Real Talk: I Survived an Avalanche

by Onyeka Nchege on February 5, 2017

I have always been fascinated by avalanches, though I know they can be deadly. I absolutely love the way the snow rushes down the mountain, oblivious to anything and everything in its path – they always look so incredibly beautiful, yet still so eerily scary. 

In life, when you take a step back and look at things from afar – knowing you’re not in immediate danger – it’s easy to think about how beautiful something looks, for instance, how captivating an avalanche is when watching from afar. However, this is only true until you find yourself in its direct path and eventually stuck inside the relentless rush of snow and ice rushing down the mountain. At that point in time, nothing and nobody can save you because the force of an avalanche is superior to all it comes in contact with. 

Frustration can seep into our lives when we least expect it. And the truth is, frustration is quite similar to an avalanche in that it can wreak havoc on our lives if we are not careful to stand clear of its path. I would venture to say that most of us have dealt with this very circumstance (frustration) at some point in our lives.  And recently, that’s where I found myself at a recent breakfast meeting.

I set up a meeting with a local leader who I felt compelled to connect with. The night before, I began writing down the questions that I wanted answered. When I woke up the next morning, I had no idea an avalanche was forming and that I was standing directly in its projected path. Just as I was preparing my fountain pen ready for my meeting, I spilled ink all over my fingers and on the paper that I had labored over the night before. After trying – unsuccessfully – to wash off the ink, I rushed out the door. Naturally, there was a ton of traffic. The frustration continued to mount. I realized I forgot my phone at home. I am a routine-oriented person, and having not followed a number of my morning routines, I was simply adding to the fuel to the fire of frustration. The snow and ice of frustration was barreling towards me at breakneck speed.

Somehow, I arrived at the restaurant only five minutes late and, to my surprise, my guest had yet to arrive – talk about a lucky break. I thought that I was safely out of the path of the avalanche. A couple of minutes later, I called my guest to make sure I was in the right place. As it turns out, there had been a fatal car accident nearby and my guest was stuck in standstill traffic and wasn’t going to make it to the breakfast. Totally understandable, but alas, more frustration. 

As I begin to drive to the office, I too fell victim to the traffic jam. There was a 90-minute delay in travel time as a result. In that instant, I passed the horrific scene of the accident and I was reminded that all of my frustrations pale in comparison to what’s going on there. I was reminded that what seems personally frustrating is no comparison to what the driver(s) and their families must be going through. I thought to myself, “If I’m going to have a great day – and since I already have a green thumb (and green hands) – I might as well use that green thumb to grow and blossom, my day.” I always try to learn from my experiences. And that morning, when all was said and done, five things came to mind following that avalanche of frustration:

  1. Take a two-minute pause: Often times, in the midst of an avalanche of frustration, it’s great to just take a step back and recalibrate. Part of that process for me includes just taking two minutes to breathe and relax. That may be listening to music for you.
  2. Acceptance: When you’re consumed by an avalanche of frustration, to keep from continuing to slide down the mountain in frustration, it’s best to simply accept that “stuff happens”. In hindsight, I should have accepted that there are things beyond my control, like traffic, and I should have just kept it moving.
  3. Drop Anchor: When you’re running down the frustration mountain, it’s always best to anchor yourself on things that you know work. In my case, once I realized that it could’ve been me across the highway, I pulled over and anchored myself with gratitude and thankfulness to be where I was. I also took the time to think of others more than myself and prayed for the individuals across the highway.
  4. Overcome by testimony: A surefire way to avoid falling further into your frustration is to overcome by testimony. What that means is in my situation, I called an accountability partner to share what I was going through, which forced me to stop sliding and concentrate on sharing. It allowed me to get centered and not make decisions that would exacerbate the situation.
  5. Run Forward: Sometimes you just have to outrun your frustration, which just means to outpace it and leave it behind you. I needed to simply acknowledge and accept that ink on my hands was not the end of the world. In essence, acknowledge where I was and make a decision to go forward and go forward fast, leaving my green fingers behind me.

At the end of the day, I survived the avalanche of frustration. Even though I should not have let each one of the issues snowball into a bigger frustration, I learned that I have the power to stop an avalanche. I realized in that instance that the power of the avalanche was not superior to me if I only take the time to follow the 5 steps above.

Take Action: When you are in the middle of your avalanche of frustration, decide on which of the five actions above would serve you well and simply act. 

Leadership on the GO…..It’s O.N


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A recent finalist for the 2017 ORBIE CIO of the Year award, Onyeka brings more than 20 years of experience leading teams, developing strategies and building technology solutions. He has also led the creation and integration of technology solutions for a network of retail store franchises and distributors across North and Central America. Onyeka contributes to CIO Review magazine and shares his insights and experience with peers and colleagues via his own blog, Before joining Interstate Batteries in 2015, Onyeka led teams at Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, where he modernized technology practices and powered business processes for daily, on-the-street use. He is a graduate of the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University and currently serves on the EVANTA Dallas CIO Governing Body. If Onyeka were not at Interstate, he’d find another way to combine his three biggest passions: his faith, helping others, and, of course, information technology. Because ultimately, as he puts it, “we can’t help everyone, but everyone can always help someone.”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Retha February 14, 2017 at 7:42 am

This post was just what I needed to read right now.


avatar Onyeka Nchege February 18, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Thanks Retha. We all need a reminder every now and then. #KeepStriving


avatar JC February 15, 2017 at 9:22 am

Very timely post Onyeka. Reading this helps me work through the last few weeks avalanches and keep the bigger picture in perspective.
Always appreciate your insight and wisdom!


avatar Onyeka Nchege February 18, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Thanks! We are all “working through”. #Staythecourse


avatar Steve May 2, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Very powerful words, my friend. Thank you for sharing this!


avatar Onyeka Nchege May 11, 2017 at 7:45 pm

Thanks bro. Much appreciated.


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