March 13, 2023

004 - What is #Responder Readiness?

004 - What is #Responder Readiness?

Joseph Willis, Chief Learning Officer for First HELP, joins us to discuss how to get your brain right!

An experienced Learning & Development Professional with a passion for #ResponderReadiness and specialize in developing leaders of character, professional organizational climates, and high performing cultures of trust. 

Joseph is a retired US Army First Sergeant and currently serves as the Chief Learning Officer for First H.E.L.P. where the work to smash the mental health stigma for First Responders and honor the lives and service of those lost to suicide by caring for their families in the aftermath.

Many people experience situations requiring De-Escalation. What tools have you found to be effective in these situations?

- Safety is priority #1 - physical AND psychological.
- Don't take it personally, It's not about me.
- Be predictable, consistent, and kind.
- Resilient Responders are Ready Responders.

Video Link for the 5 Tools:



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Joe: Get up and move. There's so much research out there right now on what happens to me physiologically, chemically neurologically in movement.

Movement creates joy. Movement creates balance. I mean, there's so much advantage to it. The other thing it does, it burns off energy, right? So get up and move and being intentional about putting something six feet away in an office is something that can inspire that.

You don't have to get up at 3 45 to work out. Just get up, stand up at your desk. 

Kerry: Welcome to the De-Escalation Conversations Podcast. I've been blessed. I have had some really amazing guests who I've been honored that they've given us their time, which is so valuable because I've, I have yet to find a guest who's not just crazy busy. And crazy busy is a great way. To describe our guest for this episode, Joe Willis.

Joe's become a friend over the years that we've known each other, and I, I've been blessed having this guy in my life. I met him at ILEETA, International Law Enforcement, Educators and Trainers Association I've talked about this on other episodes. I, I'm a huge believer in that organization.

 I teach every year at that conference. In fact, this year, in 2023, I'm, I'm teaching four different times. It's always in March. It's always in St. Louis. It's always around St. Patty's Day. So check that out if you haven't. But I wanna talk and introduce you, talk about, and introduce you to Joe Willis.

Joe is besides just an amazing man with a huge heart, he's an experienced learning and development professional, who has a passion for hashtag Responder Readiness, he specializes in developing leaders of character, professional organizational climates, and high performing cultures of trust. He's a retired US Army Responder Sergeant.

He currently serves as the Chief Learning Officer for Responder Help. If you don't know about Responder HELP, we're gonna be talking about that today. We're gonna be having a, I don't know, a conversation about it. Responder HELP. Their goal is to smash the mental health stigma for Responder Responders and to honor the lives and the service of those who've been lost to suicide by caring for their families in the aftermath.

Ladies and gentlemen, wanna introduce you to, to my friend Joe Willis. Joe, thanks for being here on the show! 

Joe: Thank you so much for having me. And you know, you mentioned that you're blessed. I, I will tell you, having met you and the work you're doing and the the way you've opened the aperture for me for training, I, I really, I genuinely appreciate you as a, a friend and, and I consider you to be a mentor too, man, and really I do appreciate it.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here. 

Kerry: Yeah, absolutely. It's a great thing to, to be able to sit down and have any time with you. So, Always one of the Responder questions I ask people in the vein of, what do you do to make the world a better place? I wanna talk about your title. You're the Chief Learning Officer for Responder HELP.

So Responder, tell me what a Chief Learning Officer does. What do you, what's your role in that? And then tell our listeners and me more about Responder HELP. 

Joe: Yeah. So Chief Learning Officer is essentially a Steward of Learning for an organization. And so organizations all over the place have, have Chief Learning Officers, and their job is to ensure that learning occurs and the way it's supposed to for a learning organization and.

As the Chief Learning Officer for Responder HELP, a couple of the things I oversee are both internal and external education programs. And so I'm truly honored and, and blessed to have a great team that supports in that and some great programs. As part of Responder HELP, what we do is, you know, our mission is in our name.

Honor, Educate, Lead, and Prevent -HELP. And so in that Honor space, one of the, the things that we've come to learn initially when we Responder started as an organization in 2017, We realized right away collecting data was a big piece of what we did. Trying to understand the suicide epidemic that affects Responder Responders disproportionately to other professions and to really understand what's happening there.

Well, as you collect data in numbers, those become stories, and those stories happen to be families. And as we engaged with families, we got to know them and they got to know us. Honor became something very significant to the mission we do, and that is recognizing the service and the performance of men and women in the professions.

All Responder Responder professions, but law enforcement here, the the work they do and honoring the way they lived, not remembering them for the way they died and taking care of their families in the aftermath. Educate is, Both internal and external, external to the organization. As far as what we do as far as prevention campaigns, we, I could tell you a lot about our Responder hashtag Responder readiness program and the work we're doing there, and lead you know, lead involves a lot of different things.

Like we are often brought in to consult in consortiums and have these conversations. You know, for instance, you take something like the public safety officers benefit act, the Those sorts of events not events, but those sorts of topics we're often asked to, to come in and consult on.

When I look at lead from the perspective I have in the organization, it is largely about changing culture, building change. Agents who from where they are, leadership to everyone's business and from where they are, they lead and. The organization for the better. And then ultimately, you know, when we talk to our family members or anybody who's lost someone to suicide, doesn't matter where they are or you know, how they were connected with that person, when they know they can't go back and undo it, they, what's happened is happened.

Everybody wants us to prevent that next, and that's what we're working very hard to do in smashing that statement. That 

Kerry: that's awesome that your organization First HELP. Is so well-rounded in its approach. And it's not just singularly , I actually said that word right. I think it's not focused with a, a single lens.

It's, it's, it's doing so many different things. And I love that you guys are caring for the families in the aftermath because so many times the families are, are left even if they happen to understand why. That person committed suicide, it's still, they're still left with tons of questions about it. And like you said, can they go back and undo anything?

They can't. But there's always that survivor's guilt and second guessing that that goes on. So and unfortunately, suicide I spent 30 years with San Diego pd and I, I honestly, I couldn't. I couldn't, it would take more than both hands. I'd be taken off my, my socks and to be able to count the number of officers that I knew that committed suicide.

And, and that's tough. That's and so being wrapped in that world, I'm gonna ask you a question that we didn't discuss and that's, how do you. How do you,

sorry, I, I was just, I literally had a flashback to one of the people that, that I knew that lost his life, and I got choked up there for a second. Excuse me. How do you protect yourself? How do you, how do you care for yourself when you're a, as you said, Thing is a story. It's, they're not stats, they're stories and they're families and there's, there's little kids and there's, there's husbands and wives and, and, and, and relatives.

And it could be very acidic for you. To be dealing with all this stuff. You could roll, I could see you could roll into compassion cuz you have a, you have a heart that is just bigger than the Empire State Building and I could see the potential for compassion fatigue being a real issue for you and, and, and the folks in your organization.

So Responder off, how do you take care of yourself? 

Joe: Yeah. So it's, I thank you for asking that. I don't know that anyone outside of. Our organizations ever asked me that, and maybe some others have been asked, but you're the per person to ask me and, and publicly at that. So let me see if I can I can summarize here.

Responder of all to be. Honest and transparent. I do deal with compassion fatigue, as do many of the other members of our organization. And we've acknowledged it amongst each other, especially those of us who have been around since the beginning. Those of us who are deeply entrenched in the stories and staying connected.

And I, I will tell you a couple of things that, Responder of all walk the walk. We don't just talk the talk. So when I say Responder readiness and I talk about the range of resilience and results, we're in communication. I do my best to live that. I, I have my daily meditations. I if, if people know me, they, they know that I am in this space.

I walk the walk, I have to, because if I didn't, This would just destroy me. There's that. The other thing that we do is amongst the board, you know, we, we've got the the, the board that we, we've all known each other for so long. We rely on each other to, to catch each other in those moments where this is, this is weighing on us.

And so we check in on each other. And lastly would be, It is so easy to grab a hold of a problem and to make that the problem, and that you, you've heard the analogy that when the only tool in the toolbox is the hammer, ever problem becomes a nail. It's bigger than that and, and I think we've been very intentional about encouraging each other.

Go ahead and step back. Pay attention to these other things being diverse about what we're consuming. I, there was a time, man where I was literally scrolling through my phone doing research on suicides and looking for suicides that weren't being reported, and it was just consuming 24 hours a day it seemed like.

Right. I would wake up thinking about it. But being intentional about my own mental health has been an extreme benefit. 

Kerry: Very cool. Well, I, I don't know if I ever told you or not, but I've been working as suicide hotline for a little over six months now. And I work, I work it a lot. I work 40 hours a month.

Wow. And I also, that's, that's anybody, anybody who calls 9 88 or any crisis line specific will answer calls for. And then I also work COP Line. Mm-hmm. , which is just for law enforcement. And I do 16 hours a month, so 56 hours a month, which is what less like. A third of a full-time job. Yeah.

Every month I'm taking crisis calls and I know how that can, can wear on me talking people off the ledge literally sometimes. Yeah. And so that. Responder readiness at resiliency practice. I know for me, if I didn't have that, because there's , there's, we know from, you know, I did 30 years in law enforcement and I was on peer support team for, I, I think about 24 years, 25 years of that time.

And so it can wear. . And so having, I love what you said about, you know, you have your meditation, you know, having journaling, having a exercise routine, having those things set where they're not negotiable. So let, as an example, I'll use 3, 2, 1. Mm-hmm. , and we've, I think you and I have talked about we, we've talked 

Joe: about it.

I love it. Go ahead. Yeah. I, I think it's a tremendous practice. So, 

Kerry: three hours before, so I have a set bedtime mm-hmm. , which for me is nine o'. And with the exception of when I am working the crisis lines of suicide outlines, sometimes I violate 3 21, so I'm not perfect at it, but probably about 90, 95% of the time, I'm, I'm good on it.

So, set bedtime, nine o'clock. So by 6:00 PM three hours before I go to bed, I, I stop eating. I, I've had my last meal by that three hour mark, two hours. Before bedtime, I stop work and then one hour before bedtime I stop electronics. No phone, no, no computers, no tv, nothing, nothing. Electronics. If I'm gonna read, I got a hard copy book and that's oftentimes that last hour is when I'm doing my journaling.

I call it a mind. . So I'm get, I'm getting everything out, what I'm gonna be doing the next day, what are my goals for the next day? What happened today? What worked, what didn't? It, it is, it's kind of, you know, watching those game tapes in my head and getting it down on paper. And because I'm able to do that before I go to bed, that mind dump gets rid of those looping dots.

And so that 3 21 is great. And then in the morning, I joked, I'm a member of the 5:00 AM club, so I'm usually up around quarter to five and I'm gonna be actually back in that and getting up a little bit earlier here pretty quick. But right now about quarter to five, cuz I like to start my morning slow and then I'm meditating, doing some more journaling.

And I'm at the gym at by six for a workout class. Usually lasts at least half an hour. And sometimes I'll do an extra half hour after, so between half an hour, 30 minutes to an hour, and then I'm home and in shower change and at work. And that routine, it's non-negotiable. If I wake up, I'm like, I'm a little bit, sorry, I'll go to the gym.

This. It's not negotiable. I'm going, there's something you can 

Joe: do at the gym, even when you're smart. I promise you, 

Kerry: you can find hundred percent. And, and the guy who owns our gym, he's, he's actually a, a friend and a mentor. His name is Todd Durkin. If you, if you ever look him up, Todd Amazing man.

He said to me one day, and I'm sure, I don't think he came up with it, but he, he, I heard it from him first. The heaviest weight in the gym is the front door. Yeah. I, I agree. And that 

Joe: absolutely makes sense. The, the getting outta bed and the getting to, and that's where you know, the habit, for instance, I was I don't remember who said it.

I was just Reminded of this the other day as far as you want to go to the gym, don't start with a goal to go to the gym. Start with a goal to set your stuff out the night before so it's easy when you wake up to put it on. Right. It's, you know, have your, have your route to the car because it, I, I think, you know, the, the heaviest door being the gym, the hardest part is getting to the car.

Once you're there, it's easy, right? Yeah. So, I, I couldn't agree more. I, I think you, you gotta get past those initial hurdle. 

Kerry: It's funny that you say that cuz if, if I were to pick up this webcam and take it into my bedroom, you would see laid out for tomorrow is my, my workout clothes. Yeah. Literally what I do, I don't even leave it to chance for the night when I come home.

And I change out of my gym closed. I take the next days and I set it out because there's been times where I'm like, oh, I'll get it in the morning and you won't before I was so, so seeing the benefits, realizing the benefits of this mindset. of it. It's a decision that's already made. I'm not deciding, I'm not getting up and going to the gym because I feel like it, I'm going to the gym because I'm going to the gym.

It's what I do. It's, 

Joe: it's, and I think that's where those, those fundamental things start to shift for us is when we stop looking at it as something I do. No, it's what I do. Yeah. It's, it's who I am. It is I am up, you know, it's, it's just ingrained in me at this. We're, we're sending our dog off to a dog sitter.

Tomorrow, tomorrow night, I feel bad because the dog sitter doesn't know that she's programmed to be on my schedule, which is a 3 45 wake up. And so, and I do it. I, you know, I love my, my apple watch because I don't have to worry about waking other people up with my alarm anymore. It just starts tapping on my.

At, that's cool. 3 45 i i and then as soon as the dog sees me move, it's on. Like I, my day has begun. And so it's those little things that make all the difference, but it's who I am. It's not what I do. 

Kerry: Yeah. That's awesome. That's a great way to say it. Have you warned your dog sitter? I just 

Joe: gotta ask. No, I haven't

I would just, the dog 

Kerry: sitter probably go find a different dog sitter. That's funny. Yep. Okay, so on the next episode that I have you on, I want to hear, just tuck that seat in the back of your head. I want to hear what happened 

Joe: when you went out and my dog sitter fired me. Is what you're gonna hear, . 

Kerry: Exactly.

The hunt is on. All right, so let, let's get onto other stuff that other people are like really concerned about. When you hear the term Dees. What's the lens that you look through for that word? I mean, what do you, what do you picture that as? How do you describe, I'm not looking for a hardcore definition.

There's tons of 'em out there from, from I A C P and you know, everybody else. What, how do you look at deescalation? It's 

Joe: changed for me over the years because I, I'm not out there anymore and I'm not deescalating people in these high stress moments. And you know, I'm not concerned for my safety and the safety of others, but I do genuinely believe deescalation is about making people feel safe.

Right. It is in one way or another, physically or psychologically, making people feel safe. 

Kerry: Yeah, that's a, that's a really good point because then we. Calm the amygdala down and start to shift him from survival state and executive state not. I'd like to add one thing to that, if I may. It's I, I always say there, everyone in this world, everybody on this planet has an addiction, and that addiction is to be understood.

Yeah. And when you may feel somebody feel understood, that goes a long way to making them feel safe and. You, you might think, well, wait a second that this suspect has a weapon, or this kid in the classroom is turning over desks. Why do I have to make him feel safe? Well, because fear is the root of all conflict, and I want everybody to hear that and let that sink in.

Fear is the root of all conflict. So if you. Able to remove that fear by making them feel safe, you start to remove that conflict. So I, I, I love how you approach that, Joe. Let me ask you this. Let me shift gears again on you. You know, there's a lot of times that people are in situations that require deescalation.

Whether it's a teacher in a classroom or a medic and or firefighter on a rig, somebody going in to do home healthcare. They're taking care of a hospice patient. A lot of, lot of our listeners in those, in those areas deal with these type of situations. What tools have you found to be effective when deescalation needs to happen?

Joe: I would say among the Responder is realize that it's not it's not about me in this moment. There's, there are times where it. If, if my amygdala is activated and hijacking me at the same time, this person's hijacking theirs I've gotta get me into a space where it's not about me in this moment, it's about making this person feel safe and I cannot be a threat to them in this particular time.

And I say that knowing that there have been times where they have seen me as a threat and I'm trying to deescalate them. And we are a genuine threat to each other. But knowing that the second I take it personally, it, it changes things drastically. Does that, does that help? Is that 

Kerry: is Yeah. Yeah.

Cuz one of the things that we had, we, you, you had, I, I think one of your phrases to me before was don't take that personally. It's not about me. Yeah. It's important to keep that in mind. Don't take it personally. It's not about me, it's about the situ. and, and if you take that conflict and make it about you, you're gonna stay in Survival State.

You'll never get into executive state. 

Joe: Absolutely. And some of the ways we can do that, I mean, obviously if the, the more you know, I know this, I say this and I know out there, somebody's gonna hear me say this next word and they're gonna think, well, as soon as I do that, I, you know, I, I endanger. I understand the need for tactical superiority.

I understand the need for physical safety in a lot of the situations we're in. So when I say predictable, being predictable, consistent, and kind, never hurt anybody. Right. Obviously we don't wanna tip our hand, and I know out there somebody's gonna be like, you know, duck hunting with me. With that, you said predictable.

We can't be predictable to a certain extent. We can't. The, the predictability in the word choices I use are consistent with what they're used to hearing and, and calming staying true to my patterns, true to my personality. And that also brings me into the consistent space. Above all else being kind.

And so, yes, being somewhat predictable, knowing that there's a, a tenuous nature of that word, perhaps consistent. I'm fair across the board and how I deal with things. And ultimately being kind to people I think is a, a big piece of that as well. 

Kerry: Yeah, the compassionate policing kind of approach or compassionate teaching if you're a school teacher.

Compassionate. Yeah. Patient care. If you're in medical services, if you're a flight attendant on their line, it's compassionate service. Client service. Let, I, I wanna, I wanna touch for just a moment on this predictable part. I'm gonna, I'm gonna throw this out and you tell me what you. I think as much as cops concerned about being predictable, because suspects will figure out what's coming next and we'll tip our hand as you, as you, the phrase that you used we're already predictable to each other, and I think the predictability of, we know officer gasoline.

There's one in every department. There's a, you hear that officer en route to a call and you're like, oh Lord, let's hurry up and finish this because otherwise, as soon as this officer gets unseen, male or female, we're gonna be in a brawl, not a fight, not a scuffle, not a curfuffle. We're gonna be in a brawl, and that's who's predictable.

By the same token, there's certain officers. Who will show up on scene. Certain firefighters and medics who will respond to an incident. Teachers who are unflappable in the classroom, that's predictable as well. And I, I, I think when you talk about predict being predictable, I, I, I, I think that's a, probably a good lens to look through on that word.

And, and I'll, I'll say this, one of my favorite people in the entire world, he was a senior captain. Of my first Fire Department. So before I was a cop, I was a Firefighter for, for about five years. And JD Connors just outside Charleston, South Carolina. JD had been a Firefighter for a number of years and he was the coolest man under pressure.

I literally never once in all the hairy situations we were in. Fighting fires, whether they were brush fires or structure fires CR crashes, extrications that were just hellacious. I never once saw him lose his cool. He was the qu I swear to God. He's, he was like Alex Homo, the guy who did free solo.

Like no amygdala, you know, the fear center of your brain. And if you wanna learn more about the amygdala, will put a, a link in the show notes about that. But we've 

Joe: talked a lot about it so far. . 

Kerry: Yeah, we've talked a lot about it. But JD never got upset. And in fact, I still remember the, the, one of the Responder I, I'd just been promoted to engineer and I was driving.

The, it was the hardest. We had, we had four firetrucks plus a brushwork. This had had that push button shift, the two speed transmission, you know those, it's got like the little red button on the side of the stick shift that you'd lift up or push down to shift. And I came up to this intersection. I'm trying to downshift and alls I'm hearing is, and I'm doing everything I can and I'm like, screw it.

I can't get it to drop into. So I went around the curve and I went around at such a speed that when we came back, it was a structure fire call. And I'll, I'll be honest, it was the apartment complex where I lived. Oh, wow. And they were retrofitting the apartment buildings because when they built them, they didn't have any fire breaks in the, in the attic.

So once fire got up in the attic, it was game over, you were gonna lose the entire building. And the address where we were going to, I knew because I lived in that complex, had not been retrofitted yet. Oh, wow. And it was fairly close to my apartment. So I'm, I know where we're going. I know what the stakes are.

We gotta get there because literally at that, in that complex, if you had a fire. Seconds. Literally did count. Well, when I turned, when we got back it, it turned out to be somebody had left. They were boiling they were making hard boiled eggs, and they went to the store, left the pan on the fire or on the, on the stove water evaporated and the eggs caught on fire.

So it was a little baby kitchen fire. Luckily, you know, we were there quick and that was it. All the damage was just to the kitchen area. That apartment smoked. We're coming back. So we were only on, we were on scene like, you know, less than an hour we're coming back and we go through that same intersection that I had gone through on that hard turn.

And we were like, if we weren't on two wheels, I don't know, in the, in this big old firetruck. And there was, what happened was there was so much centrifugal force that water came out of the vent tube on the firetruck. Oh yeah. The intersection was still so, About an hour later when we drove back to the fire station and, and JD, of course is on my ear in his very calm manner.

And I'm looking at that going, holy hell, if we had wrecked Yeah, the inertia. Wow. But even then, as we were like through the, the intersection, jds sitting in the passenger seat and he was calm as a cucumber, which is what I. Yeah, because I knew I was going through that intersection hot, and I was scared as the driver.

And that's the last thing you want is a, is a 

Joe: DC going nuts truck, 

Kerry: even survival state. Right? Yeah. JD was at calming force that I needed, and he was predictable. I knew anytime he was there, we were gonna be. No matter what happened, we're gonna be good cuz JD was on scene. I love it. And I think that there's school teachers like that.

I think there's firefighters, I know there's firefighters like that, cops and medics. And so as we and, and there's flight at attendants like that, you can tell when you get on an airplane 

Joe: if this is gonna be a person that's gonna panic along with you or keep everybody calm. Yeah, absolutely Right. 

Kerry: Who's gonna be the solely in the cock?

To land on the Hudson. Right? Right. That's, that's who you want in that moment of Christ. So I think. Long, long response to that predictable word, but I don't think there's anybody who should go duck hunting on you for that. So anyway. No, 

Joe: I appreciate it. You know, the, the, I, we'll move on, but the, the analogy that I use with the predictable one is dogs.

Have you ever watched, like a pack of dogs that are out for a walk and one dog is unpredictable, and when it starts to go, what happens to the other dogs? They all join in. Right? And so being, having something unpredictable, that's part of a volatile situation to begin with. Just it's, it's like having gasoline ready to throw on a fire.

And so yeah, being predictable, consistent. Yeah. Doubt kind. 

Kerry: Hey, before we get, before we get too long, long-winded here. I know I was long-winded on my firefighters story. Tell me more about Resilient Responders are Ready Responders and, and this # Responder Readiness. I think that all wraps together.


Joe: It does. And you know, I, I'll tell you. So something that over the years, what I, I've learned, and then there's a lot of research out there to support this in the positive psychology movement is that, Two parallel schools of psychology when it comes to our professions. And one is the crisis intervention and beyond, right?

And treating for mental illness and taking care of people who are struggling with mental health situations. Absolutely needed. And what I'm about to say about positive psychology does not dispute any of that. We, we have to have both. On the other hand, what's absent a lot of times in the conversation is what about those things associated with positive psychology and resilience building?

And it's not like these are things on, on a spectrum, right? You have the mental health crisis and all of the, the bad stuff here and we, we can treat through that and then they'll be better than, okay. Or we can start with all of this resilience stuff and none of that matters. No, we still have both ends of this, but.

Positive psychology has got to be a part of the conversation across the board. And what we've found is through the work from UPenn and the School of Positive applied, applied positive psychology the work from Karen Reich and Dr. Mon Seligman is that there is, A need, an absolute need for emphasis on building resilient responders who are equipped with those positive mindful.

Joy building skills, the resilience, building skills that prepare them for adversity that we've done up to this point is react to. Now we, we can be proactive about it. And so when I talk about Resilient Responders are Ready Responders, that is If we can build that strong base of a positive mindset of intentional joy and gratitude, understanding mindfulness and practicing it being able to manage energy as it surges through our body, whether that is for moments of anxiety or fear or whatever.

Being able to deal with that. Those are the sort of skills that when we get to that crisis moment and that crisis moment could be anything from a personal catastrophe family falling apart or something happened in my personal life to I'm on scene with this person who is unraveling and knows exactly what buttons to push on me that's going to entice me.

And what happens is when we are already. Depleted in, in our, our resilience range of resilience is, is that it's a real thing. It ebbs and flows and, and, you know, compresses and there's those times when we are depleted and all it takes is this person just talked a little bit of gasoline on us and I, I think everybody listening this, I'm, I'm pretty sure it can relate to that one moment where it just took a little bit and I don't really understand why.

It's because we were absent of those resilience things that we needed in that moment, Resilient Responders are Ready Responders. 

Kerry: That's awesome. And Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman wrote a book called Left of Bang Patrick Van Horn. Patrick Van Horn. Sorry. Thank you. Thank you so much. I, I got, I got my authorship mixed up there.

Yeah. I was like, wait 

Joe: Yeah, no, that's on Killing, on Combat. Yeah. 

Kerry: Thank you. Sorry. I should edit that part out so I don't sound like a complete idiot. But anybody listen to this podcast, I was gonna recommend that 

Joe: you do. Yeah. So if you go back and edit that part out, I would totally get it. It's let me, lemme pull it up since you're gonna edit it anyway.

And I don't have it 

Kerry: right here in front. No, I'm not gonna edit. The listeners already know I'm a complete idiot anyway, so it's okay. But yeah, if you're so this Left of Bang and if you're gonna pull it up, that's great. That's awesome. So people can see it. And we'll also put a link put the information in the show notes about the book.

You're better at this than I am by far. That's why they made you a Chief Learning Officer, but they kind of explained this whole left to bang and where this Responder Readiness and resiliency before the critical incident fits into that, that kind of mindset. 

Joe: So Patrick Van Horn, Jason Riley wrote this book called Left of Bang, and it's based on the Marine Corps Combat Hunter program.

And essentially what it was written to Illustrate to the readers is kind of a, a history of the program, but also to provide just enough information on what the, the concept is. And that is we look at the, the concept of BANG as being a moment where a critical incident happens. It's, you know, for the group it was written for initially, and the, the training was prepared for was, you're walking through a market in Iraq or Afghanistan, and an explosion happens and it becomes a an ambush, right?

That is, Well Right of Bang, we know what to do in those moments. And the same thing is true for the Firefighters who are in that moment where structure begins to collapse the teacher who is in a classroom, and the student begins to act you know, a certain way or whatever the, the protocol exists for how to handle this situation.

What's absent in the conversation a lot of times is how do I be mindful of what's happening before that? And if we look at things occurring on a timeline as it moves to the right, Right of Bang is where the protocol exists. Left of Bang is where this wide open space of what's happening here. And so what they provide us and, and what's proven to be true in so many different environments is we understand what a baseline is.

We, we know what normal looks like walking through a market. There's normally people shopping and children playing and noises and, and music and that sort of thing. If all of a sudden one day I'm in this environment and that is absent, there's no children here. All, all the women are gone right now, and it's all military aged men.

This is not your normal market. Right. Well, the same thing is true in any other tactical situation. So Left of Bang applies there, and we can see that when we talk about it from a mental health perspective. What we're looking for is a baseline, a person's normal behavior. How we know this person to be and what Van Horn and Riley offer us is that.

Things off of that baseline are anomalies. And so we talk about behavior change being a part of mental health concerns and potential indicators of, of chronic stress. And so what might some of those be? Well, increased absenteeism or outbursts, right. Increased Change in appearance, right?

So increased weight or, or weight loss, that sort of thing. So we start seeing these, and one thing being, you know, here's an example that often comes up in training is risk imprudent speeding or excessive spending. So somebody goes out and buys an expensive truck and then goes and puts, you know, another three grand worth of tires on it, lifts it up a little bit, spends a little bit of money on a.

Is that an anomaly that is gonna indicate that they're going to lose it on the road one day or, or kill themselves? No, they probably not. But now let's put this with a few more outbursts. Let's put this with this individual was recently going through a divorce. Let's put this with any number of other things.

And these anomalies begin to cluster. and if they cluster on the baseline, okay, this is normal for this person. Once they start clustering off of the baseline, this is not normal for them. And we're seeing these things, that's where we have an indicator. And what, you know Joiner tells us in Interpersonal Suicide Theory is that there are three things required for an individual to die by suicide. 

One is thwarted belonging. That is, I no longer belong in this environment that's accepted me. It could be a divorce, it could be something happening at work, it could be any number of things. Another one is perceived burdensomeness. And so when I see thwarted belonging, and now I consider myself to be a burden.

Things begin to happen and I begin to behave differently when those things are present. The third thing is acquired capability. And so if you have a perceived burden toward belonging and acquired capability in the same place at the same time, we are at Bang or beyond. Right?. The farther left of that we can get, the more we see clusters, the more in touch and engaged we are as friends and leaders and coworkers and just concerned people, human beings the more likely we are to save some lives.

I, that was a very long-winded answer, brother. I, I just, it's something I'm get incredibly passionate about. Now, I'll tell you. Resilient responders, are Ready Responders. But when the time comes that I'm seeing things that are inconsistent, I have an obligation to get personally involved in solving that problem.

Whether my personal involvement is going to you and using results in our communication. Not you specifically Kerry, but if it were you, you know, damn good and well, I would! The I have an obligation to communicate with you, or I have an obligation to communicate with your supervisor. There's something I can and should do when I'm seeing this.

Kerry: Yeah. That's, that's powerful. Thank you, thank you for saying all that. That's amazing. For the folks that are listening to this podcast or, or watching it,

to expand on what Joe just said, look for an episode where I interview a Retired Canadian Customs Agent by the name of Leo Petrilli. Leo in that episode shared with me very spontaneously how I almost never met him. He almost committed suicide, and when I say almost, he was at Bang a week before I met him. And he's a great guy.

He's a great guy. He has an amazing story. Listen to that episode because what you just said, Joe, is this, and I'll, I'll give you a just a little bit of the background without a spoiler on Leo's story and how impactful it is. Leo had just got done doing a presentation to like 400, 500 people.

 There was something that happened that was a trigger for him and on his way to prepare to commit suicide. He passed people who had been in that presentation and nobody picked up on his change of demeanor. Nobody did. They could have, now, he doesn't say this, but the way he describes how he was with that presentation and how he was after the trigger, you, there had to be outward indicators.

If people had been paying attention to other people. Rather than just (singing) duh, duh, duh through the day, 

Joe: You don't Kerry, I wanna, yeah. Oh, I'm sorry. No, I just wanna, I just 

Kerry: wanna, I just wanna throw this final, final part of the thought out, what you're describing and what Leo went through, especially with the folks that we work with, that we live with, that we socialize with their cohabitants, their, their co-workers, coworkers.

You gotta pay attention to. You got, you gotta look for those subtle indicators. And when there is something there, don't just blow it off. Don't just ignore it. Especially if you know this person has some, some things that kind of predisposes them.

You, you gotta look for that. Pay attention to the folks that you work with and that compass. That, that awareness, it's not paranoia. It's no different than, you know, what we say about being prepared, not paranoid, but if there's something going on, trust your instincts. Whether you're a teacher, a firefighter or medic, flight attendant and a cop, security guard, doesn't matter.

You have good instincts. You're doing what you're doing. You're in this public service role, and you've got instincts, trust. Over to you, Joe. 

Joe: Yeah, no, you hit the nail on the head and it made me realize that as you told that story, one of the things we do in the Responder Readiness workshop is we work with Axon.

Put together for those not familiar with Axon, most people are familiar with taser. The electronic control device, the parent company for taser is, is Axon. And we worked with them to develop a video that we use to illustrate a series of events where somebody ultimately takes their life. And at various points, there are points where one could take action and intervene and have a courageous conversation.

At the beginning of that video before we play it, our facilitators always remind people that when we're living in the moment with someone, There are times where take you, you said cohabitants, it doesn't matter if it's a roommate, if it is your spouse, if it's one of your kids there are times where you're going to be experiencing conflict.

And conflict is often a precursor to some sort of a mental health crisis, including suicide. And so I wanna be careful to remind folks that if you've lost someone to suicide or you know, someone who has, the decision to take one's life is their own. And there are times where survivors, family members, coworkers, will often blame themselves to say, oh, I missed that.

I didn't see that. Shame on me, and feel a little bit of survivor guilt. Or the last thing I said to this person is, you're a fill in the blank. You can put a beep there if you want, but the when in the moment, if you're living. Passionately with other people, you'll miss things. But we're often reminded of the fact that, and, and Kerry, you hit the nail on the head, be present.

The, I'm, I'm not gonna make excuses for the fact that I have not used active, constructive. We'll talk about the range of resilience probably here in just a second, but I have not used effective communication and been present with other people in the past. and as a result I've missed out on so many different experiences, and there's a chance that I also missed out on some red flag.

And so I would encourage all of us to be as present as we can. Look for Leo's left of bang red flags. Look for mine and everybody else's. And preparedness is not paranoia. Right. And that's the words you said, Kerry. Yeah. Yeah. I, I think I couldn't agree more like. Be there, be prepared and present with them, and there's a chance you're gonna see those things.

So, yeah. Lemme back over to you. I just I wanted to clarify that sometimes it may sound like I'm blaming another person for missing things If you don't see left of bling bang, and I'm not li live live passionately, but live present as 

Kerry: well. Yeah. And I think I, I, I totally agree. We're not by, by no means are we Monday mon Monday morning quarterbacking it, we're watching the game film.

Watching the game film and

being fully present, that that can be tough sometimes, especially when we're already tapped out. We wanna check out just a little bit. We need a state change. We need to to wind down, and it's hard to be fully present sometimes. Oftentimes the people that we're not fully present with are the ones who deserve it the most are families.

And, and, and so , it's simple, but not easy. Right? . So let's, let's wrap things up with talking about this. You mentioned the range. Yeah. 

Joe: So I'll share this with you, Kerry. It's what we call our range card, the range of resilience. And what we did was we took a look at. Wide variety of resilience practices and resilience teaching and what's working for different organizations.

And what we learned was a lot of what's out there could be distilled into something palatable and digestible. By the majority of us, right? I don't have time to learn an entire, you know encyclopedia of skills. I need something simple, and I think most of us do. And so what we did was we distilled what we believed to be some of the most high payoff skills into what we call the range of resilience.

Recognize the good, active, constructive respondence. Notice the world around you. Get up and move and energy management. And the, the short version of each of those is recognize the good, intentional joy and gratitude. What we know to be true is that if I can bring a person into a space of joy, it changes the way my brain is functioning.

Right? And Kerry and I have a relationship from Brain-centric . Instructional Design and, and there's so much tied up into that. And I, I, I'm sure you, you're gonna talk about this in other podcasts if you haven't already, but what we, what we know is when I inject joy, when I inject gratitude, it changes the way my brain is functioning and it brings me into another space.

I'll leave it at that for right now. But it's a difficult thing to do. It's a difficult to recognize the good because we're inherently wired to see the bad. We have a negativity bias and. The time to practice recognizing the good and, and finding myself in a, a space of joy is not when everything's falling apart around me.

I have to be there intentionally each and every morning. I have to build in practices at night. I have to be intentional about how I do this. It doesn't have to be hard. It could be the, the gratitude journal. It can be the the moment at the dinner table, right? The pretty simple but not easy. And I like that Kerry.

Active, Constructive Responding, that's the one you said is pretty simple but not easy, and that is being present and engaged in a conversation. There are four basic ways of responding, but I'm simply gonna draw out two of them. One is passive constructive, which is the good old fashioned , Uhhuh. , yeah, , go on buddy.

Oh, that's super cool! Right? We've all been there. We've all seen that sort of responding. In fact, I've probably done it in the last 24 hours myself. Instead of that though, what I try really hard to do is be intentional about. Stop doing that. Stop in the moment when I see myself being passive, constructive and turn it into active, constructive, which is, I sit up, I slant, I sit up, I look at, I ask and answer, I nod or use other non-verbals, and I turn off my electronics.

I slant. When I do that, I make eye contact and I elevate the conversation with praise or acknowledgement of the good that this, the joy that this other person is experiencing. I don't steal their joy, which is another option, and I don't you know, One Up 'em and that sort of thing. So let's put those aside.

Be very intentional about elevating the conversation. Notice the world around you is a, a grounding skill. Every good mindfulness practice has something about grounding, but. , notice the world around you. An incredibly powerful skill. Get up and move. There's so much research out there right now on what happens to me physiologically, chemically neurologically in movement.

Movement creates joy. Movement creates balance. Movement creates and rewires neural pathways. I mean, there's so much advantage to it. The other thing it does, it burns off energy, right? So get up and move and being intentional about putting something six feet away in an office is something that can inspire that.

You don't have to get up at 3 45 to work out. Just get up, stand up at your desk. And the last one is energy management. Breathing, intentional breathing, whether it's four by four, the box breathing techniques or just good solid in and out breathing. Breathing is incredibly important. It takes over that parasympathetic nervous system.

It, it basically helps the three reset our body. The other thing is when it comes to energy management, Kerry mentioned the sleep 3, 2, 1, right? Those sorts of things that reset serotonin levels. I mean, there's so much to that as far as energy management. What we've learned is that wired into these five basic skills is a lot, but at the same time, relatively simple.

When you boil 'em down, I will share two other and one other vignette with two quick takeaways on it. So I was a bar in Ohio. All good stories, stories begin with, I was at a bar in Ohio and. I was out there teaching the Responder Readiness class, and I was getting ready to leave on my way you know, heading out to leave.

And the somebody comes up to me with a card and says, I missed your, one of these, the older version of this card said, I missed your class. I had court, but I wanna let you know I've carried the card since the last time you were here. These cards, just these simple reminders. Hugely, hugely powerful to us.

The other one was one of our instructors, Rod Refredi was out in Farmington, New Mexico with us teaching a class out there. And then later went back with another organization that he teaches for and was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And so Farmington, New Mexico. Several months later, Albuquerque and somebody had taped one of these.

We don't, we didn't have the stickers yet. We're getting our stickers made, had taped one of these to their laptop M. D T. the, the patrol car, laptop just those five skills, they make a difference. And so with that, I, I would leave and Kerry, I'll, I'll leave the, you know, if you can in the show notes or whatever, we can share the link to the video and just practice those five skills resilient responders are ready.


Kerry: You know, I couldn't think of a more profound way to leave this conversation. Thank you, Joe. Folks, I told you I, I'm gonna do a, I told you so here just for a second. I told you at the beginning of this episode how amazing Joe Willis is, and you just heard so much insight. So much great information, so much heart.

Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for honoring us with your time. Thank you for honoring us with your wisdom and, and. There's no doubt in my mind that somebody listening to this podcast needed to hear what you talked about tonight, so thank you for that. I really appreciate it. Listeners wow.

Check out the show notes. There's gonna be a ton of stuff in there. I got, I, I'm a, I'm probably gonna violate 3 21 tonight working on, on creating these show notes for you cuz there's just so much that Joe has to share. And, and Joe will, well, you'd be willing, I'm gonna get you on, on video right now.

You willing to come back and do another episode with us? 

Oh, you 

Joe: better believe it, dude. I'm, I'm always willing to come back and have a conversation with you recorded or not, but I would absolutely love to come back and have a conversation 

Kerry: with you. Wonderful. I'm gonna hold you that, brother. Thank you.

All right, listeners again, check out those show notes. Put what Joe shared with you into action. Don't just let it be knowledge. Knowledge is not power. Knowledge implemented is power. Knowledge is not power. Knowledge is just knowledge, but when you implement it, then it's power. Until next time.

As always, stay safe.