I admit I didn’t know the story about Stanislaw Petrof, but several South American medias did write about it on the 32nd anniversary – 25/26 September, 1983 – since this audacious Lieutenant Colonel saved many millions of lives by not giving the ok to push the red button after seeing on the screens of the mega Soviet computer bunker 5 nuclear ballistic missiles heading from the US to the USSR.
Petrof kept very calm and despite the pressure from his subordinates to call the Generals in charge, he reported the fact afterwards as a false alarm, as indeed it turned out to be. Here two links, one of Kevin Costner trailer and the other a short documentary from History Channel.
The story beyond its undoubtful merits, stood out to me because I have often used the metaphor of the red button. I became accustomed to divide people in two categories, those who have an itchy finger and those who don’t. Unfortunately for us the first category is very crowded, and gratefully the most don’t have the power to engage wars.
Since patience is not for many a natural talent, including myself, I looked for solutions to detonate armed people. One of the most successful ones, although it takes quite a bit of practice is first of all to not react. But this is just a start. The second step, even harder, but to me necessary, is to focus right away on the qualities of the person I am in front of. It may be just a small thing, but it will lead me to look from a different perspective.
An example can help. This summer a couple of friends canoeing in the mountains found themselves surrounded by a thick fog. One of them tired of sitting asked his friend to set the canoe so to be able to stretch. Once he stood up, he realized that the fog would reach up to his waist, leaving him to see a beautiful summer scenery.
The third and final step is practice, practice, practice.
Therefore the lesson is to seek a different perspective before pushing the red button, it may lead to more preferable conclusions. As always we must start from ourselves not the others.