Your Turn, NH: Phil Taub: I didn’t have a plan, so I bought toilet paper

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Thursday March 19, 2020

I WASN’T prepared for this pandemic. I didn’t have a plan, so I bought toilet paper. But toilet paper isn’t going to protect me from contracting the coronavirus. So, why did I do that? To understand how we react when we are feeling scared and anxious, I contacted three retired Navy SEALs and asked them.

Rick Kaiser is a retired Command Master Chief from Seal Team 6. He once fought in a battle in Mogadishu, Somalia for two days straight that we know as Blackhawk Down. He told me that everyone needs to have a plan. “Even a bad plan is better than no plan.” OK, that makes sense. So, I definitely didn’t have a plan for a worldwide pandemic. The news continues to get worse by the hour, so what do we do?

I contacted retired Navy SEAL Jason Kuhn. He once wanted to be a Major League baseball player and in his senior year of college he got the “yips” and couldn’t get his mind around overcoming that. Then 9/11 happened and he joined the Navy. He was one of the few in his class who made it through a tough six months of BUDs training, including five days of no sleep during Hell Week (well, actually they get to sleep four hours in five days), to become a SEAL. He learned then that his mind was a lot stronger than he thought it was when he struggled as a baseball player.

Jason told me that human beings have a tendency to do two things in fear: (1) act according to their emotion, and (2) do what other people do. This is especially true when the emotion is fear. “In fear or panic, we feel a need to act then look to what other people are doing. This is why you see irrationality of toilet paper aisles being empty and vitamin aisles being fully stocked.”

Jason went on to tell me that the fear is exacerbated by the media as we have more sources for sharing information, whether it be true or not, in real time than we have ever had.

Dan Luna was next. He recently retired after 20 years as a Navy SEAL. For most of his career, he deployed every year for six months at a time to some of the most dangerous places in the world. He is a deep thinker.

Luna said we should take this time to focus on our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well being. “Bring your whole self to address the problem. People fear the unknown. People fear change. People fear pain.”

While some people will unfortunately not survive this pandemic, most will be fine. So Dan wants us to use this time to engage in healthy practices that support us to be mentally, emotionally, physical and spiritually strong. “A strong foundation will weather the storm,” he said.

We can’t control most of what is going on, but we do have control over our own actions. Master Chief Kaiser told me once that “SEALs are ordinary people that have learned to do extraordinary things.” I think that means that when we survive this pandemic, we are all going to learn that we are stronger than we realize and can all learn to do extraordinary things. Jason says, “it’s my game, my rules, and I always win.” So, I am going to share my toilet paper with my neighbors, go buy vitamins and make a real plan for the near future.

[Phil Taub is a corporate lawyer at Nixon Peabody LLP and co-founded a charity with his wife to support Veterans called Swim With A Mission. They bring a large group of Navy SEALs to NH every year in July to raise money for Veterans].

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