What Vanilla Ice Taught Me About Tackling Tough Situations

Last week I was having quite a week. Things were not going well. And the longer I dwelled on the situation, the madder I got. My prayers that day turned into to a confessional of the thoughts I had and even the things I said. It was not healthy. 

I was desperate, so I desperately prayed. But no epiphany came — at least not immediately. I struggled to sleep, then got up, and lived another day. Rinse and repeat. 

Another day dawned — and like most mornings, I hit the gym. And as I was working out, the funniest thought came to my mind — these five words:

“Alright stop, collaborate and listen.”

If you recognize those words as the lyrical stylings of one of the 1990s most marvelously-coiffed rappers, Vanilla Ice, give yourself a bonus point! And don’t hold it against me. It was what my brain brought to me during that early-morning workout.

Believe it or not, this simple phrase hit me like a ton of bricks. 

Here’s what Rob Van Winkle —  aka Vanilla Ice — taught me about tough situations and leadership.


The first thing I needed to do was slow down to a full stop. 

Stopping allows you to gain valuable perspective. 

And I did. After stopping, I could clearly see that world was not falling. My situation was in no way pleasant — but it was also not life or death. 


I’ll admit that this isn’t the first time I’ve had to ask myself which is more important: being right or collaborating with my sisters on the change we were collectively experiencing? What about the rest of the team — did I value their input? Was I willing to work with them? Or was this about me? And if I didn’t get my way, would I run away and pout like a three-year-old? 

These were hard questions to ask — and would’ve been impossible to effectively answer without taking a moment to stop. But after pausing for a moment, I could easily see that my relationships mattered more than getting my way. This situation was easily resolvable. 

Ah, listening. It’s so important! After all, is there any way to collaborate other than through listening? Don’t collaboration and listening go hand in hand? Of course they do! 

I have to remind myself to be open to not just hearing other people’s positions and opinions but also to being influenced or changed by what I hear. The latter is authentic listening. 

When All Else Fails, Laugh

When all else fails, find something to laugh at. 

The notion that Vanilla Ice was teaching me about leadership made me laugh in between exercises at the gym. The thought that I could share this experience with others via my blog made me chuckle all the more. They say that laughter is the best medicine — and laughing at myself and my wacky brain that morning was the medicine I needed to get through that challenging situation. 

So I blasted my headphones (definitely not Vanilla Ice!) and finished my workout. I went to the office and connected with people throughout the day. 

My advice to you? When you find yourself facing a tough situation at work or in life, follow the wise words of Mr. Ice. Stop, collaborate and listen. And don’t forget to laugh!