A Submarine’s Anatomy for Channelling Frustration into High Productivity

A few days ago, I was just calming down in the shower. Experiencing one of those sessions when random thoughts swirling around in your brain are connecting like crazy. It was the lack of attentiveness due to which I realized something: we get a strange kind of satisfaction from banging the door hard when we’re angry.

Have you ever felt it? Believe me, it’s your adrenaline getting wasted. And it happens every time. But what if you knew a way of channelling it? There’s a pretty peculiar way of transforming frustration into increased productivity for most people. Precisely because most people are literate enough to know what a submarine is, but not literate enough to specifically know what its interior is like, including me.

Which is good, because we are going to strategically redesign it using our imagination.

Fundamentally speaking, our brain is incredibly docile when it comes to manipulating our imagination. And yet we always seem to underutilize that perk, simply due to not knowing how not to. All in all, squashing frustration is a matter of shifting from being in an aggressive state of mind to passive. And eventually to creative.

The next time you feel annoyed for some reason, close your eyes and visualize a submarine. Imagine you’re trapped in the rearmost part of the sub, next to the most secure compartment. To break out you need to find the escape hatch. There’s only one, near the control rooms located in the frontmost section of the sub. On a side note, you’re equipped with a box which you’ll toss into the compartment before moving ahead.

Now, how do you progress through the submarine such that you’ve acquired a transformation in your mindset by the time you find the escape hatch?

Let’s do it step-by-step. Ready?

Define — for what reason

Josh Spector mentioned one of Albert Einstein’s most profound quotes:

“If I had one hour to solve a problem, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and five minutes finding the solution.”

Invest a few seconds (if not minutes) in asking yourself the “reason for your frustration”. It could be as simple as a statement: “I forgot to grab the file in a hurry, due to which I had to return home and missed my regular train.” Whatever the root cause may be, no matter how silly or weird or unseemly, define it. Forcing it into the limelight will make you fully aware of it.

Before moving forward through the submarine, place this “reason” in the box. Pitch it into the compartment so that it is locked away and behind you.

Analyse — the why

Here comes the interesting part. According to Wikipedia, frustration can be of two kinds:

  1. Internal frustration — sprouts from challenges in fulfilling personal goals, desires, instinctual drives and needs.
  2. External frustration — caused by factors outside an individual’s control.

Depending upon the nature of your “reason”, you need to analyse and figure out the why. Ask yourself: if you’re utterly annoyed due to some reason (defined in the previous stage), why did that happen? What conditions led to the construction of such a scenario that was capable of sending you into this state-of-mind?

If your answer belongs to the first category, then it is subject to human control. Meaning, we have the ability to adjust the outcome of the instances that we are responsible for the creation of. Looking back, think logically:

  • What were the things you could have done differently? If you forgot to grab the file in a hurry, it was most likely sitting somewhere hard to spot. An improvement could be keeping it right next to your office bag, planting a reminder on your phone, etc.
  • Is there a lesson to be learnt? Sometimes it’s simply our attitude to particular things, our schedules, or our proclivities that propel us into making errors we wouldn’t normally make. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. As you carry on analysing the reasons, you’ll surely discover ways of altering the outcomes. Learning and improving may not just help you avoid, but also make the best of situations that would rather have demolished your mood.

The purpose of walking through a submarine while doing such analysis is simple. To provide your brain with an exquisite kind of isolated environment. So it can effectively learn from the wrong decisions. And eventually escape from the clutches of certain emotions through the help of logical thinking, if only temporarily.


However, if the reason underlying your annoyance is beyond your control, then you can’t alter your habits to make a change. So now you need to improvise — because crying over spilt milk isn’t an option.

In simple words, think ahead. What can you do now?

Well, there are numerous ways frustration can be brought out, such as passive-aggressive behaviour, anger and violence, as per Wikipedia. But all those do more harm than good. Which is why you might want to steer clear of them. Hence, your submarine has only one escape hatch from the start — using frustration creatively.

Move on and divert your attention. Use your frustration as fuel to creativity. Whenever I feel inclined towards punching someone’s face or banging on the table, I start doing push-ups. Seriously. Channel the violence into actions that may help you become a better person. The good news is you’re already pumped up with adrenaline, you won’t need to summon it. And when your brain tries to find the harmful escape hatches, you head for the creative one.

First, define. Then analyse or divert. And finally, escape.

By the time you reach the control rooms of your sub, you should either have improved/learnt from the reason (you locked in the box earlier) or diverted your brain upon an alternate path. I know managing frustration is difficult. But with practice and correct choices, everything can be mastered.

Because remember, every time we make a choice, we grow.

Exploring creativity in little things. Learning through varied perspectives.

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