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Zurriane A. Bennett of Positive Self Defense: Lessons I Learned From My Military Experience about How To Survive And Thrive During A Time Of Crisis

…Stop, step back for a moment, take a breath, calm down, and see things as there are in that moment. Then take a few deep breaths and do what you know you must do. Then take the necessary action!

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID 19 pandemic. Crisis management is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Zurriane Bennett.

Zurriane Bennett is an author, trainer, speaker, martial artist, and mentor. He is the creator of the Positive Self Defense programs and systems. He has trained thousands and is a speaker and trainer in high demand. He is a TEDx speaker, and presenter.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I grew up in a small town in New York called Mt. Vernon. Mt. Vernon is a town next to the Bronx. My childhood was normal to me but later in life I found that it was anything from normal. Growing up I saw a lot of negative things that I believed were normal but as the years pasted, I found that my experiences were anything but normal for most. In fact, it was my wife who pointed that out to me one day.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My journey into the United States Marine Corps was more of a what do I do next then an original plan. In truth I didn’t have any real interest in joining the military. Will when I was very young some old guy had once told me that I neither could or would ever make it in the Marines. But that had been a long time ago when I was just a boy no more than 11 or 12.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing? Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

I started in the military as a Marine Corp recruit. In the Marines everyone starts off as a basic infantry man out of bootcamp. Once I completed boot camp that earned me the title of United States Marine enlist Private E1. Then I went to military occupational specialty (MOS) school and became a certified Crash Fire and Rescue men. After several years I promoted many times thru the ranks and reach the rank of Master Sergeant E8 but turned that promotion down. The reason that I turn it down was that I was selected for a promotion and a Warrant Officer Commission and with that I left the enlisted ranks but stayed a Marine. Once I became an officer I was certified as an Emergency Services Officer, Expeditionary Airfield Officer, Aircraft Fire & Rescue Officer and then an Anti-Terrorism Force Protections Officer until I retired.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

Sadly, many of my stories cannot be shared due to the nature of the events. However, one story that I can share is an aircraft crash at an air show at Willow Grove Naval Air Station. This was sad and interesting in my opinion. During this air show I was the officer in charge providing emergency response for the aircraft, service personnel and visitors. This aircraft which was a F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, crashed just outside of the airfield. Sadly, both of the crew members died in the crash. What I believe that makes this incident interesting is that I believe that these two crew members were heroes. My reason is that I believe that both men could have ejected from the aircraft but didn’t. You see surrounding the base there are several houses. However, all of those houses are businesses and not residential properties. The crew member directed the aircraft down the space or area between those houses. I think they believed that each of those houses were filled with families. These crew members had only come to do the airshow demo and leave they did not know the area around the base.

We are interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

The crash that killed pilot William Joseph Dey and radar officer David Erick Berstrom occurred as the three-day Sound of Freedom Air show was drawing to a close. The two aviators were performing a “carrier wave-off,” a tricky maneuver that required Dey to abort a landing at the last moment.

No matter what caused the crash these men gave their life in an attempt to save others.

The plane crashed in the wooded area just beyond the base’s western perimeter, missing homes, and businesses by a few dozen feet.

My take away was many talk a good game but only a small few are willing to do what is necessary to get things done.

Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?

A hero is a person who is willing to do whatever is necessary to do the right thing no matter the personal cost to themselves.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?

Without question, my military has help me a great deal in my business dealings and in my leadership. The military helped to sharpen many of the skills that I got through my mentors both and live and dead. It helped me to understand, or should I say have a better understanding of people and the various types of characters that I would encounter in myself. It helped me to understand that there are people, who are characters and then there are people with character.

I see people as they are and not just as I want them to be, and the military helped to hone that skill.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

SSgt Hurt, at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort SC, great leader, marine, and the man who taught me how to be a real crash fire rescue man and emergency vehicle operator, he also taught me how to drive a stick shift etc. The other was MSgt Latson, when I first met him, he was a section leader, South Carolina when we worked together again, he shared a lot of wisdom with me then at Marine Corp Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California this man had my back when I was out manned and out gunned. I have the highest level of respect for these men and many other men and women that I had the honor and pleasure to serve with in my time in the United States Marine Corps. Semper Fi!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main, focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out how to survive and thrive in crisis. How would you define a crisis?

A time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. It is a time when a difficult and important decision must be made.

Before a crisis strikes, what should business owners and leaders think about and how should they plan?

Generally, there are three elements to a crisis: a threat, surprise, and a short decision time.

A business owner and leader should have the ability to inspire others and develop a vision, setting clear goals and stay focused without getting tunnel vision, communicate well, be able to give and receive feedback, know their strengths and weaknesses and those of their team, lastly know when to ask for help inside and outside. These things along with having the financials in order are a great start. Plan your work and work your plan and remember things change so you must be open to change to meet those changes.

These three points are also very important.

  • Empathy
  • Accountability
  • Gratitude

There are opportunities to make the best of every situation and it’s usually based on how you frame it. In your opinion or experience, what’s the first thing people should do when they first realize they are in a crisis situation? What should they do next?

Stop, step back for a moment, take a breath, calm down, and see things as there are in that moment. Then take a few deep breaths and do what you know you must do. Then take the necessary action!

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?

The necessary traits of a survivalist are:

  • Adaptability
  • Self-control/ Mental Toughness
  • Resourcefulness
  • Motivation
  • The ability to lean and apply what is learned

When you think of those traits, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Sun Tzu

He was a Chinese general, military strategist, writer, and philosopher who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, an influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and East Asian philosophy and military thinking. His works focus much more on alternatives to battle, such as stratagem, delay, the use of spies and alternatives to war itself, the making and keeping of alliances, the uses of deceit, and a willingness to submit, at least temporarily, to more powerful foes. Sun Tzu is revered in Chinese and East Asian culture as a legendary historical and military figure. His writing are still used and studied today.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Yes, my son who was less than 4 years was kidnapped. It took me two months, track the kidnapper down. It was one of the lowest times of my life. I did everything that I could to find him and get him back. My son was back with me within two months, then there was multiple court battles etc. Now that same son is an adult, he is now 37 years old, healthy, very happy, and a successful young man. Matter of fact he just got married this year. This story was like something out of a true crime novel.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Crises not only have the potential to jeopardize and infiltrate your work, but they also threaten your emotional stability and relationships. Based on your military experience, what are 5 steps that someone can take to survive and thrive in these situations? Please share a story or an example for each.

The story that I shared with you about the kidnapping of my oldest son is a story that not only had the potential to jeopardize and infiltrate my work, and it did also threaten my emotional stability and relationships etc. Both present and future. It destroyed my world for a second until I came to the realization that the only person that was going to fix my problem or address my needs and concerns was me. So, I pulled up my big man pants and got to work. Let’s face it the only person in many cases that can help you is you.

Here are the necessary traits of a survivalist today:

  • Adaptability
  • Self-control/ Mental Toughness
  • Resourcefulness
  • Motivation
  • The ability to lean and apply what is learned
  • Ask for and get help if you need it.

Sorry I shared 6 things you need to develop survive and thrive.

Ok. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Giving true freedom and equal rights, and respect to all African Americas in the United States of America. Reparations would be a good second step after that.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)

Mr. and Mrs. Obama, Former President and the first Lady of the United States

Mr. Keanu Reeves, the actor

Ms. Opera Winfrey — TV Personality

How can our readers follow you online?

Website: www.positiveselfdefense.org

FB: https://www.facebook.com/Positive-Self-Defense-PSD-393404150760102

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.

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