Bucking the Trend

The other night I was watching the show Surviving the Cut on the Discovery Channel. The show examines a different branch of special forces training every week. Each group presented thus far has been driven to their breaking point and a majority of the recruits quit.

The episode in question focused on the Army Rangers. On their first day of training, the soldiers paired off and began drills to try and take their partner to the ground. The camera pans from pair to pair, but stops on one set of soldiers. The men are told to stop, and their instructor begins berating them for holding back and not giving 100%.

I sympathized with them though. It makes sense that if you are about to endure three months of pure hell, you’re going to need all the strength and energy you can have.

Almost as an evolutionary instinct, most of us rarely give 100%. We conserve and hold back with a “just in case” attitude. Whether it’s in our own physical training, our jobs, our relationships, or our bank accounts, most of us are trying just enough to get by.

Our entire generation (I guess we’re unofficially titled the Mellenials) is afflicted with a paralyzing fear of failure. I consider myself a fairly confident guy, but a cursory examination of my own past reveals quite a bit.

I remember working really hard to win a starting spot on my 8th grade football team. I was 6 feet tall, but weighed 130 pounds soaking wet. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’ve always subconsciously liked being the underdog–the only expectations placed on you are marginal at best, so naturally if you accomplish anything you appear successful compared to what the world has forecast for you.

I remember finally earning the position and our first game was coming up. I got so nervous that I threw up and felt feverish. My coaches asked me if I was alright to play. I was so afraid of starting and not doing well that I told them I wasn’t able to play.

I was a victim of my own self fulfilled prophecy; I assumed I would fail, and so I did.

You would think I would learn, but the pattern just continued in high school.

While I thought maybe some of the girls I thought were cute might have been interested in me, I convinced myself that that was a ridiculous idea, and I was just imagining things. It is for that reason I didn’t date anyone till partway through my junior year.

Feeling attractive or confident about yourself is unfortunately so dependent on your peers. I remember my mom, my mom’s friends, and even my sisters’ friends telling me I was handsome, but none of them were in my peer group, so I would brush it off, chalk it up to them trying to bolster up my insecurities, and bury it somewhere deep inside.

Looking back, I see lots of missed opportunities. It’s not like girls were throwing their tops at me as I walked down the halls, but hindsight is 20/20, and I can see several girls I could have asked out.

After my freshman year, where I started every game, the decision to play on the high school team the next year presented itself. I almost crapped my pants. I mean, seriously!? Have you seen those giant linemen? They have all these giant plates on both sides of the bench press! They have lots of pit hair and have to shave and stuff!

I was extremely close to quitting, but decided to actually give it a shot. I ended up having a blast. I was always undersized, even after I gained a lot of good weight, so I had to work harder than everyone else.

Irony of all ironies was that I broke my collarbone in spring practice of my sophomore year, strained by ACL my junior year and got a bulging disc, and then finally blew my knee out altogether the week before my first game of senior year.

But, I could care less about the variables that I can’t control. The point is that I tried, I gave it my best, and while the ending is not what I envisioned, I have no regrets.

Call me crazy, but I imagine I’m not the only one who has sold themselves short.

We all have grown up in postmodern times where everything our parents have taught us is to be questioned and there are no absolutes. While I completely disagree with that sentiment, allow me to present to you an absolute.

Stop being afraid of failing.

Work till your bones hurt. Throw you heart and soul into everything. I know your job sucks, but blow it out of the water. Paul talks so much in Corinthians about keeping your freaking mouth shut, working with your hands, and winning the respect of everyone.

Which lessons do you learn the most from? The ones where you fell on your face or where you succeeded easily on your first attempt?

When you half ass it at most of the things in your life (including the things you’re passionate about), you are going to lie on your deathbed with two fistfuls of regret.

Make a fool of yourself. Ask that guy or girl out that you don’t think you have a shot with. Go in the weight room even though you have a muffin top and think everyone is watching how small the weights you’re using are.

Do this for six months and then come back and tell me if your life is drastically better.

Somewhere along the way (possibly Blink by Malcolm Gladwell), I read that the reason people choke in musical or athletic performances is because they’re consciously trying to control things that they’ve been doing subconsciously for years.

Let go of the stranglehold you have on yourself and become who you really want to be.


About The Author
Christian. Husband. Quasi-Scientist.

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