Tuesday, 21 July 2015

If in doubt - make tea!

My friend, mentor and colleague, Bob Cooper, designed a pocket sized survival kit. It’s built small so that people can easily carry it. Many kits are too large, and either get left at home, or left with the vehicle.

Either way, it results in a person being lost or stranded without their survival kit. As you can imagine space is at a premium in such a small kit, containing over 40 items. We often get asked why space is dedicated to a tea bag, and a coffee sachet.

The kit is supplied to Australian Special Forces Soldiers. One soldier, after a significant and difficult deployment wrote to Bob saying that the kit was great, and the most important item in it was the tea bag. It speaks volumes to the reason the tea bag is in there in the first place. In the stress and pressure of protracted “field work”, a cup of tea leant a measure of sanity, familiarity and a comfort zone to his life.

 That’s why one of the Thrive and Adapt principles is:

If in doubt - make tea.

There are many situations and circumstances that call for a rapid decision. Whether you make them based on an intuitive understanding, or logic, sometimes there’s no escaping the need for a decision right now.

At other times there’s doubt, pressure, and critical information is missing. It may be that you are making a reactive decision based on some or all of those factors. At times like that, making tea is a great thing to do. The ritual and familiarity of your favourite brew, takes you to a comfort zone, and the 15 minutes to drink it may be sufficient to refocus for the pending decision. If not “make tea” becomes an analogy for “take time”. Sleep on it, seek more information, change tasks, spend time in reflection or retreat - what ever strategy best suits the situation.

Richard Branson sites delaying decisions as having saved him from many spectacular failures, had he made a rapid decision in the moment. He also says that he has missed some opportunities as a result, but never enough to outweigh the process of taking time.

When we run advanced survival courses, the act of making a fire and a cup of tea brings an air of comfort and relaxation to an otherwise challenging situation. There’s a reason that so many cultures have rituals and ceremonies around tea.

 What decisions/pressure points are you facing this week that would be better served by stepping back and taking time?

Go on - Make Tea!


  1. Love this post Mike. It's so true Having a comfortable ritual to provide us that thinking space to think things through is so important.

  2. Thanks Jenny - It's amazing to watch on the survival courses we run. The group can be quite scattered, under pressure and not very cohesive. When we have measured cortisol, it's up there as well. As soon as they make tea, everyone settles down significantly.
    It's such an easy tactic to deploy, almost anywhere.