Fatboy Slim aka Norman Cook aka Quentin Leo Cook is a solo electronic performer according to Wikipedia, I like a lot of his music, in particular I like a track called right here, right now. Its where we live, we think about the past and the future but we live right here right now.
Last month I used this picture in my article ‘Going Forward to the Past’ about Lifelong Learning.
It is one I use when I work with my students, it is something I am always encouraging others to do, to go to the place where the magic happens. A couple of days ago I caught the tail end of somebody a class in a local college as I waited to do my class, and the tutor used the exact same picture to encourage her students to think about their young entrepreneurs project. I thought she was excellent in how she used the material and talked for some time after he class about actually doing it, getting up off the sofa and stepping away from the comfort zone.
Well before I go on here is an update on the motorbike riding. I went out on the road on a 650cc Suzuki the other day, we did a lot of miles at some speed too, it is very early days but I an beginning to feel comfortable but still high on the magic of the new experiences and sensations. I have now bought all the gear short of an actual bike but have been spending quite a bit of time checking out different bikes and their features on the internet, my head turns now as I drive past bike shops and I have an urge to go in and look. I never thought I would do this until a few weeks ago, all my life people told me motorbikes = death, I lost good friends young who died on them, I visited good friends in hospital who had major accidents on them, motorbikes were for looney tunes, I once went pillion a few times with a mate and it scared the crap out of me. I am not sure what that says about me now, have I lost the plot or have I overcome my fear.
We its possibly a bit of both depending on your perspective. When you do this type of thing at 55, something out of character, without warning people first they look at you funny and the words mid life crisis are used, jokingly, but it has been said by a few. That’s cool I can live with that. To be fair I do not really know myself what makes me do these things, when I went to college then university and ended up lecturing in further and higher education it was the same, I really wanted to learn and had to overcome the fear of failure to be ready to do so.
So here I lay bare my biggest fear, it is the fear of failure. It is why we get nervous when we take tests and exams, we fear being the one who fails. When I stepped onto the mat to take my black belt in Ju Jitsu I had trained hard for years, training three times a week for many months and then some. The first this we have to complete are 25 throws and every aspect of each one must be correct, your uki’s are punching full of and there is no room for error, about 10 throws in and I was convinced I had already failed, I felt like shit, I could hardly breathe and had to fight myself mentally as well as my uki’s physically in order to carry on. I passed, its history now.
Last Friday I failed the first part of my MOD 1 riding test, I repeat I failed. I made one mistake right in the middle of the test, I knew I had failed at this point. I still had three difficult tasks to complete, I took a breath, focused and did them, including the one I was most scared of at the start of he training, the swerve manoeuvre at speed. In the debrief the examiner told me he knew I knew I had failed when I made my one mistake, he complimented me an told me he was really impressed that I completed the rest of the test, he told me it was excellent. My instructor had described my ride prior to the test as fantastic and that was because I had a clear passion for learning to ride, this applied also to my fellow student who did pass.
Later we talked about some other stuff and the subject turned to how we learn things that help us to ride better. I mentioned the above picture and we talked about comfort zones and leaving them. I had already booked a retest for next week, best to get straight back on etc, I know that I did 90% of the test spot on, I know I can do the thing I did wrong, I understand I can do it. I was disappointed but not upset that I had failed, I took the test after 5 days of training, before that I could not ride at all. I got 1 thing wrong and people the feedback was surprisingly good. Putting the failure in the context of how much I think I have achieved, especially venturing up to 60 miles an hour on something I never thought I would ride, something I previously feared I still classed the test as a success.
If you live your life in the comfort zone, you are not living your life.
Fear is horrible, fear prevents us doing things, fear is the most negative of emotions, this we all know. Few people are fearless. Fear can paralyse us and keep us from trying something new. Most peoples lives are controlled by fear and they do not even know it. When we see an opportunity to do something new, whether it is something we have always wanted to do or just something that crops up, there will appear that little policeman in your head that will tell you not to do it, the little policeman will tell you it is not for you, it might hurt, you cannot do it, people like you do not do it and if you ignore all this stuff you the inner policeman will remind you that if you try it you might fail.
The little policeman inside your head uses fear to control you. Fear is a form of social control. I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories, I am not sat here with my head wrapped in tinfoil to stop the CIA reading my thoughts. We are taught fear as we are socialised into society. Learning to fear certain things, poisonous snakes, tigers, sharks etc that are dangerous helps keep us safe. The thing is we also learn to fear failure and yes this has a name, Atychiphobia.
“Atychiphobia is the abormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure a type of specific phobia. As with many phobias, atychiphobia often leads to a constricted lifestyle, and is particularly devastating for its effects on a person’s willingness to attempt certain activities. The term atychiphobia comes from the Greek Phobos meaning “fear” or “morbid fear” and atyches meaning “unfortunate”.
Persons afflicted with atychiphobia considers the possibility of failure so intense that they choose not to take the risk then these persons will subconsciously undermine their own efforts so that they no longer have to continue to try. Because effort is proportionate to the achievement of personal goals and fulfilment, this unwillingness to try, that arises from the perceived inequality between the possibilities of success and failure, holds the atychiphobic back from a life of meaning and the realization of potential.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atychiphobia
The good new is that it is abnormal, most people do not suffer this correct? I think not, this is only my opinion, I think we all suffer from it when we face a challenge, a test an exam. It is not retarding us all the time but how many of us can say we have not felt nervous before or during a test or an exam especially where we really want or need to pass and where failure would lead to us being not good enough. Fear of failure is directly related to how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us.
Most Conflict Manager readers train and/or are trainers. We all know about exam nerves, now we can name the beast that is atychiphobia. Naming things is important part of learning how to deal with challenges and learning how to help others deal with them too. Different individuals will develop different strategies, there is no one cure. Even when you have trained and trained and passed mock test after mock test the real thing wakes up the little policeman inside your head and he starts to go to work. Does this mean I am anti testing? No, the pressure created by facing a test can really focus the learner so can be a good thing. It can also be important in keeping us safe, had I made my one little mistake on my riding test out on the road I could have placed myself in danger, could not would, but I can see why it was enough to fail me.
So life long learning is a wonderful thing, I embrace I, I send out the message to try new things as often as possible, I do it too. In a couple of hours Jayne and I are off to BBC Radio Sheffield to do a thirty minute live slot talking about Ju Jitsu and doing an on air demonstration. This will be Jayne’s 3rd time this year, she was really nervous the first time but did an incredible job, this time we are both looking forward to it and will have a lot of fun, well she will as she will be throwing me around. The request for us to do this is linked to the imminent release of the film Suffragettes and their training in Ju Jitsu. Hopefully this will bring in some new students to our classes, people who simply by turning up are facing one of their fears, of exposing themselves to the possibility of failure. Our job today on air is to show how both Jayne and I did just that, we are senior instructors now but we were complete novice white belts once.
My grandson Billy is five years old and has just done his first 2 Ju Jitsu classes, his mum sat watching is a 1st dan black belt, she climbed the UK’s 3 biggest mountains when she was 7, she is a fully qualified teacher, like her I want to teach Billy, and all my other students, not to fear failure, it happens, we fail, dream of successes and go out and create them.
I told all my students that I failed my test last week, I want them to learn that if they take a test it can happen, if everyone passes the test then it is not much of a test. Our local McDojo sells guaranteed black belt courses. One of their first dan black belts in karate MMA, (don’t start me off), was in one of my sessions recently doing self defence, he had a meltdown and could not complete the class, I said and did nothing about him or his training, I think the poor kid heard and saw things that exposed the dross he will have been filled up with, I felt really sorry for him. We have had their 13 year old second dan black belts come train with us before. They were not even green belts by our standards, their tests are not tests they are purchases.
So please let your students know its ok to fail, taking the test is an achievement in itself, if you do not pass then the work starts to pass next time. Not next week, not next month, but right here, right now. The antidotes to atychiphobia are confidence and passion, inculcate these qualities in your students and you will be doing a fine job, help them to overcome the negative control of fear and you will create winners.