Image by Ben White

OLIVIA POPE ON HOW TO BOUNCE BACK FROM A CRISIS

10/2/21
Anita Bernardi

If you have never heard of Scandal before, you have some catching up to do! 

Olivia Pope is the main character of Scandal, an American political thriller TV series created by Shonda Rimes (yes, she is also the incredible producer of the latest Netflix hit, Bridgerton).


But who is Olivia Pope? And what exactly does she do?


Pope is a Washington, D.C.-based crisis manager (“a fixer”) who runs her own firm specialized in "fixing" political situations and scandals.

Her character is based on Judy Smith, a former Bush Administration press aide turned real-life crisis management expert. Smith has represented many high-profile people, politicians and celebrities (such as Angelina Jolie and Monica Lewinsky) and was involved in some of the largest health crises, like the SARS pandemic.


In her book Good self, Bad self: How to bounce back from a personal crisis she shares her methods and tips from years of professional experience for smoothing over a bad situation while providing the tools to prevent similar incidents from ever happening again. And her expertise is applicable to all of us, even in the “normal” every-day life. 


As she said, none of us are perfect, and expecting perfection in every part of our life is “a surefire ticket to failure”. The title of the book comes from the fact that our best qualities and our worst traits are actually one and the same and “the secret to living the life you want and staying out of personal crisis is knowing what drives you and being self-aware and self-policing enough to make sure those traits stay positive instead of turning negative”.


The root causes of most crises often lie in an imbalance in one of seven traits (“The Big Seven”): 

  1. Ego

  2. Denial

  3. Fear

  4. Ambition

  5. Accommodation

  6. Patience

  7. Indulgence. 


They can all be blessings as well as curses: positive qualities when you manage them well and they usually create a crisis when you don’t.

Ego can be the key to your success, but it could also cause your defeat. 

To some degree, denial helps you not to worry too much about the odds against you and to focus on your goals, still it can easily become a liability, for example when our self-justification mechanism prevents us from observing and analyzing situations in an objective way. 

Fear can be galvanizing, keeping ourselves safe, or paralyzing, stopping us to grow and take our lives to the next level. 

How could ambition ever turn negative? What’s better than ambition for a person who wants her dreams to come true? Well, if it exceeds, it could mean overreaching and the destruction of your personal life, so it can’t be underestimated. 

It’s fundamental to get along with others, but on the other hand is imperative to be able to set boundaries to protect ourselves, our own voice and our dreams. That’s why balancing accommodation is so important. As well as patience, having none of it leads to so many missed opportunities, but sometimes it could also slow down meaningful changes.  

Last but not least: indulgence. Working hard is good, it’s the key to success, but because “a life without indulgence is no life at all”, we have to be careful, in order to protect our health and private life. It’s okay to give ourselves a break at times. 


Finally, in her book J. Smith gives us an incredible device to ensure that our defining traits work to our advantage instead of our damage: the P.O.W.E.R. approach.


Pinpoint the core trait: Identify which trait is in play. 

Own it: Acknowledge that it can be both good and bad. 

Work it through: Process the role it’s played in your life. 

Explore it: Consider how it could play out in the future. 

Rein it in: Establish how to re-achieve balance and control. 


“You have the power to stop and regain your balance when your traits are pushing you out of a state of equilibrium and control”. It’s all up to us, how self-conscious we are and how honest we are with ourselves. 


The application of the POWER model provides us with the ability to manage problems or even avoid them in the first place, indeed “if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll actually learn to see disaster looming, take steps to minimize or prevent it, and keep your life on track”.


I hope you enjoyed this little sneak peek about this incredible book, and I invite you all to watch Scandal, as well as the troubled love lives of the characters. It's an amusing way to analyze the dynamics of power and the meaning behind every episode regarding matters such as gender equality, race, and women empowerment!