We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. We’ve all experienced it. Some of you may even be enduring it now. I’m talking about The Doghouse.
A recent parolee of the Doghouse myself, I’m currently sitting in a South London coffee shop, enjoying a delectable espresso and reflecting on time served... I was sentenced to a minor four days in the “Dog House” for a small “incident” following a beer (or 10) with an old friend of mine. We met up for dinner last week with our girlfriends - ostensibly for a nice, well-mannered, chivalrous evening full of good conversation and laughs. It was all going well until around 2100, when we diverged from our plan with a substantial mistake - Jägerbombs. I don’t know what possessed us or what thought processes led us to believe Jägers would be a good idea on an otherwise-civilized double date with our girlfriends, but as we hoisted that first round and locked eyes, I knew we’d reached the point of no return. I won’t divulge what went on after that, but as you can imagine, two highly competitive friends downing Jägerbombs like it was the official world Jägerbomb drinking championships resulted in two inebriated friends and two very irate girlfriends. The subsequent day we were both sentenced to imprisonment in the Doghouse.
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect during my time served and I’ve come to the following conclusion. Now, before I talk to you about my findings, you need to understand this (especially to my girlfriend, who will undoubtedly be reading this) - I am not encouraging bad behaviour or inspiring you to annoy your partners to the point they send you to the Doghouse, nor am I making a mockery of my recent time served. I am simply doing what I do best: taking a negative and turning it into a positive.
So, here we go.
I made a mistake. I failed. I messed up. I am experiencing the feeling of “defeat”, but is this a bad thing? Let’s really think about this for a moment - is the feeling of “defeat” a bad thing? I have come to the pensive decision that it is not. In fact, it’s quite the opposite - it’s a good thing. It doesn’t matter what has caused this feeling of defeat, it doesn’t matter what it is you’ve failed at, something good will come of it. The majority of the time, this failure will be accompanied by an opportunity to learn. Whatever it is you’ve done, you now know not to do it again, otherwise you’ll be in this same position, experiencing the same feeling of “defeat”.
When you really expand on this thought, you can apply it to all areas of life.
The amount of people I speak to, especially within the military circles, who have missed out on career defining moments - is staggering. By not taking action when they should have, they’ve, for lack of a better term, “missed out” on fulfilling their dreams. But why? What caused them to avoid moments that would have directly impacted their careers for the better, in turn changing their lives forever? It must be something massive, right? It must be something so gargantuan and severe they made the conscious decision to abandon their lifelong goal.
Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10, this is not the case. Yes, sometimes life gets in the way -- a family emergency, a life-altering injury, or other circumstances outside of your control – and you are forced to take a different path. When this is the case, you make the best of that situation, readjust to the new circumstances, and re-engage.
But this is the exception, not the rule. For the majority, the reason they abandon their lifelong goals at the pivotal moment is the fear of failure. The pressure is too much, and the fear of what others will think if they fail is almost crippling. They get so hung up on the ridicule, the mockery, the shame that will accompany their public defeat that they deem it better not to try at all. When the reality is - NO ONE CARES. Yes, you may encounter the rare ill-bred person who would bathe in the thought of you failing. But for the most part, no one cares – they don’t have time to. Everyone’s too busy worrying about their own endeavours. The reason we get cold feet and seize up, or flee when it’s time to commit to an action that could result in failure is thanks to our brain; our ancient, prehistoric and unsupportive brain.
We all have a part of our brain called the Limbic System. This is the part of the brain dedicated to survival, behaviour and acceptance. This is most commonly known as the “reptilian” or “chimp” brain. It’s designed to protect you from death and starvation and aid your chances of reproducing. So this being said - your “chimp” brain very strongly encourages you to avoid situations that could lead to failure. That overwhelming, gut-churning feeling you get when you’re about to commit to an action that could result in failure, whether it be starting a selection course or approaching a member of the opposite sex, is your “chimp” kicking in. Your “chimp” is reminding you that you’re in a comfortable and stable position, you’re warm and well-fed, in a position of acceptance in your social circle - why on earth would you want to jeopardise this? Well, luckily for you, you’re no longer hunting mammoths and looking over your shoulder at all times for possible saber-toothed tiger attacks. Yes, seriously, that is how old and primal your “chimp” brain is.
Remember this. Always. When you’re about to embark on an endeavour that could fail and you experience that feeling, just take a moment and think - IT’S NOT THAT BAD, you can literally say to yourself out loud - “I appreciate the concern chimp brain, but I have work to do. I have a task to complete in order to achieve my goals. And if I fail? GOOD. I will learn from that, I will readjust and re-engage, I will be back bigger and better and I won’t fail that way again.” I’m not at risk of imminent death or starvation, I’m not at risk of being removed from my social circle and losing the only chance I have of reproducing and keeping my species alive, it’s really not that bad.
So with this in mind - what’s stopping you?
Because it shouldn’t be the fear of failure. You now know why your brain and emotions experience this deceptive feeling. You know that it’s no longer relevant. You’re no longer choosing between safety and extinction. So acknowledge the truer choice. You’re either going to pass the selection, win the competition, earn the badge, get the girl of your dreams - or you’re going to fail, in which case you’re going to find areas to improve, lessons to learn, new techniques to adopt, new angles to approach and possible doors to open. Neither scenario is a loss - it’s either victory or knowledge.
So the next time you get that feeling, embrace it. It just means whatever it is you’re about to do is worthwhile, and that action only has one outcome: WINNING.
The other alternative is death by stagnation. By inaction. By status quo. You can do what you’ve already been doing, you can continue in comfort, you can avoid/run/flee/hide from that feeling, but know this - when you’re 80 years of age that feeling will not matter. The only feeling you’ll have is the haunting regret of a life half-lived.
So learn to thrive under that chimpy feeling. Enjoy the unknown and embrace the moments that could change your life for the better.
If you adopt this approach to life, you’ll never “fail”, you’ll either win or you’ll learn...
So this being said - I encourage failure, I encourage the “Dog House”, I encourage risks - take them and WIN.
Head Of Humbling.