When You Were Born – You Were Afraid

We Are Born Afraid of 2 Things. Not 20. Not 5. Two.

We are born with an innate fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Everything else we fear is learned. 

This is not new information. The research has been around decades.

In self-defense or martial arts training, the focus is physical fighting, skills for that which we should fear – the physical assault.

Strangers in the parking garage. Dark alleyways late at night. Serial rapists.

Ted Bundy. Samuel Little. Hauntings of unsolved murders. Amber Alerts. 

Part of the traditional education paradigm in the self-defense world is reminding people, chiefly women, of the monsters that lurk in the shadows. Reminding them why they should fear and therefore, why they should take self-defense classes and enroll in martial arts programs. This education speaks to the learned fears and helps explain the opposite side of learned things – the things that are taught.

If a fear is learned then somehow it is taught. It may be taught experientially and then reinforced in the feedback. It may be taught overtly in cautionary tales and restrictions placed by caregivers and parents. It can be taught through marketing “be on your own body guard” – means you need a body guard.

I learned experientially I am not a fan of being out of control in Class ? rapids (a mix of Class 3 and Class 4s on a river). After one particularly dynamic bounce into the river from the relative safety of my 2-man kayak, a few minutes passed in which it was just me and the river … and an upcoming gorge from which there was no rescue. 

A member of the guide team was finally able to get within about 20 feet of me and a plan formulated to get me back in a boat. Any boat. Knowing the options for survival were diminishing as the river washed me toward the gorge, I swam like hell toward the source of rescue. 

Talk about an intense escalation of survival motivation…and now I have a distinctly marked, healthy respect for tempestuous waters and a learned fear of drowning. This was experiential learning at its finest. The physical universe was my teacher along with a guide team that didn’t realize a sudden massive snowmelt had changed the river’s status virtually overnight. I grew up in and on the water and until that trip to Northern California, I had respect for it, but I wasn’t afraid of the water. The fear of drowning wasn’t part of my mental map of the universe. After that trip? New spot on the map.

Research informs us that we have two genetically programmed fears. Research also tells us the girls are cautioned far more than boys by parents as they grow from tiny humans to full-sized versions. Thus, increasing the opportunities for learned fears to take hold. Exponentially.

Can you relate? Do you train for self-defense or are an instructor in the combat arts world? There’s a parallel to experiential learning and experimental teaching as it relates to self-defense. There is a shrouded and somewhat endemic problem with the traditional instructional approach and it finds it’s home in leveraging learned fears.

If you would like to dive a little deeper on the topic, I encourage you to do a couple of things-

  1. do your homework – dig around – use the internet and research this for yourself
  2. join the 500Rising patreon community for more conversation on this topic (there’s a bunch more to this post) and a whole lot more: https://www.patreon.com/500Rising
  3. use this pandemic season to explore your own beliefs about women, violence & self-defense

“Matter” – matters.

Design Matters in Self-Defense Instruction

Every once in a while, a story hits the media about someone touting the differences between men and women as the source of abilities (or lack thereof) related to science, math or military service. Welcome to prooftexting, taking a quote or data point out of context adding validation to an otherwise erroneous argument. Prooftexting works for the women can’t do science type of arguments because there are subtle differences between male and female brains. Using these differences as arguments to bolster positions about intelligence or aptitude is categorically without merit. Understanding how the differences influence decision-making can go a long way to effectively manage communication at the broad stroke level. Conflict management and prevention, applications to negotiations, sales, and all forms of personal and commercial relationship can benefit. 

Let’s look specifically at an area of communication and relationship with a dominantly male leadership community and a target demographic largely female. Self-defense. 

If you want to frustrate a female student, assume she is wired just like a male student. There are a variety of ways we can investigate learning and processing differences among all our students – again – regardless of gender, for this conversation I want to look at where gender differences can matter. 

Specifically, take into consideration two structural/design differences between the male and the female brain[1]:

1.  The male brain has about 6x more gray matter and the female brain has roughly 10x more white matter.

2.  The female brain’s corpus callosum (the cord connecting the two halves of your brain) is about 10% thicker on average.

White matter and the connectivity between the hemispheres are collectively responsible for the ability to make inferences, drive curiosity and discovery oriented decision-making. White matter also has the job of integrating large caches of information and while keeping us open to changes in how we navigate problems and solutions. 

The reason for this is pretty simple. White matter is made up of myelinated axons. An axon’s job is to connect to other axons and collectively, they serve as the brain’s information highway connecting the points where data is stored (gray matter). With more white matter, a female brain has more myelinated axons v. the unmyelinated version of gray matter and as a result, more interconnectivity and interaction among the data storage centers[2].

Think of white matter as the train lines in a subway or commuter rail. The gray matter represents the individual stations or stops. The more stations that are interconnected, the more there will be travel between all the points, the more often the travel will occur, and the more station hopping there may be on a single trip. 

It’s one of the reasons women can have a multi-dimensional conversation without losing track of all the different topics being discussed simultaneously. While the guys in the background have no idea how the girls are keeping track of it all and somehow, mysteriously, end up back at some random starting point without anyone missing a beat.

What does this mean in working with women in a mission-oriented paradigm like self-defense? 

The subtle increase in gray matter causes men to be slightly more inclined to approach a task through a mission directed mindset. Get it done. “I need new boxing gloves” – goes to vendor or store, finds boxing gloves of correct weight –buys gloves. Done. 

Women are more likely to consider how long the previous gloves lasted her and how they were used during that time frame. She may measure out the weight of the gloves against her training goals and her upper body strength along with the color and design as they influence how she feels about the gloves. Captain America, anyone? If you wonder why anyone would drop over $200.00 on a pair of gloves…

She will investigate the vendor as well as the product and she will do more comparison shopping than her male counterpart. If this is the first pair of gloves, the guy is going to ask the instructor: what should I buy? Tell him 18 oz gloves in X price range and he’s good to go. She is going to want to know more information, or may go out to buy them and come back with a fistful of questions instead of a pair of gloves. 

On the mat, tell him he needs to move offline at a 45-degree angle and he has a mission to accomplish. Done. Tell this to her and out of respect and the power differential, she may jump in with the same mission-oriented approach. 

For a while. Eventually, she is going to wonder about why the 45 degrees is the preferred angle for this skill. She is going to think about other situations and circumstances and where the failure point is. 

She may even play around with the failure point. Like she investigated the purchase of her gloves, she is going to investigate the technique. If no one else is doing this in class, she may wait until she’s off by herself, away from the critical eye of her fellow students and instructors. She may play with it in her thoughts and visualize it instead of a physical test of the thing, but she is going to play with it. 

One sure way to frustrate a female student is to shut this down. In the beginning, telling her this discovery and curiosity is wrong, may work. It will work out of her respect for the instructor’s knowledge and skillset. It will work in strong Sensei Cultures where no one questions the sensei. It will work if she has intuited that to be accepted in a male-dominated class she needs to act like a guy – it will work because she is socially programmed to behave appropriately. 

This direction, to Just Do What I Tell You, is in direct contradiction to how her brain is wired. Squashing her brain’s need and ability to run through all the train lines, into all the stops and stations tying together the similarities while filtering out the differences works because she is being outwardly compliant and wants the approval she will get by not being “the girl” in the class. But it isn’t working the way we should want our instruction to work. We should want her to make these skills her own. We should want her to weave them into her being. That’s not gonna’ happen in a Do What I Tell Youinstructional style.

Give her time, though. If she sticks with it, as she gains confidence, skill and comfort in the male-dominated culture, that interconnected superhighway in her brain is going to win out. And it should. This is one of her superpowers but if the instructor is not ready for it, he (or she – female instructors often take on a “male” approach to teaching) will shut it down. 

Here is an example. An instructor-level student is training with a cohort of instructors under a senior level guy. The skill being drilled and its related problem piqued her curiosity. She was having a hard time getting her body to do what the technique called for so she intentionally did a few repetitions incorrectly. Senior instructor walks by and asks her what she’s doing. Her answer was something like this:

“Trying to find out what happens if I don’t do this right – trying to figure out how to find the right motivation for my body to do the technique correctly…” 

This did not go well. The senior guy snapped at her “just DO the technique!” – the verbal punishment was big enough everyone nearby to hear. Training stopped to see what the commotion was about and her training partner muttered…wow, you pissed him off!

Later, the instructor apologized.

This story is an example of what all that white matter is programmed to do. Her investigation of the training and the technique is anchored in the same neurological design that causes her to investigate those gloves, or ask a myriad of questions, or expect contingencies and exploration of options in a business meeting. This story is also an example of a tangle of social programs, expectations and failure points. 

The senior instructor is frustrated by her because she is going off the reservation. She isn’t listening to him. She isn’t working the drill. He may even experience her actions as disrespectful. In traditional training cultures, her behavior is unacceptable. Note here, traditional does not apply solely to the context of ‘traditional martial arts’. Mixed Martial Arts and modern self-defense programs can fit in this box as well. The frustrated instructor may also be a woman. Just because her brain is also genetically programmed to run through the complex channels and plethora of possibilities, she has likely adjusted to the classic martial teaching paradigm and may interpret her student’s behavior through the same filters as her male colleagues.

To bring the wayward student back to task and back in line there will be corrective punishment. The punishment can be overt as in the story above, it can be subtle and back-channeled, it can be demonstrated in continued biting remarks, shaming, or open shunning. This leaves her with a choice. Handicap her strength to avoid punishment and remain connected to her training community, or leave. 

Wait. What about speaking to the instructor? Having an intelligent, open dialogue? This may work – if he is open to the conversation and if she has the science to back up why she wants to test these training approaches (she’ll need this to be able to articulate). The culture of the training program will need to be focused on the successes of the students not the reputation of the instructors and an openness for instructors to acknowledge they may not be 100% right, 100% of the time.

That’s a significant number of caveats and significant socio-psychological inhibitors to a successful outcome.

There is a myriad of teaching methodologies to bring a student, any student studying any thing, back to a specific task without punishing a student’s natural functional learning modalities. Male and female, how our brains are wired influences how we learn and how we train. In a particularly goal-oriented environment like the dojo, the superhighway of white matter connectivity in the female brain may present as an anathema. 

What’s really cool though, is this connectivity can be developed further and can be enhanced/increased in anybrain[3]. The instructor who stays curious will default less frequently to classic obedient=good as a metric for success. This instructor will create a permissive training culture. When the student wants to find out what happens when she performs a technique incorrectly, the this instructor is going to be curious right along with her. It won’t be a threat to this instructor’s ego, authority or leadership. And out of this discovery training model, their partnership may uncover another possibility in response to the problem and more importantly, she learns an invaluable lesson: trust your instincts. 

The majority of the future posts and blogs along these subject lines will be posted in Tier 1 in the 500Rising Patreon. For all the details check out the site & thanks in advance for your support! https://patreon.com/500Rising.com

[1] https://hbr.org/2013/09/how-women-decide

[2] http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/neurology/newsroom/white_matter_feature.html

[3] Pick up Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code if you are intrigued. 

I wanna’ shake his hand –

I know I’m not supposed to say that. At least not out loud. Maybe whispering it from my hidden attic hide-away, or away from the laptop camera, or with a glance toward Baltimore’s proposed social distance police drones.

But it’s a fact. Rolf Dobelli pretty much wrote the bible no one is reading. He published The Art of Thinking Clearly in 2013. It should be dog-eared, underlined and highlighted and on the top of every lawmaker’s desk. It should be the first thing journalists and broadcasters look at every morning. Thinking Clearly should be the editor’s go-by before hollering “Print It” to the desk reporters.

That’s clearly not happening. In light of this lack, it should be our personal field guide to every single headline. It should be the handbook we flip open prior to finalizing our decisions and it should be the thing we measure ourselves against as we eye the 2020 elections here in the States.

That’s a lot of shoulds. Six in fact. An editor would be red-penning my lack of linguistic creativity about now, but all those shoulds are on purpose. To misquote Jay-Z, I got 99 fallacies but logical thinking ain’t one.

As a small business owner who’s sole purpose of operation is to put people up-close-and-personal (aka self-defense and combat arts) I’ll be the last business allowed to reopen. Sometimes when my thoughts go particularly dark, I wonder if martial arts will be outlawed altogether because of the inherent risk of breathing on one another. I’m one of the political little people. Congress doesn’t know my name. My state legislature doesn’t know I exist, my county commissioners would only know my business [was] thriving if they bothered to even check on that dba filed back in 2012.

I don’t care for feelings of powerlessness. I’m sure no one will give two rat’s asses one way or another what I have to say – but – I’m saying it anyway. I’m about to launch a video series reviewing a handful of Dobelli’s 99 logic fallacies. It won’t sway the universe. It won’t even sway my neighborhood HOA board. That’s okay. I’ll joust those windmills anyway.

“you can’t take the sky from me”*

Liberty is a noun defined as: the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.

Freedom is a noun defined as: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

The two words are used interchangeably. Go all the way back to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and Liberty is used in Freedom’s definition.

But are they full-on synonyms? I posit no.

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

Liberty is external. It is the relationship between a person and the society in which they live. The rules, laws, punishments and expectations handed down from the political or social governing institutions delimit liberties. If you are in prison, your physical liberty is profoundly curtailed. Screw up in prison and you are off to solitary confinement and deeper restrictions on your physical liberty.

Until recently, women in Saudi Arabia were not at liberty to drive. As in, it was illegal to get behind the wheel if you sport a vagina.

We hold Freedom of Speech as a key constitutional right in the U.S.

What this freedom prescribes is the liberty to speak openly without fear of being whisked off in the foggy bottoms of the dark night never to be heard from should you disagree with the powers in charge.

The reality of liberty v. freedom is this: you are free to choose the degree of liberties, and lack thereof, by which you will abide. Liberties are prescribed. Freedom is a state of being.

Victor Frankl gave intense examples of freedom v. liberty in his accounts from the Nazi Concentration Camps during his internment in World War II. Hoarding food or sharing food were both considered violations. Caught engaging in either behavior risked severe punishment. People frequently did both.

Frankl’s observation of the hoarding v. sharing behavior is a beautiful parallel to liberty v. freedom.

Hear me out…

Hoarding scraps of bread reflected loss and scarcity. Fear and desperation that each so-called meal might in fact, be the last. Because sometimes it was. Sometimes days would go by between provisions. The hiders and hoarders were prisoners to their bones. This is not a dispersion. I can see myself there. Their personal liberties shattered; they also lost their freedom.

The sharers would often give their meager portions to sick friends, sneak their own bread to bunk mates who had been denied food in punishment, or shared their portion with a fellow prisoner who’s suffering was observed to be far deeper than their own. The sharers were just as imprisoned as the hoarders. Their circumstances no better, their futures equally as bleak and their liberty equally withheld. Yet somewhere deep in the sharer’s mental road map, they knew in their bones they were free to do as they chose. Not without great risk of course, they weren’t delusional. They just felt they could make the choice and could act on the choice. Their liberties shattered, they held on to their personal agency. Their freedom.

Liberty is externally dictated. And across the planet most of humanity is experiencing curtailed liberties in an effort to stem the rate of infection during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Your freedom; however, that is up to you. How much you abide by the orders given by your government, how you choose to engage your state of confinement during the Covid-19 shelter-in-place orders is up to you.

If you 100% quarantine you have chosen to inhibit your liberty. Your government did not force you to do so.

*from The Ballad of Serenity by Sonny Rhodes

what you do with what you have

Forced Teaming. A phrase frequently accredited to Gavin DeBecker’s seminal work Gift of Fear describes a tactic employed when fast-tracking rapport is critical. Often attributed to predatory machinations it is also an effective tactic in de-escalation.

Forced Teaming presumes tribal affiliation. You and I are the same. We share common ground. Highlighting our similarities crashes against our efforts to dehumanize our adversary. It’s harder to put a bullet in your head if I can see my hopes, dreams, losses and loves reflected back to me in the mirrors of your eyes.

Common ground is the inverse state to nihilistic isolation and narcissistic superiority. Tribal affiliation is defined by colors, patterns, specific beliefs, rituals and the rules/laws to which we give our loyalties. Whether tribal connectivity (the basis for a common-ground paradigm) is a truth or a tactic may be a fantastic conversation starter, but it’s a useless debate when experiencing connection is essential for survival.

Our tribes are no longer defined exclusively by our geographic borders and melanin. Our shared interests and ideologies are transcontinental. I have family 1600 miles away and tribal brothers who fly the flags of different nations.

What defines our sense of tribe eventually bottoms out at sacrifice. For whom are you willing to sacrifice? This is your tribe. It may be the neighbor who’s car battery needs a charge or a friend in a different country who watched their home burn. Sacrifice 15 minutes for the jump or wired funds to rebuild – doesn’t matter – this is where and how we demonstrate common ground.

Sacrifice does not mean giving up agency. It is not the expression of hive-mind and sacrifice is not defined by mutely acquiescing to government edicts. A true, measurable sacrifice begins with first acknowledging what belongs to you and then deciding if giving that thing will create tangible value.

Your time. Your money. Your toilet paper. Your life. If you bought up all the toilet paper in a wave of emotional pandemic and distributed it to your neighbors, you sacrificed time, money and a resource you procured. If you bought out the toilet paper aisle because you were afraid you wouldn’t be able to wipe you hind quarters…

If you are on a cruise ship with 5000 passengers and lifeboats with only 1000 seats, you volunteering to go down with the ship is a narcissistic gesture. It isn’t sacrifice. Until one of those lifeboat seats has been assigned to you directly, you do not have a seat to give. Your sacrifice is theoretical. You LOOK like a great human being with a strong sense of Tribe. Appearances don’t save lives, however.

Community and governmental leaders have been calling on their citizenship for sacrifice as the only way to stem the deaths of the pandemic. Authentic sacrifice is the deepest expression of agency and freedom. Acquiescing your personal authority because you were told to do so is no sacrifice. Assuming you must sacrifice your freedom (which is different than liberty btw) to help stem the contagion renders you ineffective at best. At it’s worst? It makes you easily enslaved by the next charismatic tyrant.

You share common ground because you are part of the human community. If you are sacrificing to the good of your tribe you will feel a degree of peace inside all this chaos. If you believe you are sacrificing but feel instead anger, frustration and partisanship – you forgot sacrifice begins with acknowledging you are free to decide for yourself what you will do with what you have to give.

The Seat of Power

There is a distinct difference in how humans have evolved our relationship with fear and our relationship with danger. As infants we are instinctively afraid of two things. Falling and Loud Noises. Both trigger startle reflexes and observable (instinctive) anxiety. But look at the definition of fear given by the Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health; Seventh Edition:


 [fēr] the unpleasant emotional state consisting of psychological and psychophysiological responses to a real external threat or danger. See also anxiety. Fear is a nursing diagnosis accepted by the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association, who defined it as a response to a perceived threat that is consciously recognized as a danger. Causative factors may include separation from one’s support system in a potentially threatening situation such as hospitalization, diagnostic test, or treatment; knowledge deficit or unfamiliarity; language barrier; sensory impairment; and phobic stimulus or phobia.

Persons experiencing fear may verbalize increased tension, apprehension, diminished self-assurance, panic, or a jittery feeling. Objective signs include increased alertness; concentration on the source of fear; attack and fight-or-flight behaviors; and evidence of sympathetic nerve stimulation such as cardiovascular excitation, superficial vasoconstriction, and dilation of the pupils. 

The bold emphases are mine. Notice the contradiction. Real v. Perceived. This is a product of our unique sociological evolutionary state. Many humans have lived the majority -if not all- of their lives in a profound state of overall safety. Daily activity did not involve preparing for assault, attacks from marauders, defending life and property from wild animals, continuous states of war (think 100 Year’s War between France and England).

Relative safety is a social construct and human physiological evolution per adaptation takes time. Centuries or by some models, millennia. This is important. Our hardware is still predisposed to assess for Threat as in actual danger. Walking out your front door to a gang of rattlesnakes sunning on your sidewalk should give you a jolt. This mechanism is alive and well inside humans whether the danger is real or perceived and the response system in your physiology could give a rat’s ass whether or not the danger is real. All it takes is your personal perception and boom – Fear.

And what is dangerous has also fallen into our sociological constructs. If you are of Jewish decent, are you inherently dangerous? There was a time in the not-to-distant past when a large number of people said YES.

Is sitting next to your child in a bench as you rest from a walk in the sunshine dangerous? What about you spouse? Recently a New York City police officer warned a married couple they’d be cited if they didn’t practice social distancing in an outdoor space. This isn’t about the individual peace officer. That job hard-core sucks right now.

This is about how perceived danger and real danger are becoming threads of a single, blanketing tapestry draping across society. Is it dangerous for Vermont to dictate big-box stores must prevent nonessential purchases? Clothing, for example. Who’s to say a child’s shoes are nonessential? If you’ve had tiny humans you know they can literally wake up and put on shoes that fit yesterday only to find today the munchkin has outgrown them. Wearing the too-small shoes will rub sores which can become infected or impact how a child walks, limiting mobility.

Is it dangerous to place yourself in the middle of an active Covid-19 hospital ward? Is it dangerous to go to a home improvement store today? Is it dangerous to take your horse out on a trail? What about sitting out in the sun with your children?

In our fear of the pandemic we are collectively confusing fear for danger.

It is on each one of us to pause. Take a breath. Really.

Notice what your body is telling you. Look out the window. Turn off the news. Engage authentic risk assessment based on the information you can discern as valid. If a situation is considered dangerous, assess again. Do you need to be there? If you answer yes, are you up for the risk? Are you equipped to take useful precautions?

And here is the most necessary question: are you willing to accept your agency inherent in your decision? This is the seat of power. Not what your government dictates.

Scared Rabbit Syndrome: Update April 2020

I wrote the original piece about a year ago. It’s relevant now at a deeper level.

Original first, update at the end.

Not everyone is a Threat. In fact, most people just want to get through any given day with minimal drama.

I’ll use flight travel as an example. When we are crammed together in close quarters by choice, we benefit from remembering most people aren’t out there to “get us”.  First situation, two separate flights. Once the Offender was a young woman, once the Offender was a young man. Both were sitting on a plane and trying to get the Touch Screen on the seat back in front of them to work. While trying to figure it out, their contact with the seat back (touching different spots on the mini video screen) translated through to the body in the seat.

The young man and the young woman were disturbing the person in the seat. They didn’t know they were bothering the person in the seat. The woman in the seat in front of the young man got up, placed her hands on her seat back and leaned over the top of her seat toward the young man.  In no uncertain terms, she told him to stop “hitting her in the back of the head”.

The young man appeared rather startled – he had no idea what he was doing to hit this woman in the head. He was traveling with someone who could have been his father. This guy leaned over and said something to him quietly … I’m assuming it was an explanation of why she made the assault accusation. The young man read a book for most of the flight.

Different flight – roles reversed, the man turned to the girl who was finger stabbing the screen and said something like “if you don’t stop banging on my seat, I’m calling the flight attendant.”

Not everyone is a Threat. These two air-travel novices were unaware how easy it is to jostle fellow passengers. Like the guy who fell asleep and his head flopped over during turbulence and rested on the shoulder of the stranger next to him. He wasn’t trying to look down her shirt or cop a feel.

The woman who dropped her cell phone and reached down to hunt for it and repeatedly touched the men on either side:  her head brushed a thigh, knees, her arm moved across a calf, etc. She wasn’t testing them to see if either would be a good target for sexual assault.

The young flyers weren’t attempting to escalate conflict and the sleeping frequent flyer wasn’t looking for an “accidental” grope.

Is ‘manspreading’ a thing? Sure. Is consuming more space than your tight quarters socially permits a thing? Yup.

Does it mean the person means you harm? Most of the time…no.

If your self-defense protocols & training are making you more suspicious, more hostile, and less comfortable in social environments – your protocols and training aren’t helping make your life better.

If you yell PERVERT, every time someone brushes against you in densely populated situations, your protocols and training are building fear and anger.

The last thing we need right now are more angry, frightened humans. Train (if you do) to be strong. Strength is marked by your ability to know most people don’t care to harm you – most people don’t even notice you exist, to be honest. They are too wrapped up in their own personal goals & problems to notice you. Rude? Maybe. Self-absorbed? Maybe. Assault precursors? Not typically.

Update April 2nd 2020-

At the moment we are facing a different experience of Threat. Who or What is functioning in our lives as a threat is profoundly impacted by the lens through which you view the world and what you hold valuable. The fears evolving around government over-reach and violations of the Constitution stand in equal measure against the fears of a pandemic. Equal parts the fear of economic crisis, and fear we are being guided by deliberate misinformation are also in play. 

Doesn’t matter what your world view is or the type of internal map you choose to journey through life with – there is qualitative difference between Fear and Danger. Just as with self-defense practice and habit against a potential physical threat can fail when Fear dominates our decisions; so too will our ability to choose wisely falter if Fear demands it’s place in your mind. The ability to assess Fear v. Danger is essential. Life is giving us all an opportunity to learn how to see the distinction.

The Zodiac 180

Turn an aircraft carrier or a cruise ship on the water and it takes a while. Passengers and crew hardly notice the change in trajectory – under normal circumstances anyway. Your body begins to sense the rotation but you don’t have to hang on, brace out, or hook on to life lines.

Take a tight turn on a 35 footer and you’re gonna’ notice that pull a whole lot more. You might need to hang on to something, set your feet to braced and drop your center of gravity lower into the boat. If you weren’t ready for it, you might get tossed across the cockpit, knock your head on a gunwale, it isn’t going to be comfortable.

Do a 180 in a Zodiac? If you don’t turn with the boat, lock-in, and drop that center of gravity; you will absolutely be waiving to the boat as it speeds off on a new heading while your body gets un-assed from the vessel in the opposite direction. Smile and waive, baby. You’re gonna’ get wet.

Our zodiacs have hard-180’ed. That hard turn on shelter-in-place orders, business shut-downs, financial losses, human losses.

How’d you do? You still in, or did you inflate that PFD (personal flotation device) and are swimming for …. well … anything with a solid connection to reality?

Not really a binary experience. We’re all probably doing a little of both.

And I’m certain we are not yet through with these sudden turns.

Whitewater rafting up in Northern California some years back our guide was running through the safety protocols for when (not if) we would end up in the water. He called it “swimming”. Not my idea of swimming, I laughed. Wasn’t laughing when those Class 4 rapids and I were in an up close personal conversation, while I was ummmm, swimming.

I find myself right now in equal parts “swimming” and turning with my Zodiac. It’s a moment-by-moment proposition. I’d like to believe I’m tacti-cool and am all Navy SEAL hunkered down in my Zodiac killing it. Yeah….about that.

Adversity introduces you to yourself.

We discover what adaptation requires of us. We confront our resistances to reality when we don’t like that reality. Our defense (and tactical defensive) mechanisms announce themselves in our operating system. Our fear, how and when we feel vulnerable, our defaults and our need for a Bad Guy to blame when we are suddenly “swimming”, crowd out our cruise-ship level mechanisms for gentle, subtle shifts in life.

Survival demands adaptation. Your coping mechanisms and capacity for adaptation are 100% yours. You choose. Moment-by-moment. Consciously or unconsciously. You are choosing. Right now. You are answering questions presented by the physical universe.

Who will you be today?

What will your impact be?

How will you govern the power you possess?

There are moments my answer to those questions are not …. fit for public consumption. There are other moments my eyes narrow as I lock-on to my invisible Threat – quietly and emphatically throwing out a challenge – go ahead mother-f#$&er -give it your best shot.

Give yourself a second. Take stock. Let yourself be angry, frustrated, touch the despair if it’s there. Then look up – swim – get back in the damned boat. Find a reason to adapt and get back on-mission.

The universe needs you in the boat.