Hero Today, Gone Tomorrow: Steven Slater, Former Jetblue Flight Attendant
I will admit, I was little confused, but fortunately Dad elaborated on the Tarzan Principle: “Tarzan never let go of the vine he was swinging on until he had another vine in his hand.” The lesson was clear enough; don’t leave until I had an exit strategy. As satisfying as his departure may have been, as much of a folk hero for the next ten minutes he will be, my guess is Mr. Slater made his exit strategy up as he went along.
Steve-O lacked something that all Better Men should have: adaptability. You know, the thing the Darwin loved most, the thing that trumped strong, fit, or well-endowed. Being able to just roll with a situation may sound insipid, but if it helps you should know that there are a bunch of guys who do exactly that thing in their jobs every day. They’re called Navy SEALs.
Yeah…those Navy SEALs, aka some the baddest motherfuckers on the planet. You see, all of their training revolves around adaptability. They call it “stress inoculation” – it’s not enough to test a SEAL candidate’s physical limits, they’re tested under extreme duress. Every training exercise involves gradually escalating levels of discomfort and mental disorientation. When a SEAL candidate gets thrown into pool, he’s thrown in with his hands bound. Once he’s gotten used to that, his feet are bound as well. Then his eyes are covered. They’re put in near freezing water until they’re almost hypothermic, pulled out to run an obstacle course and then made to do the same things all over again, possibly covered in mud. It’s a seemingly endless series of terrible tasks which culminate in the last week of their training. It’s called “Hell Week” and it’s basically the worst of everything they’ve faced for 120 straight hours without a break. 120 hours! To the outside observer it looks cruel, but it’s actually finely choreographed chaos. With each increasingly difficult evolution, a person’s baseline mechanism for “fight or flight” response is elevated. Soon It requires more and more stimuli to provoke that natural instinct. With enough training, a SEAL can calmly go about his terrifying job – he can sneak in behind enemy lines, cut off from the chain of command, perform his mission, then quietly slip away, and if his intel is bad…well, he just makes new plans. Any increasingly terrifying twist in the plot of his mission does not phase him, because if it did, it might kill him. He’s been effectively inoculated from stress. That SEALs call their exercises “evolutions” is no accident. A SEAL evolves a man who can consciously control his autonomic responses – in other words, the most adaptable person alive.
My guess is that Mr. Slater did not get a stress inoculation, and once his short-lived notoriety fades, he’ll find himself somewhat unemployable. So perhaps for those people who want to be like Steve, you should ask yourself: wouldn’t you rather be like a Navy SEAL? Maybe the brave thing here isn’t to light yourself on fire, professionally-speaking. Maybe the manly thing to do is to roll with it, and bide your time. Eat that shit and call it pudding….then just like my dad, just like Navy SEALs (did I mention they were the baddest motherfuckers on the planet?), start planning an exit strategy. It won’t get you on CNN, it won’t make you the punchline of a joke on every late night talk show in America, but your life is likely to suck a little less. I just wish I’d written this two days ago in time for Steve to read it.
Of course, if you feel you absolutely must pull a “Slater” then do it, and never look back. Seriously, just keep going. I hear the kibbutz’s in Israel will take anyone.
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