Tool: Hold The Line

» More articles

Thursday, November 16, 2017

UPDATE:  This post is duplicated as a Services page, "Holding the Line," and is a Counterfear Tool.  Since it was originally posted, the US has been experiencing increasing chaos; especially in mid-2020.  This area of work - holding the line - can help with the part of the mission of the Shift the Country work about holding society together.  That mission is to help people help each other through multiple crises, to help get voters engaged, to help hold civil society together, and to make transformation along the way.  The methodology in the Shift the Country framework is built to help with every aspect of that mission, including this work here.


Disruption can throw us off.  Like, it can really throw us off.  It can throw our world out of kilter.  Our home life, our work, our community, our country.  It can be anything from a job loss to a tornado to a relationship change to a broken leg to a move.  Anything.

One of the things that helps in the midst of disruption is finding and maintaining stability where we can.

Sometimes we may not feel like we can do a whole lot of navigation of whatever we are facing.  It is in those times that perhaps the best move is to hold the line.

We can hold the line in an emergency our family is facing.  We can hold the line in a relationship.  As a single person figuring things out.  In our jobs.  In our government.  In our community.  In our 'hood.

Holding the line may be the most powerful thing we can do in a crisis – and it may be the best option given our risk and our resilience.  Actively “holding the line” when you are worried about losing it entirely – whatever “it” is – can be incredibly powerful.  It is maintaining stability.  It is maintaining your position.  Maintaining assets.  It may be about helping others maintain stablity as well.  We are not always in a position to move forward.  When we are aware of our resilience as well as the situation and resources, we may find that holding the line is the best option.

I learned about holding the line in wildland firefighting – much like the anchor and flank idea.  It’s even more fundamental than that concept though – because you aren’t flanking anything.  In wildland fire, one of the key strategies is to build fireline.  You remove fuel to keep the fire from spreading by building fireline.  Holding the line might be about keeping fire away from the line where you can.  It may involve aerial reinforcement in the form of retardant or water drops.  It can be about “picking up” spot fire on the unburned or “green” side of the line – to keep fire from spreading further.  Lookouts help you know where the risk is, and where to take action.  Lookouts help you know what it’s time to cut and run, too – for your own survival.

“Holding the line” is also a military term.  It’s a law enforcement term (plus, check out the blog post Holding the Line: Law & Order).  It’s even a term that could be applied to a kids’ game – Red Rover.  That whole game is about holding the line.

In any situation, you may not have good options to move forward, or even to move from your position.  You may however be able to hold the line.

It’s more than just fundamental.  In the midst of chaos, disruption, the unexpected – holding the line may be about survival.  It may be about physical survival, or mental or emotional survival.  It’s saying, “Hey, here’s what I can do right now.  I can hold the line right here.  So that’s what I’m doing.”

You may hold the line for perhaps a few long moments in a crisis – like a tornado.

You may need to hold the line for a much longer period, depending on the nature of the disruption(s) happening around you.


We can help you hold the line.  Whether it's work through Wicked Problem Wayfinding, LLC, or through the Shift the Country nonprofit, there are ways to hold.  In fact, a key mission of the Shift the Country work is to hold civil society together, and the methodology in that framework is built around helping to support that part of the mission.

When you're going through... it can feel like you aren't actively navigating anything.  You are. 

Holding the line during an active time of change can be a major battle all on its own.  It can involve incredible action, sacrifice, risk mitigation, focus, discipline, dedication, passion, and any number of other things.  It may be energetic as well.  We can hold space, we can allow, we can pray.  We can believe.

Holding the line is an accomplishment all on its own.  It can be a major a goal to strive for.

During times of instability, holding the line can mean the difference between maintaining civil society and devolution into chaos.  It can be absolutely essential for people to hold the line when instability appears – whether it be in government, in institutions, in communities, or even in companies or organizations.  History tells us that when governments falter or fail, if society is able to hold the line and maintain institutions – there is a chance to avoid chaos and tyranny.

In the United States, a whole lot of employees and contractors in the federal government have been holding the line in 2017 during a time of great change.  It is a helpful example to think of, as people every day are likely making tough choices to keep government functioning as it should in the midst of sweeping ethical, legal, and procedural disruption.

This is a whole lot of serious stuff.  If you’ve read this far… it may be the kind of serious stuff you’d like to talk more about.  That’s what we do here.

Contact Us or call (202) 556-0317 to talk about how Wicked Problem Wayfinding, LLC or the Shift the Country nonprofit can help you, your family, your organization, your community, or your agency to hold the line.  We can arrange a coaching session, or schedule a free consultation to see if this is a good fit.

This is one of the most powerful things we can do to navigate disruption – whether it be in our personal lives, our communities, our work, or our country. 

My former wildfire hotshot captain used to yell, “Find you a spot!” before any workouts.

Any one of us can hold any line… we just have to pick which one; quite often metaphorically.

Coaching & Inclusive Pricing
Shift the Country
I'm In! Sign Me Up
The Blog
The Toolbox
The Focus Areas - for Navigating Disruption
This post is duplicated as a Services page, "Holding the Line."

2017 posts anchor & flank assemble a toolbox assess situation & resources assess, accept, & address risk be intentional & purposeful believe build & support thriving institutions build resilience continuity of business / operations core resources, ideas, & tools counterfear tools (in blog) disasters & emergencies disruption & transformation don't panic find a way forward foster community infrastructure intersectionality know & learn & train & teach live in resonance manage incidents & events opposition / resistance partner & collaborate think critically & solve problems

Leave Your Comments

We welcome your comments. Please leave your ideas and opinions below.

Will not be displayed on the site