Preparation vs Paranoia


I had the pleasure of leading an open discussion on the topic of active shooters in Dayton, OH last week. This was such a phenomenal experience because we simply talked. 

No agenda.

No limitations.

My role was simply to guide the conversation and share the experience I had on the subject. 

In that format we covered many different topics including training, red flags, the limitations of mental care, the restrictions on teachers, carrying a weapon, responsibility, what we’re in control of, the many variables involved in responding, and much more. 

The first question asked was in regards to the feeling of safety, or lack thereof, associated with the places these attacks happen. 

The reference was that people visiting now viewed the Oregon District in Dayton as a dangerous place. How can you continue to go through life and continue forward with an open mind and a sense of security. 

It’s a great question and a concern many people have had in my experience. 

We discussed the idea of statistics, data, and the stories we create around that information. Some people think “there’s no way it will happen twice in the same place” while others directly associate the place with danger. 

After the Aurora shooting, there was a vast concern around attending movies as people associated that simple past time as a place where you get shot. 

I have heard countless times that students fear going to school because they are afraid they will be shot. 

The way we perceive safety is often based on our past experiences. 

Data is a double edged sword. We use statistics to help prioritize training and thought certainly. Yet, even if 90% of the time one thing is correct, there’s still a 10% chance it will be different. 

It’s very easy to fall victim to statistics and the stories created around them, if we lack the personal experience to make our own educated decisions. 

That’s where, in my opinion, experience comes in. 

The more I can expose myself to the elements surrounding the thing I fear the most, the less I fear that thing… in theory. 

Often times our fear is driven by the unknown. 

If I have never been swimming or taught to swim, being dropped into the ocean, or even a pool may be a terrifying experience. As I am meaningfully introduced to water and given the skills to survive in it, I become more and more comfortable there. 

Violence is no different. 

The more I am exposed to the genuine realities of violence, the way we tend to psychologically react, the skills that are needed, the sounds of the gun, the things that can go right, the things that can go wrong, and so on… the more I understand what is happening.

The less unknown variables in play, the more I will be comfortable in my ability to respond in my best interest. 

The less you experience personally, the more your opinion is driven by other people’s opinions and influence. 

If the media, or your friends, or your parents, or anyone you respect tells you something with authority, and you have no clue otherwise, you tend to take on that opinion.

How do you know that opinion is correct if you have never exposed yourself to it?

When the media is only highlighting the terrible events, and constantly, we tend to create a story about how terrifying the world is and how nowhere is safe.

In my experience, the best way to gain confidence is to gain exposure and experience. 

I am very aware of the violence in the world. 

I have spent many hours in the last decade watching videos, reading articles, and reports about real people doing atrocious things to real people.

I still enjoy every moment of life.

I go to schools, and movies, and malls, and large public events. 

I also make educated decisions on where not to go, what to wear, who to avoid, what tools to carry, and when to be more aware when needed. 

That is the difference between preparation and paranoia. 

It’s knowledge.

It’s experience. 

Not magic, or false confidence, or mental tricks. 

It’s exposure. 

So what fears do you have? 

What ways can you begin to learn more about those fears and start to pull back the vail of uncertainty?

Be good, train hard, stay safe
– aaron