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Survive at Work

Zone 6 … please be ready with your boarding pass in hand.

Great.  One of the only times that I’ve wished for my flight to be delayed for a few minutes … just a few more minutes to be intimately connected to the wall outlet. I wonder if Freud would observe this as something to do with our umbilical cords … make a mental note … image could come in handy for my next art class.

What I’d give to see more bars on my battery life for my laptop and cell phone.  This energy source is nowhere near a chair, so I’m sitting cross legged on the stained airport carpet … getting every little trickle of juice that I can.  This reminds me of a smoker, trying to take that last drag of a cigarette, and I smile at how pathetic I am.

Zone 7.  I unplug and pack up.  Oh, forgot my kindle.  Grab it out of my bag.  With my boarding pass and cell phone in hand, I make my way into the hottest jet bridge on earth. After waiting for people who have first time flyer written all over them and a guy who apparently doesn’t understand that no matter how hard he shoves, his wife’s over-packed bag is not going to fit in the overhead, I finally make my way to 17C.  As I plop down in my seat, an image that I didn’t even know my brain had stored appears. I think about the teenagers in first class and my mind flip flops between 17C and teenagers in first class – 17C – teenagers in first class.  Then I say to myself … stop, be nice … someone loves them … their parents obviously love them.  Then, I think of my parents … the ones that passed on the frugal gene.  Lucky me.

I text Tom that I’ve boarded and that I love him.  Turn off my phone and turn on my kindle.  I need to download a new book and I think I have time before the flight attendants scold me for not turning off my electronics.  Switch kindle on.  Screen says you are an idiot, battery low, recharge your kindle.  When will all of these gadgets become solar powered?  Shouldn’t that have happened by now? My dad is about to retire from over 30 years at a coal burning power plant … I no longer need to worry about his job security.  Just say no to cords.  Set your people free.

No juice in laptop, no juice in phone, no juice in kindle, no magazine, no real book.  I’m a failure. Next time, I’ll do better. Grab the airline magazine out of the seat pocket.  Cover reads “Woman vs. Wild, Staying Alive in Florida’s Outback.”   Thumb to article and sprawled across a full page (advertising must have been slim this edition), it reads, “Deep in the woods at a survival camp, it’s your mental attitude – not bears, snakes or alligators – that determines whether you make it.”  I’m thinking Florida has an outback? Jaqueline Detwiler, the author, has hired a “survival instructor” to take her in the woods (57 miles from Orlando) for 48 hours to teach her how to make shelter, make fire, eat in the wild (with the exception of 2 Clif bars and a packet of Cup Noodles), use a machete and navigate with a compass. As an aside, if you’re thinking you’d like to try camping with alligators, you don’t have to go 57 miles from Orlando to do it … they’re everywhere.

Somewhere along the way, she’s picked up this concept of PMA.  She writes, “In between lessons on making a fire with a bow drill and navigating by star, we talked a lot about Positive Mental Attitude, a survival buzzphrase that encompasses confidence, composure and the general belief that you’re going to make it.”

This makes me laugh. I didn’t know “surviving” had its’ own jargon.  In another reference to PMA, Jaqueline describes Byron, her survival instructor, “He, too, is an adamant proponent of PMA as a survival tactic, and profoundly realistic about the small setbacks that send it spiraling into despair. When working with a larger class (up to 10 people), he emphasizes teamwork, but will often instruct one of the students to steal food, or to set off on her own, or refuse to help build shelter in order to see how it affects the group’s overall temperament.  These are obstacles that arise in real-life survival situations, he says, and it’s just as important to be prepared for them as it is to know which snakes to avoid.”

After reading this, I thought (1) Wow … I need to thank my parents for dragging me along to real life “survival camp” every weekend during hunting season and choosing camping as our family vacation every year so that as an adult I don’t feel a burning desire to invest in this vacation concept (2) My, oh my, what tricks that my backwoods, country kin would have fun playing on anyone who would actually pay for this experience — I’m convinced we camped because it was the affordable get-a-way option — and (3) work has a lot in common with survival camp … people.

And, although I wouldn’t necessarily encourage someone in one of our leadership programs to steal from someone else, I do agree with Survival Instructor Byron on the idea that the dynamics between people can make it or break it for a team.

So, thanks to my in-flight magazine, the next time any of us are dealing with a difficult person and we’ve exhausted any and all interpersonal skills that we’ve picked up along the way and there’s nothing left to do but lose our cool, I suggest that we just reposition this experience … think of it as free “survival camp” without the gear, ex marine guide or the alligators.  And, remember, as our Woman vs. Wild survivor would want us to, be confident, composed and have a belief that you’re going to make it (aka PMA).  Now, if only I can keep it together with the airlines today … here’s hoping.

><(("> Melissa Laughon

Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Fun, Teaming.


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  1. Melissa Laughon says

    As a graduate of University of Florida, I am the Gator knocking at your door. You are a Florida State graduate and you should thank your lucky stars that a Gator fell in love and married you vs. eating you for a tailgate party appetizer before whipping your (expletive deleted) in football, again! My PMA training is what saved you from being a snack and becoming my wife for life. Thank your lucky stars you are one good looking consultant, or you would have been just another snack on the survival trail of life. Kiss me, but quit saying, “what big teeth you have”, or I am going to snap … and that would be that. Go Gators!

  2. Melissa Laughon says

    Even though this the comment above as well as this one says it is Melissa Laughon, it is really Tom Laughon, Melissa’s adorable husband. She is a Seminole …. never, ever will she be a Gator. She’s lucky to have married one. All I can say is good PMA!

    Tom (not Melissa)

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