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Empowering Light Language LLC

  • Writer's pictureSiris Rivas

What I Learned From Hundreds of Ping Pong Balls Flying at My Head

Updated: Nov 12, 2023

Last week, I had about 40 female business owners throw ping pong balls at my head. Why in the world would I do that, you might ask? Well, I was at a National Association for Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Signature meeting where we get to network, here about updates, and listen to a speaker talk about a relevant topic to entrepreneurs so that we are inspired to be even better business owners. It just so happened that the speaker for the evening, Dr. Rebecca Heiss, needed to volunteer for a demonstration. No one raised their hand and me being me, I was like, “Sure” and I offered to stand in the middle of the room while she explained the exercise.

Photo by Ellen Qin on Unsplash

As I felt everyone’s eyes on me, I heard her say that I was going to stand there while everyone threw ping pongs at me. There were white and gold colored balls on all the tables. I needed to avoid getting hit by the white ones which represented all the noise of our lives, the emails, news, media, stressors, etc. and I was supposed to catch as many gold balls as I could.

Everyone laughed nervously on my behalf, obviously grateful they hadn’t volunteered while I took a deep breath.

I then had hundreds of plastic ping pong balls fly at me from all directions. I opened up my arms, smiled and let it happen. After the onslaught ended, I ducked down and started picking up the golden ping pong balls which represented our success, money, and what we desired of our lives.

Dr. Heiss asked me to talk about my experience. I shared that I realized there was no way I wasn’t going to get hit so I was going to accept it and focus on getting the golden balls when I could. She mentioned that few people would have handled it that way. I thought to myself “She has no idea who she is dealing with. Wow, have I had a lot of practice with this in my life.”

Why am I telling you this story?

It isn’t to toot my own horn. It’s for you to know that the way I handled that situation wouldn’t have been the case years ago and that responding that way can be learned.

Before, I would have reacted in one of the following ways:

  • Paralysis: I would have stood there freaking out and frozen. My brain shut down in panic.

  • Over analysis: I would have tried to come up with a plan to use the chairs, tables and my fellow colleagues to block as many white ping pong balls or had the whole scene play out like a paintball tournament in my head without actually taking action.

  • Emotionally: I would started crying tears of frustration and helplessness. Perhaps even curling up in a ball in the middle of the room until it was all over.

  • Aggression: I would grit my teeth as anger churned and burned inside of me. Maybe even glaring at the presenter for setting me up to be embarrassed.

Can you relate to any of these responses?

They are all telling about the experiences and models you’ve had with dealing with stressful situations.

It’s not that I didn’t feel these feelings at that moment. I actually felt the paralysis, and started to over analyze before the acceptance kicked in as the balls started coming at me!

Paralysis and over analysis are very common, especially with successful or high achieving people. Those that hold themselves to a high standard. The emotional or aggressive response can also occur with accomplished people as well, but given societal pressure or self-consciousness, they learn to hide it from the public eye. They may express this in their private moments or with close friends.

For me, it hit me as I was driving home after the event; that’s when I let myself cry and release those pent up emotions.

With awareness, acceptance, and practice, you can move faster and faster from the four responses mentioned above to clarity, acknowledgement of your gifts and action.

Let’s start with two simple steps.

#1 It starts with identifying how you respond to unexpected, stressful events.

Which of the responses listed above do you lean toward in moments of crisis or sudden change?

What responses are the people around you using when they are in crisis or trying to navigate something new?

#2 Determine which of the “golden balls” of your life would benefit from learning how to choose beyond the paralysis, over thinking, upset or anger.

What areas of your life are you judging yourself for how you respond to them?

Who is being impacted by how you respond to stress, crisis, trauma, or change?

With the awareness of these two key pieces of information, you have a start to creating a plan where you can move through the stuck points quicker so you can handle new situations or people with greater confidence.

To my readers: If you found this helpful, share this with a friend who would like to get out of judging themselves for how they respond to transitions, abrupt shifts, emergencies or confrontation.

Cheering You On,


Siris Raquel Rivas-Verdejo, host of the Choosing a Different Future with Siris podcast, is a Communication Coach, Speech-Language Pathologist, Learning-Behavioral Specialist and Therapeutic Energy Worker. She helps busy people and families communicate better in their relationships using their strengths, gifts, and capacities as they partner with their bodies to find greater joy, ease and clarity so they can create phenomenal lives beyond what they ever imagined. Schedule a coaching consultation with her HERE.

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