T. And the quality grit, that you showed that number, is high. And the reason that matters so much, is you’re talking about the difference between good grit and bad grit. Because the effect you have on the people around you, as you go around doing what you do and go after your goals, you know, you’re so strong and high. And the other thing is, smart grit and dumb grit. And you think about how many people you meet, especially on the line of work we’re talking about here, that demonstrates dumb grit. They’ve got a lot of grit, they’re just not terribly smart in terms of going after their ways of work. So, hats off for you for that score. The resilience score that you have, you kinda nailed it. It almost circles directly back to the core, because resilience is based on the core response, control, ownership, reach, and endurance. But what sometimes happens when someone has a below average score like this, it might be the case to you, is you might have really strong, or one could have really strong sort of control and ownership, but they feel like things are bigger and last longer than they’d like, or that they need to, and that can weight so heavily on you, that can bring your score down. You know, unintentionally, but also, with some consequence. So, I would say, just go back to immediately focusing on the things you can influence, how you step up, how do you minimize the downside, and here’s the secret one: grow that upside, to get past whatever adversity it is, as quickly as possible. You do that with kind of everything in life, and it has this incredibly energizing and resilience building. That is the DNA of resilience.

[TODD] That’s good stuff, man. And your book, I’ve read it… I’ve read it straight through, and then I keep coming back and looking at different parts of it. And I just really enjoy the story of KK, that’s in here, and he’s really an inspiring guy. How did you meet KK exactly?

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] You know, I met him through… KK is an amazing guy, he is obviously an Iranian refugee, he was raised in a dirt-poor family in the ghetto if Iran as immigrants, and they were detested by their neighbors cause they were different. And he lived in constant danger, literally had to stuff newspapers in his shoes to walk in the snow, miles to school. And he would have to literally fight to just be able to take a loaf of bread home to his family for dinner, because if they didn’t eat that, they didn’t have dinner. And he grew up in a very scrappy way. When he came to the US with 300 dollars in his pocket, no English language, no visa, and nothing to look forward to, and kinda build his global empire since then. And today, at 77 years old, is the fit human being I’ve ever seen. He is more ripped, more fit than probably anyone listening to this, no matter how amazing they may be. He’s breathtaking. He does mixed martial arts three hours a day, with a world champion, and he can… you know, squat 1,200 pounds, the guy is just phenomenal, right? And so, the way I met him is, he loves to give back. And he thought, you know, I live in this college town, San Montebispo, and I wanna do an event, I wanna help young people see their possibilities. And he… when he was a young kid, he was on a wrestling team, and he had nothing, he was invited to tour this amazing castle out here in the Central Coast, it’s unbelievable, you can’t even believe that it exists. He saw it, and he said: someday, KK will have a castle. So, he did it. It took him 10 years, but he built a castle off the road, that’s his castle, and he invited all the students to come. And he reached out to me, he heard who I was and what I do, and he wanted my help in really reaching students and impacting their lives. That’s how we met! And he’s just that kind of guy. You know what he does? He drives through the toughest, toughest, toughest neighborhoods and dark pockets of cities around the world, places no human being should go, and where a lot of emergency response people probably are forced to go; and he just goes there to find the most down and out broken people, and he picks them up, and he helps them. He doesn’t just give them money, he drives them to a hotel, gets them showered and cleaned up, feed them a meal, help give them some health, and just get them started. Doesn’t matter if it’s prostitutes, drug users, criminals, homeless, whatever it might be; he just does that silently. And misses his airplane flights all the time, because he has to do it, he can’t not do it.

[TODD] Sounds like my kind of guy, you know?

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Yeah, he’s a pretty cool guy.

[TODD] Yeah, I just… he inspires me, and in a shameful kind of way, I’ve been reading the book about he’s in shape and how much he works out, I go: “man, if this guy can do it, how come I’m not out there doing it”, you know? But it’s a good thing, it’s a good motivation, you know?

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] It is. And you know, he’s done a lot of work with people in your field, because they so respect him, they just see that desire and strength in which he carries himself, and determination, and you know, he’s the kind of guy you would call in the ends of the Earth. And if stuff hits the fan, KK is one of those guys who turn to you, and go: “ok. I know you’re gonna figure out a way to make this ok”.

[TODD] That’s awesome. I really… I mean, the reason I asked the question about KK is because if anybody… I highly recommend reading this book, by the way, everybody out there. But if anybody doesn’t read the book, just for the sake of grit, of what you think it might be… you need to hear this guy’s story, because it’s amazing. It’s definitely amazing. So, ok, I have a couple of last questions for you.


[TODD] And this is the tough one, but I know that you’re gonna have a good answer, because you did recommend a book when we had our conference that I went to. Can you name two books that you think somebody in emergency management or emergency response should read?

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Boy, that’s a great one. What would I say? Emergency management and response… I think… I think that leading the… there’s a new book out called “No Barriers”, which is written by a friend of mine, who is a blind guy who climbs Mount Everest. He also solo kayaked the Grand Canyon. He’s 100% blind. He’s the world’s leading blind athlete. And the reason why it’s such a good book it’s cause it kinda lays out the “no barriers” mindset that I worked with him on. And he’s worked with a lot of wounded warriors, a lot of people in the service, and different facets of life, and it’s such a powerful book. And he’s such… he’s just the real deal. So, I think that’s one for sure, that I would pick. I think… oh, man… the other one that I think is useful is… there’s a book… I hate to recommend my own self, but there was a book we wrote together a while back, about 10 years ago, called “The Adversity Advantage”, and it talks about some of what we used a little bit in this conversation, but put in a real practical context and application. And the reason I mentioned that is we’ve had a lot of people in emergency management, emergency response, even health care, and other things pick it up in the services, obviously in the army services and everything else. So, those two, I think would be really applicable to your world, and ultimately stirring, and moving, and motivating, and inspiring as well.

[TODD] That’s awesome. Hey, yeah! Tell me about it, you have some really good books out there. I’ve only read one so far, and I’m definitely gonna pick up The Adversity Advantage, now that you talked about it. It’s funny, I head an interview with… I forget his name, the gentleman with no barriers, I heard an interview with him just the other day on NPR, and that was definitely…

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Oh yeah, that’s right! Erik Weihenmayer, yeah.

[TODD] Yeah, awesome.

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Yeah, he would have been on NPR the other day, you’re right. He and I did The Today Show together, and a bunch of the big shows, we’ve been around the world. I just gotta tell you, the guy is just 100% the real deal, I mean… I don’t know anyone tougher than that guy.

[TODD] He was telling the story about how he got stuck, it was the first time he was kayaking and just kind how he got out of it. He said it was even before he knew what he was going on down the river, before he started using radios to communicate, so that was kind of a funny story. Last question for you, and this is all about you, sir. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us… how do we get in touch with you? If somebody wants to go to your website, read your books… just kind of… if there’s somebody out there that wants to have you come be a guest speaker, how do we get a hold of you?

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] You know, it’s super easy. Peaklearning.com, you go there, there is an info at peaklearning.com, which is a super easy way to just send me everything. And Twitter @DrGrit, and you know, we’re out there on all the social media and all that kind of stuff. So, it’s really easy, just reach out that way, and anybody who sends me a message, I guarantee, I promise I will respond, just like you do every day.

[TODD] Awesome. So, thank you so much for being here today, sir, it was a pleasure. And I look forward to hearing you again, and I was so happy that… when… when I was at Coastline Community College kickoff this year, that you were there, and I was able to hear you speak, and that was definitely one of those events I’m glad that I went to. I almost didn’t go, believe it or not, and I’m glad that I ended up going.

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Hey, I’m glad you did! I’m glad we hooked up, I’m glad we got to do this, and hats off again. Everybody listening to this, and everyone you work with every day, Todd.

[TODD] Awesome. And maybe someday, soon, I could have you back?

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Yeah, it would be a pleasure, I love it. And we’ll continue the conversation!

[TODD] All right sir, thank you so much for being here. Everybody, thank you so much for listening today. If you have any questions, you can always reach out to me again, with my e-mail address, and also, I will have Paul’s information down in the show notes at the end of this, and also links to his page and his books as well. Thank you again, sir, for being here.

[DR PAUL STOLTZ] Thank you, Todd.


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4 thoughts on “Emergency Management Do You Have True GRIT?”

  1. Spot on and what I personally needed to hear for myself today. A kick in the pants if you will. I believe both concepts: GRIT and CORE need to be taught in high school and college. We are generating a much softer society and people are not as resilient as other generations were. I am referencing the greatest generation those that were around during WWII. Those people weathered the depression and then the war. They had a tenacity and toughness. I think if you are not tested you do not know your GRIT. I watch a lot of westerns and they would refer to tenacity and resilience as having Sand. I’ve gotten a great deal from this interview and thank both of you gentleman.

  2. I’m really glad I chose to listen to this Podcast. I can definitely relate to the burnout of emergency personnel and the quick lose of drive associated with those burnouts. I always been fascinated with the mindsets associated with emergency responders and look forward to reading Dr. Stultz book.

  3. This is a great discussion about principles that apply to both Emergency Management and all types of leadership. GRIT and CORE remind me a lot of the book Extreme Ownership and what it means to be an effective leader. Proactivity, decisiveness, influence, and composure are all key components of leading other through tough times and the topics discussed here by Dr. Stoltz and Mr. De Voe echo that.

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