Carl Mays: 'Pressurized performers' are greatly appreciated

Feb. 23, 2013 @ 12:23 AM

A newspaper headline this week read, “Three heroes beat train to save man’s life.” The report detailed how a man in his 20s hit his head and stumbled onto the tracks with the next train scheduled to arrive in two minutes. The account told how Garrett O’Hanlon immediately jumped down onto the tracks to help the dazed man. Seeing O’Hanlon struggle, Dennis Codrington leapt down to help. So did Matt Foley. The three worked quickly as the train approached. Waiting passengers on the platform helped lift the dazed man to safety and then assisted the rescuers onto the platform just as the train was arriving.

In December 2012, there was a comparable story at a New York subway station when Victor Samuel, a 43-year old married man with two children, jumped onto the tracks to save a 64-year-old man from sure death. Reports detail how both men almost lost their lives after Samuel half-dragged the man to the platform where three women, led by 5-foot-2-inch Doreen Winkler, grabbed hold of the men’s arms and helped lift them onto the platform as a train pulled into the station. When Samuel was interviewed about being a hero, he said, “It was a collective effort. I really want to give credit to the others who helped me out.”

Sadly, however, in another such instance in December 2012, bystanders in New York watched as a man who had been pushed onto some subway tracks struggled for about a minute to climb back onto the platform before being hit by a train and killed. A newspaper photographer (who said he was too far away to help) took pictures of the panicked man prior to his death.

I share these accounts today in order to emphasize that sometimes people react selflessly during a time of crisis – any type of crisis – while others merely observe. In such dire cases as the ones I have described, we don’t know exactly how we would react until it happened. Daily, however, less dramatic but very important crises arise that call for us definitely to be participants rather than spectators, in business, family, education, sports or any other facet of life.

I have mentioned Helen Steiner Rice (1900-1981) in some of my columns, impressed by all she had to overcome before emerging to become known as the “poet laureate of inspirational verse.” Totaling up all the cards and books she wrote for the Cincinnati-based Gibson Art Company, which later became Gibson Greetings, there is no telling how many of her verses have inspired, encouraged and uplifted millions of readers.

This rhyming couplet from Helen Steiner Rice is more than just appropriate when any size crisis arises: “Teach me sweet forbearance – When things do not go right – So I remain unruffled – When others grow uptight.” A good companion to this couplet can be found in Proverbs 24:10 of The Living Bible: “You are a poor specimen if you can’t stand the pressure of adversity.”

I like the way one businessman encouraged his personnel to perform when adversity arises. He led them to “Stay calm and carry on,” expressing, “We greatly appreciate conscientious, focused employees who perform well under pressure,” and his company worked to reward the personnel for “pressurized performance.”

He also related to Helen Steiner Rice’s words, encouraging them to demonstrate forbearance in language, actions and reactions, reminding them that a calm, well-thought-out response has a soothing effect on others. And, as reflected in the two “subway hero stories” above, he emphasized the vital need for a “collective effort.”

© 2013 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author, whose mentoring site is based on his “A Strategy For Winning” book and program. Contact or view