Know fear, by Tony Blauer
"When you practice something 'wrong'
you get really really good at the 'wrong' thing.
The longer you practice failure,the harder it becomes to recognize success."
-- TCMS Maxim
As a coach and motivator of fighters & warriors, I'm often asked about fear and intimidation during training and competition. I tell these people to forget about wining & losing and to just go for the Intellectual Capital, the 'wealth of experience'. Do it to build self net-worth
Forget About Winning?
Yes. Especially in training. Forget it for now (unless or until you are at an elite world-class competitive level, like a Tiger Woods or a Frank Shamrock where winning is the objective, because all other objectives have been met). Trying to win always, leads to failure.
How Does All This Apply To The Leo Or Soldier?
As a consultant I've watched people shoot, do simulations, box, grapple, handcuff, take tests, lecture and so on and what I noticed most often during a poor performance was that that person simply got in the way of 'themselves'! It was 'performance anxiety' which is directly connected to self-coaching and fear management.
Knowing how to coach yourself through your unique obstacles will make you better, stronger, faster, meaner, sooner!
There are some fundamental components or ingredients that are available to all of us:
1. A goal
2. A plan
Inside those two simple components lays an infrastructure so simple its complex. The problem is that the process is so easy it becomes complicated. How simple is Nike's JUST DO IT slogan? But how many talk and how many have the next t-shirt that reads JUST DID IT!
Fear of fear is a trap. Fear management is a choice. The good news is the process can be changed but it requires awareness and then, yes, irony of irony: commitment. And that's the reason most do not move past this: they can't commit to commitment.
An analogy I have often used is that of a cooking metaphor: Though ingredients are available to all, and recipes are available to all ... some people still can't cook.
Why? The truth is, some people 'choose' not to cook. And that's the problem. How many people who are professional protectors avoid additional training, running, grappling, shooting beyond the department-required certification?
We can rationalize that we have enough kit to handle the opposition, but that apathy will ensure denial when you meet a threat that doesn't care about your kit. (Kit being a metaphor for you and your gear.) But the reality, in my opinion is people don't push themselves because of fear and it matters little if its fear of competition, fear of losing, fear of getting bruised; its all fear.
Whether it is conscious or unconscious, all success comes down to appreciating and understanding the fundamental component: the management of fear.
Respectfully speaking, there's been too much made of the physiological afflictions of fear and not enough into the psychological, where it counts. When you feel fear, what will you do? In training or in the street the neat thing about fear management is that it's a habit, not a skill, for we are always confronted with some sort of fear, so as my play on words goes; its not about NO FEAR, but about KNOWING FEAR: how to spot, it, analyze it, address it, own it, use it and move through and beyond it.
The Dangers Of Rationalizing It:
If someone were to consistently demonstrate a 'practice' of non-commitment then what he or she is getting good at is 'failure'. Whether it is failure, as in falling on their face or failure to follow-through, it is still failure, because the original goals are never being met. Whatever the explanation, typically, it will always comes down to fear: fear of something, whether its' winning, losing, power, and control, whatever. It's all the same: fear of fear. Avoiding it, excusing it, rationalizing it will always leave a void in your heart or head (dooming you to have that recurring 'if only I had' moment when you're sitting in the proverbial rocking chair of life). This behavior, if it becomes chronic, weakens.
So whether it's about being a good cop, soldier, pro fighter, a parent, and entrepreneur and so on, (the subject isn't important, the effort is), creating a plan and a goal is the start, following through is the exercise. That's where the only important education lays, in the effort. Then, once the goal has been met a new one must be set.
If You Know You Should Be Doing Something More. Then Chances Are You Also 'NEED' To Do Something About It.
Don't get all pumped up and haphazardly run to the range, the ring, the street. The secret is not some Kamikaze approach of diving in screaming NO FEAR!! (Though that sometimes can work) the real secret is more contemplative, it's about diving in smiling, thinking KNOW FEAR. I must 'know fear' in order to evolve.
So one of the secrets to success is in organizing your goals incrementally so that they can be met realistically. Strategy related to self-growth must be done in stages. If you've never run a day in your life, do not enter a marathon to get started. Chances are you'll quit or not even show up on the day of the race. When we do this sort of thing too often (hesitate, quit, rationalize) it is both habit forming and noxious. (You talk, you start to walk, and you stop. Repeat). The real danger is two-fold. The practice of non-commitment is emotionally lethal. It'll kill your confidence and it can destroy the confidence of your peer group. And depending on the scope or frequency of this behavior it can undo relationships because it destroys trust.
Understand your essence. Humans are living organisms and we are meant to grow. Life presents us with obstacles to test our intuitive appreciation of this truth, to help us discover who we are and what we value and what we want to be. When we shirk those responsibilities we condemn our personal growth. This is a universal truth. We must 'commit' to the truth. But it is a person's inability to commit that undermines their success.
Remember, life presents us all with confrontations, sometimes on a daily basis. How we handle those confrontations determines the quality of our day, but ultimately, it determines the quality of our lives! Again, it's not about the winning or the losing, it's about getting in there and being a participant in life.
Aside from the daily bonus of confronting and managing small obstacles, the serendipity of 'managing ones fear' is that it always leads to a NEW you; it's a pathway to your evolution. Confronting fear empowers and is the catalyst to 'self-actualization'.
Here's a short map of my journey through fear and what it has brought me:
When I started teaching self-defense in 1979 I knew something was missing, something in me. I decided it was an irrational fear. It was in trying to understand fear that I was compelled to try and understand and define the fear. That led me to design a drill to help attack the fear. That phase spawned the original PANIC ATTACK system (force-on-force training circa 1982). Then it was in trying to explain fear to my students and differentiate from the biological sensations and the psychological ruminations that I was forced to define a recipe and that spawned the CEREBRAL SELF-DEFENSE: Mental Edge program and the BE YOUR OWN BODYGUARD program. While trying to understand my fear during contact isolation drills and more dynamic PANIC ATTACK sessions I noticed the simplicity, reliability and suddenness of the startle/flinch response and this gave birth to the entire SPEAR SYSTEM. And, in support of all these programs, I realized that there was no training gear that allowed 'us' to really simulate realistically, at real speeds, in real environments and maintain levels of fear for the danger to address that, I designed HIGH GEAR simulation equipment.
Because of my commitment to the management of fear, all these other important discoveries were made. Managing fear defines you. Managing fear helps elevate and empower you.
It took me 20 years of teaching and training to be able to write the above article but it'll only take you 10 minutes to read it. You may live to be 100 but if you fear fear, your 'evolutionary' life might be over now! Get to know fear and live your life and learn its secrets.
Let me leave you with these immortal words from a warrior who, perhaps unbeknownst to him at the time, was offering penetrating insights into the psychology and remedy for fear. For my friends and colleagues in the LEO and soldier world, these are words to live by:
"Learn it right and you will do it right the rest of your life, learn it wrong and you'll spend the rest of your life trying to get it right, and in battle, you meatheads that get it wrong, the rest of your life will be very short."
-- Sergeant Steve Prazenka- (Bloody Bucket Division W.W.II)
-- Tony Blauer