Smile — You’re in a sh*t storm

Abhishek Paul
3 min readJul 29, 2022


Reading Jocko Willink’sThe Dichotomy of Leadership”, quite an intense bunch of military stories bringing out sharp insights. My pencil was kept busy underlining sentences and scribbling notes in the margins and just about any space on the page. One of the words / phrases that jumped out at me was the number of times he mentions people “smiling” — mind you this is in the midst of a raid or battle while engaging with enemy combatants. When folks can smile / laugh in the midst of real life or death situations, I wonder what is it that makes me stop smiling in the midst of the stresses in my much safer workplace.

The movie that comes to mind is “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid” — the waterfall scene. Where facing certain death, they laugh at the ridiculousness of their situation ……there’s no intense music playing, no big plan, just 2 men literally laughing in the face of death.

I think about the other folks who genuinely laugh /smile in tough situations — I’d like to understand what’s their perspective in the middle of these tense situations. I do want to stress on the “genuine” part, because there is nothing more annoying than fake positivity.

I presume one big part is the extreme clarity and confidence they had in themselves and the direction they are headed and/or the stand they had taken — they had this certainty that no matter how bad things were, they would prevail in the end. When the end was a clear victory (at least in their mind), why not enjoy the ride?

This also makes them someone who energizes others, they are source of comfort/ confidence for others who are stressed out during the difficult times. I wonder where they get their fill from if they are giving so much and from whom much more is expected.

Their need for validation from outside was also minimal (not zero, they are human after all)— so they do not react to others lack of confidence / criticism / gossip so much as to continue to act they wanted to — if anything, this gives the ammunition to push harder and smile broader.

They realize that their challenges are only going to increase with time not just because of the role they have chosen, but also the approach. It’s an uphill journey with fewer and fewer people walking along the higher you go. So waiting for things to settle down is wasting a good few decades of one’s life.

The more I think about all this, the more I realize the truth behind the statement a wise man once told me, “Its all in the mind.” I used to think this meant having a positive mindset, but today I would add having clarity not just what they were after, but also why. Added to that is making peace (maybe even enjoying) with the fact that they would stick out as the odd one, invite jealousy (even have people enjoying their failures).

So start smiling …….but remember that before it shows up on your lips (maybe even eyes if you’re Paul Newman), it begins somewhere deep inside.