After receiving some of your comments about my last post, I realized that I should initiate my own flow space before writing. Otherwise, the message gets muddy!
I decided to open the book with one of the powerful stories I collected when I did my research. I had given my participants ananonmity and had to get his permission first. He has given me that permission now, so I'm putting this out to the world again.
Here is the first part of the introduction to the book, which includes his story. What follows this is a discussion on "flow" and "decision making." For now, I just want to know if this makes you want to know more. Let me know what you think about this.
Thanks to all.
NEW WORKING TITLE: Riding the Wave of Action: Achieving Success and Well-being through Flow-based Decision Making
Chapter 1: Introduction
The Dancer Becomes the Dance
Consider an activity you enjoy. You are working toward clear goals and receiving feedback in some form. There are many opportunities for decisive action. Action and awareness merge. You concentrate on the task at hand to the exclusion of all information, except that which is necessary to the activity. You experience a sense of control. You are unaware of your own consciousness. Time has no meaning or is distorted: It slows down; it speeds up; there is no awareness of time. You do the activity for the sake of the activity.
This feeling is called “flow.” Simply stated, “flow” is the idea that “the dancer becomes the dance.”
September 11, 2001, started out to be a beautiful morning. Joel Kanasky, Firefighter for FDNY Rescue Company 1, was teaching a scuba diving class when he heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. He arrived around 40 minutes after his Company had been deployed. The South Tower had just fallen. He entered the lobby of the North Tower looking for his crew. He approached a battalion chief—according to Joel, “a tough old Marine-coot”—who was later killed that day. The chief gave Joel an order to get some hydraulic jacks and some torches, because there were steel beams pinning some firefighters in the hotel.
Joel and two other firefighters were getting the equipment together and heard people yelling, “RUN!!!” He didn’t even think about it. He dropped all the gear except one tool, which was still in his hand, and took off across West Street. He found a door and broke the window. He dove through dropping to his hands and knees. He took the first left into what turned out to be the ATM lobby in the North Tower. He proceeded to crawl to a back area where he thought life was going to end. He was totally incapsulated in, what he called, “some crazy dust.”
He kept thinking about all the young, new firefighters he had trained over the years and how he told them, as he guided them through their training in the burn building, “Keep your head. Keep breathing. Stay low. Calm down. Slow down. It will be fine.” He said he thought these were crazy things to think about, but it worked like magic and helped him stay calm.
There was another firefighter named Thor with him. He heard Thor say, “This is probably it.” At that moment, Joel saw a touch of light toward the end of the hallway. He said, “We have to crawl that way.” They crawled out of the ATM lobby into the back of the American Express Building, where was enough fresh air there to breathe, but he still thought this was probably the end.
He didn’t have a breathing apparatus because his original task was to get rescue equipment. Thor had one, but there was so much debris in his face piece that he couldn’t breathe through it.
Joel had no sense of time. While 47 minutes had passed between the collapse of the South Tower and the collapse of the North Tower, it felt like the blink of an eye. His first awareness that time had passed was noticing a man cutting bologna and making sandwiches with a loaf of white bread and a big jar of mustard on a garbage can on the street at sunset. He said it felt as if he had just walked into the North Tower lobby just after the South Tower had collapsed.
Joel’s observation was that training and always being prepared gives you the ability to respond in the right way without regard to the passage of time. He knew this repetition helps us make decisions that enable us to remain fully in the present. This is hard to do because we struggle for future goals. The present is the only thing that has no end.
Joel was the sole survivor of FDNY Resue Company 1 that fateful day.
Joel is a firefighter. He loves what he does. He works in a special operations company in New York City, where his primary function is to save firemen. "That’s my responsibility. We are there when firemen get in trouble. I think I’ve been to many firefighter fatality rooms in 20 years. It’s been tough duty, but by the same token, we pulled out 15 or so who are still alive today…[Being a firefighter] was always a desire and a love. I thought it was a calling. It has been spectacular. A lot of terrible times, but a lot of great times. Even with the bad times, it’s still good. It’s the greatest job on earth."
Joel operates “in the flow.” His strength comes from within, from his marriage, through his love of service to his community, and through the firefighter-family culture.
...[more to come]