Lance Burdett has served an apprenticeship in resiliency and communicating in challenging circumstances for a major part of his life.
The former number one crisis negotiator for the New Zealand Police that’s FBI qualified and—trained has an incredible bank of knowledge about highly charged emotional situations.
Knowledge so invaluable he personally developed programmes for reducing stress within the Police 111 call centre team that continues to be mandatory for staff today.
Lance is a powerful combination of the practical and the pragmatic with the backbone of an academic given the masters degree that hangs on his wall. He’s also a published author.
As a police officer for 22 years, he used to be the guy who was called out in suicide attempts. Suicide intervention was his professional specialty.
He was the one who convinced others to come down off the ledge. At one dark moment in his life, he confesses to spiralling down to those depressive depths himself.
It was the consequence of stress, “My psychologist told me that I had accumulated stress disorder. Essentially it was burnout,” says Lance. ”Now I talk about being on both sides of the handrail.”
He studied to get well, developed a highly effective programme, trained trainers, and four years ago departed the police. His consultancy, WARN International was born. It’s all about wellness, awareness, resilience, and negotiation. Suicide prevention rather than intervention.
Today he is a speaker of note sharing simple tips and proven techniques to people from all walks of life. One day it could be blue chip banking corporates, and the next blue collar workers. A free podcast for farmers is in the pipeline. He’s even engaged by university faculties to speak to their own academic staff.
“The greatest thing I teach is how to control the amygdala hjack—to control fight or flight response,” he says.
His audiences learn how to control their thoughts, how to stop worrying, how to generate more energy, how to overcome broken sleep, even how to deliver difficult messages—“negotiating the non-negotiable”.
Oh and yes, he believes ‘hangry’ is a thing—bought on by everyone’s default setting, anger when it can’t find an emotion.
Lance convinces both men and women that “we all think the same in emotional situations—no matter where you were born in the world”.
“I talk about ‘that voice’—where it comes from and how it takes us down,” he says. “It’s a matter of realising when you are in that negative brain and catastrophising that you can apply some simple tricks to snap out of it.”
Lance’s number one tip to stop worrying is “to run to the fire”. Forget about rumination, think self-imposed immersion therapy. If you don’t like it, do more of it, he recommends. “If you have a fear of flying—what do they do? Stick you on a plane,” he says.
He believes men’s brains are wired differently dating back to cavemen days of showing no fear or emotion. Compartmentalising the rubbish in life was the rule, not the exception. He sees the same pattern today.
“I call it the shit box,” he says. “But the box gets full then we start to lubricate it with a couple of drinks.” The panacea escalates until eventually “we have to tell somebody because socialisation is hard wired into every single person’s brain”.
Men avoid this stuff as it’s “not manly”. Instead of repression or worse, Lance recommends “30 mins of exercise at the end of the day to burn off cortisol and adrenaline—particularly for stressed out senior executives”.
His exec programme is slightly different teaching easy ways to “put lines in the sand”. Less mobile phone and digital diary—more handwritten note book with no dates just tasks ticked off. “If it’s really important I put an asterix by it,” he says.
“When we walk out the door we need to say the day is done—yes you may still need to go home and do emails but don’t do it in the places you relax—do it in the washhouse.”
Lance zeros in on unconscious routines that trigger the adrenals. “When you’re in a routine, you’re in a rut.” Instead he teaches conscious decision making.
“Always know what you’re doing. Bring ritual rather than routine to your day.”
He’s philosophical about his own brush with the black dog, depressive mire. “Would I want to go back there? No. Was it good? Yes, for what it taught me.”
Now in complete contrast he’s living the dream while saving lives in the process.
Words: Sarah Sparks
warninternational.com / 09 947 5763