We are surrounded by stimulus. Some of the stimulus is important and some of it’s just white noise distracting us from our mission. Some of the stimulus we bring on ourselves, while most of it is a natural reaction to the environment that we are operating in.
Early on as a platoon commander in Afghanistan I was often overwhelmed by stimulus. I had a radio handset on my body armour which linked me to my team commanders. In my right ear was an earpiece for another radio connected to an F16 fighter jet or a radio to another network of enabling assets. My signaller would often be right there next to me, yelling out other supposed vitally important, time-sensitive questions of fact from my company or regimental headquarters back in their airconditioned office…He would also have a small computer screen and would be trying to get my attention to show me what could be seen from the various aircraft above.
Then there was the constant radio traffic. The aircraft maneuvering above, the locals running in all directions, animals bleating, kids crying, teams shooting, explosions being set off, and finally the enemy shooting at me. Couple all of this with the cognitive recollections, trying to remember the specific of the orders that I had given that morning, including the casualty collection locations that I would have to direct people to and our plans for the actions on in each circumstance. Then there are the intrinsic memories of loved ones at home, and all the other things you think of when your life is full of violence and chaos. Not a great frame of mind for a combat platoon commander.
The stimulus was actually my main threat. It wasn’t until I truly understood this, that I came into my own as a commander.
So, how do you triage stimulus?