Momentum Podcast: 463

Slow Your Reaction Time

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

Reaction time has been a focus of mine for most of my life. If you're ever feeling triggered or upset or if something has provoked you, you should slow down your reaction time. When we're triggered we want to move through it as quickly as possible but when you're an entrepreneur and you're dealing with other people, you need to take a deep breath and actually slow down. By responding to issues when you're feeling upset and frustrated you're going to leave yourself with a lot of clean up work and possibly broken relationships. Triggered communication is almost always miscommunication. 

If this is something you struggle with and you need some more strategies to handle tough situations, take a look at our course It'll teach you the keystone habits to be a successful entrepreneur but also how to show up in the right ways and be present and aware for yourself, your family, and everyone around you.

Full Audio Transcript

As entrepreneurs, we try and speed up everything we do, we want momentum, we want velocity, we want to get more things done. In fact, we want to speed up our reaction time, which in most cases is actually something that's good to do. It's good to be able to react quicker, to react in a more clear way, to be able to make decisions faster. However, there's one case where you should absolutely slow down your reaction time, and it should become a habit.

I'm Alex Charfen and this is The Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trail blazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds, those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum, so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it, we don't understand defeat, because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average, and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future, and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent positive human evolution, and we always will be.

I never thought I would ever be doing a podcast called Slow Down Your Reaction Time, because in my life, I actually spend a ton of time trying to improve my reaction time. When I was a kid, I was slow, I was not coordinated, I had a hard time like getting out of a chair, sometimes I would fall over. I went through four different periods of growth spurts where my coordination was horrible. Whether I was growing or not, either way, I had a really hard time. And so I focused a ton on reaction time, because as a kid I got picked on, and sometimes I would get like hit, and sometimes I'd get hit in the face, and I would like see the hand coming, I would know it was coming, I would tell myself to move, and I just would be frozen there. And so reaction time has been a focus for most of my life. I actually went to martial arts to try and improve my reaction time and my coordination when I was in my early teens, because it was terrible, it was just horrible feeling so slow.

And I wouldn't say that today I'm radically above average, but I think I'm somewhat the athletic, and so it worked, focusing on it, speeding it up. In fact, I think that speeding up my reaction time and what I did in my life, sped up my reaction time everywhere, so I can make decisions better. I think I actually do think more clearly. I think it all works together, but here's the challenge, there's one time where as entrepreneurs we should absolutely slow down our reaction time, and this has taking me a lifetime to learn, and I continue to learn it on a daily basis, every single day, and that is you should slow down your reaction time if you're ever triggered, or upset, or if something has provoked you, you should slow things down. Because here's a habit we get into as entrepreneurs, when we are triggered or provoked or upset, we want to respond as fast as we possibly can because triggered is fight mode, triggered is go mode, triggered is get this done mode.

You know, fight or flight kicks in, and when we're triggered, we want to get things done, we want to move through it, we want to move past it, and the challenge is if we're triggered and we're in communication with someone in any way, we need to slow down our reaction time. I will admit this is a place I struggle still today. I've gotten much better at it, much better at it. When I was younger, I was a complete and total train wreck. If I got triggered by a client, by somebody who was one of my clients, I would raise my voice. I routinely yelled at my team, I routinely got upset and emotional in situations where people were watching, and I was in a leadership situation. Responding when triggered was something that I did all the time, I lived in this state of somewhat triggered, and so I didn't even think about it when I was younger, and especially in my first few years as a consultant. But then I started realizing that by responding when I was triggered, sometimes things worked out, but a lot of the times there was a lot of cleanup work to do, a lot

And so here's what I know about us as entrepreneurs, is that if you're a successful entrepreneur, or if you're an entrepreneurial personality type, let's open this up even bigger, then in some way, you rank on a scale of one to ten, if one being the least and ten being the most on this list of qualities, you're closer to ten than a one on intense, intelligent, focused, aware, relentless, restless, competent, driven, curious, enthusiastic, and bold. Would you say you're closer to the one out of ten? Well, here's what I can tell you about that list, that is successful entrepreneurs, that entire list. Now, when we are in momentum, when we are in a good place, when we are moving things forward, when we are not triggered, we are intense, intelligent, focused, aware, relentless, restless, confident, driven, curious, enthusiastic, and bold. But when the pressure and noise goes up in our lives, our intensity can be seen as aggression, our intelligence can be seen as arrogance, our focus can be seen as being antisocial, our awareness, relentlessness, and restlessness is seen as sensitivity, being cutthroat, and even hyperactive.

It gets worse. When the pressure and noise goes up in our lives, when we're triggered, the confidence that makes us successful, the drive that makes us move forward, the curiosity that makes us solve the problems around us can be seen as conceit, irrationality, and paranoia, and our enthusiasm and our boldness can be seen as being obsessive and risky. And that is the challenge. When we respond when triggered, we are much more likely to be seen as this second list. Aggressive, arrogant, antisocial, sensitive, cutthroat, hyperactive, conceited, irrational, paranoid, obsessive, or even risky. Let that sink in because it's taken me a lifetime to learn this. Today I got a message from someone on Voxer, which is like a two-way walkie talkie message system that records the message so you can play it back later, and then you can record a message and send it back to the person. And I got a message on that system today, and I was triggered, and I responded immediately, and I didn't realize until afterwards how triggered I was, and the beauty of electronics, and the pain of electronics is that everything's saved.

So I want back and I thought, “You know what? I think I was way more triggered than I thought today when I responded.” And so I went back and listened, and I sound like the second list. It's hard to even say that. And then I immediately wonder should I even put this podcast out, but the fact is, if your coach or the consultant you work with, or the expert you're following doesn't admit that they make mistakes all the time, then they're probably not trying that hard, and they're not being transparent with you. This is something I've been working on my whole life, and I know I'll be continuing to work on it, because it's gotten dramatically better, and the outcomes that I can drive in my life have become much larger, and much more significant, and much more filled with joy, but this is still something that I struggle with. I struggle with responding when triggered, I struggle with wanting to fight through things and wanting to go fast.

You know, I spent my life trying to improve reaction time, the irony is that the epiphany I had ages ago was that, there's times where you need to slow it down. One of the first times in my entire career I can ever remember slowing down my reaction time on purpose was when I was in my mid 20s, and I was in a partnership that I've talked about before on the podcast, where a partner and I ran a huge consulting firm in Latin America, actually the biggest of its kind, and we also had a very large events company, Latin [inaudible 00:08:59] and Latin channels, and we had gone out, and we or Ken, my partner had gone out and hired consultants to help us understand what we needed in the company, and in the time that he and I had been partners, I had radically improved profitability, I'd almost doubled sales, I'd brought in new clients. We were doing well and the team that I was managing was doing really well, better than it had before, but he went out and found somebody whose solution was to bring in a new president, and I would report to that person since I was so young.

And I remember just how frustrating that result and that conclusion was, and I was so triggered and so upset by it, and the decision was made shortly before one of our largest events of the year for a new person to be hired. And so we had this new person, I flew out to LA. Our event was at one of the big LA hotels. I can't remember ... it was the Western White House, but I don't remember the brand now. And I remember going into my own event, I'm a partner in this company, and I get there, and Ken and this new guy who he hired, have the two presidential suites at the top of the hotel, and I literally had a suite that was in the basement and had no windows. I mean, it was bigger than a normal room, but I literally was in the basement. And I remember thinking, “How ironic that I'm a partner in this company, and the new guy's in the presidential suite and I'm in the basement, what's happening?”

And I wanted to go running upstairs and unload on Ken, and tell him everything that I was thinking about him, but I also remember thinking, I just didn't want to do this anymore, I didn't want to be this situation anymore, being partners with Ken was really frustrating and incredibly difficult, and I had an incredibly hard time navigating our partnership, he kept changing things on me, and there was times where I didn't really understand his motivations, and he would change outcomes. It was incredibly difficult, so I knew I didn't want to do it anymore, so I didn't react. And I went walking every morning. Oh, I mean, I went walking a lot, and I ran the stairs in the morning. I did everything I could to calm myself down physiologically, so that I can make it through this event. And it was too hard. By the second day after I had been at this event with Ken and the new person who was working with us, and I ... basically they were acting like they were partners and I worked for him, and it was ... I couldn't do it.

And I didn't make it to the end of our event. In fact I held it together, I didn't react, I was so upset, but I went for a long walk. I came back to my hotel room, I worked out in the hotel room because I didn't even want to go to the gym, and then I called Ken and the new guy, and I asked to sit down with them, and on the walk what I'd done was thought through what my next moves were going to be. And I decided that the situation that I was in, it didn't matter how much money we were making or what we were doing, I didn't want to do it anymore, I was out. And Ken and the new guy ... We had Latin American business and we had a US business, and the business in the United States, they didn't care about, but I knew I could take it and launch something from it. And so I went back to the hotel and instead of getting triggered, instead of getting upset, I sat down with them, and I calmly explained, I didn't want to be partners anymore with Ken, and I was not ever going to report to the new guy.

He still has a career and he's still out there, and I just ... I don't like to talk about people who haven't given me permission. So I remember sitting down with him ... that's why I'm calling him new guy. I remember telling them that I was going to leave the partnership, and that in lieu of a buyout or in lieu ... and this was the plan I came up with, it was in lieu of a buyout or anything else, I would take the United States business, and we would transfer those contracts to me, I would sign a limited noncompete for a very short period of time in their territory, and then within a year I wanted to be able to compete, and I would leave. There was considerable value to the company we had, and I walked away from it because I was a minority partner and I wasn't going to be in the situation I wanted to be in, and I wanted out, and I didn't think that it was going to survive with this new person there, because in the first very short period of time I had to work with him, I already didn't trust his decision making, and he didn't ask me enough questions to make decisions, so he scared me.

And what ended up happening, was I took that United States business and grew it like crazy, went on to grow a business that was several times what we had done before, and even anywhere near what we had done before, and it was on my own, and I owned it. And within nine months that other company was out of business with the new guy at the helm. And so I stayed in my body, I stopped from being triggered, I went for a walk, I got clear at what I wanted, and I actually had a really, hugely, significant outcome in my mid 20s. And I remember that time because whenever I'm triggered now, and I want to go respond to somebody ... and when this has been ... since that time, if I'm lucky, that will flash through my head, and I'll remember, “Hey, that was the time where you could have freaked out, and yelled, and screamed, and gotten attorneys, and done all the things, and instead you kept in your body and you created an outcome that ended up working way better for you even though nobody believed in it but you. So you've got to get really clear and really calm.”

And like if I'm lucky I see that, but I don't see it every time. So I do everything I can to remember not to respond when triggered. In fact, for year, I drove around with a pulse oximeter in my car, I still have one on my desk. It's a pulse meter that you put on and it tells you what your heart rate is and how oxygenated your blood is, because when you're in fight or flight, your heart rate will be elevated, and you can see it immediately on a pulse ox, and you can actually watch it as you calm down. So I won't respond to people if I've got one of those on, and my heart rate's anywhere near over 100 beats per minute. My resting heart rate's usually in the mid 50s, and so if it's anywhere approaching 100, it means I am triggered. And here's what I now understand about triggered communication, is that when I was younger I thought that fast reactions, and getting things done, and making it fast was the best that you can do, and now I understand that triggered communication is almost always miscommunication, almost always.

And I think that if you're triggered and you communicate and you're heard, that you probably were very fortunate, and all you need to do to resolve triggered communication is just wait. Just give it a few minutes, take a few deep breaths, drink some water, take a walk. Those are things that will get you untriggered, and then you can respond and react and do so without stepping into that second list I read earlier. And when you are triggered, rarely do you say the right things, most of the time you'll say things the wrong way, but here's the challenge with responding when triggered, and this is important, I learned this from [Sheryl Netski 00:16:21] who's a coach and an entrepreneurial shaman I work with, and she's absolutely amazing, and she taught me that, “You can't say the right things with the wrong energy and expect to be heard in the right way.” And it took me a while working with her, to finally figure out what she meant by that, but here's what it means.

There's been times in my life where I'm responding to someone when triggered, but I've planned out the response in my head, and I say all the right words, but I say them with a triggered tone, I say them accelerated, I say them in a way that sounds more aggressive, or louder, or in a faster, more clip tone than I normally would, until even when you say it with the right things with the wrong energy, and even if it sounds right, the person will interpret the energetics of the conversation. And so if you have the wrong energy, if you are in a triggered energy space, that will go through, and that why it's so often, the vast majority of time, triggered communication creates miscommunication. And the percentage chance of miscommunicating when triggered goes up radically compared to your day-to-day. So don't let a triggered moment snowball because here's what happens. If you're triggered by a communication from someone, and you snap to respond, and you can watch this on social media all the time. And what happens is then you escalate, then that person escalates, then you escalate, then that person escalates, and now you're just in a place where you're in an escalation, and it becomes a cold war, because what is going to happen next?

One of you has to decide to back down, which rarely is there any type of productivity, or winning, or connection, or anything that's build through that. And that's how a triggered moment snowballs. So don't let it snowball. When you're triggered, when you feel that you're triggered, slow things down, wait, then communicate what you actually mean when you're in an energy space that you're not triggered, when you're focused, and you're clear and you're present, and you're aware, and you will be heard.

If you'd like more strategies on making yourself untriggerable, we have them in our course You can go to and check it out, but what's in that course are the keystone habits and a planning system that will make you a better entrepreneur, but it will also help you show up in the right way for your family, for your friends, for your kids, and for the people around you. Go to and check it out.

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