“And then I found myself pointing at the clerk and strongly telling her my mask WAS on all the way. How can I try on glasses if the mask is up to the top of my nose?”

Ah … the great mask debate. The quote above comes from a lunch conversation with an Acumen partner last week.

The world is stressed, isn’t it?

If you measured the public stress level, you would find the indicator at the top of the yellow just under the red, and all it would take is one little more thing, and the top would blow.

Have you seen anyone yell at each other about masks? Yep, right below red.

Where is your stress meter? Right below red? Ready to blow? Waiting for that other shoe to drop? Tired of the fuzzy unknown? Don’t know the rules or how to win right now?

Me too. And it’s affecting my leadership both at home and at work.

Because of the phone, always-on access to information, social media, and pile on an election year, cloudy future with COVID, racial tension, protests, devastating storms, and wildfires, you can see how we might be more anxious than ever.

Anxiousness is the worry, unease, nervousness, and uncertainty around an outcome. It is a big emotion that can take over someone’s thoughts and actions. It may make them want to yell at you about your mask.

I’ve written how calm is contagious. Although calm is crucial in leadership, our current environment asks something new of you as a leader: a Non-Anxious Presence.

When you are non-anxious, you empower others to be relaxed. Holding onto that presence allows your team to connect to it and use it for themselves.
How can you hold onto and project a Non-Anxious Presence?

1. Decide

Being non-anxious is not a feeling. It’s a decision. It’s believing and living that all is well, and all will be well in your bones. You are connected to people, and yet unhooked from the whirlwind of emotions. There are a lot of emotions right now. You could also call this hope. Hold onto hope as you hold onto a rock. It’s tangible and real. You can be the rock.

2. Ask questions

By asking questions (and not just giving advice), you allow your team to talk their anxiety out and will enable them to see what is true in the business and their life.

3. Have fun – be playful

Anxiety is serious. It has a serious tone and it skews towards negativity and pessimism. An alternative to that is fun, lighthearted, and playful. It doesn’t mean that you don’t see the reality of a situation. It’s that the problem is viewed through a different lens. Using humor cuts through the tension.

When stress is high, the future cloudy, the rules are ambiguous, and line keeps moving on winning, find your non-anxious presence and hold onto it like a rock or hope to help diffuse and propel your team and company forward.


Two things.

1. You are.

I bet that you are for someone. You are someone else’s non-anxious presence. We should all strive to be each other’s non-anxious presence.


I am a non-anxious presence for others. It’s in myself that I’m all twisted up.

My personal non-anxious presence is my wife, Ali. She’s decided that this world isn’t going to worry her, she asks me lots of questions about how and why I feel that way AND she’s funny (like really funny). I find myself laughing out a lot of my anxiety because of her. I love you Ali!

Who is your non-anxious presence?

When stress is high, the future cloudy, the rules are ambiguous, and the line keeps moving on winning, find your non-anxious presence and hold onto it (or him/her) like a rock of hope to help diffuse and propel your family, team, and company forward.

Dan Cooper
Post by Dan Cooper
October 1, 2020
Dan Cooper co-founded ej4, a video-based online training company, in 2003, and was its CEO until selling in 2012. During his time with ej4, he grew the company from a startup to a nationally-recognized firm, serving clients including Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple, Honeywell, Monsanto and Syngenta. Channel partners included SAP and Oracle. As of the 2012, ej4 was serving 1,000+ customers, delivering millions of program views, was highly profitable and debt-free. Today, he is the CEO of Acumen, a mastermind community platform built for CEOs and Owners of strong and growing companies. He and his wife, Ali, have three children and attend Cure of Ars church in Leawood, KS. Dan enjoys running, all things soccer — coaching, playing and watching —and burning all types of meat on the backyard barbecue grill.