elitefts™ Sunday edition

FEAR or F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real

...however, it's a very real thing to the person experiencing it at that moment.

Let me give you a background story. My son, Hunter, who is five years old, can ice skate, rollerblade, climb to the top of the tallest tree, jump from the top and land without incident. However, he hasn't – up to this point – been able to master the toddler-to-kid transitional event. This is the ever-popular, “two-wheeler.” Now, understand this is not a privilege in my house – no, no, no, NO! It's a requirement of all Selkows. We, simply put, ride bikes. Therefore, on our first attempt, we got as far as taking off the training wheels, only to put them back on until we were ready(er). On the second attempt with the training wheels off, one sprint and spin down the path...and voila’ – CRASH and tears! “Good enough for today,” I’d say. Jake can ride a two-wheeler, Lil’ Harry (his friend) can ride a two wheeler, for the love of God, MAX rides mini bikes (motocross style), but my athletic son can NOT get this two-wheel thing down.

Weeks go by, and we're still stifled by the lack of urgency to ride this two-wheeler, even though the rest of the "freak’n" neighborhood can ride two "ef’n" wheelers but NONE of these kids can play roller hockey or ice skate like my kid (who now is the second coming of Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky.)

What's Holding Him Back?

Then, out of nowhere it occurs to me...Hunter isn’t afraid of falling. Hell, he isn’t even afraid of crashing and eating handlebars. On the contrary, he’s raring to go! What’s holding him back?


Not his, MINE!

I don’t want this perfect child getting hurt. I don’t want to see him cry, nor do I want to see a scar on his pristine body. I’m stinking afraid...for HIM! It wasn’t until I remembered how I learned to fall and take hits that I finally came to terms with the very thing that unnerved me, I was going to have to let him take HIS hits.

“We are measured by the scars we wear,” I kept telling myself as I was going over the ground clearance rules, and every law of physics that I could remember. Hunter looked up at me from his pilot’s seat, feet on the pedals raring to go, and said, “I got this Dad,” with a huge smile and a determined eye. So, I got behind him and gave him a three-step acceleration SHOVE and he was off. Pedal one, pedal two, pedal three…CRASH! It was a soft one, in the grass. He smiled and said, “Let’s do it again!” I felt a bit better and shoved him off again. Pedal one, two, three, four, five...CRASH! Unfortunately it was a eucalyptus tree trunk. That sudden stop gave him an abdominal full of handlebar. THAT one hurt for sure, and I thought “game over.” But NO! He experienced another FIRST, getting his wind knocked out.

At this point, some of you might be thinking what an awful parent I am. To be honest, I was questioning this myself. But on the very next attempt, we caught “flight.” My little boy became a two-wheeler rider. He's the envy of his peers that haven't been able to master it for themselves.

Here's my point, how often do we not allow ourselves the “freedom of flight (or the fight)” because of the “things” that we fear?  When we face those fears and battle them, the outcome is normally a better person. The fact is, the things we feared, in reality, weren’t at all that gruesome.

Closer to home for many of us is the thought of that big, HUGE, personal best. It scares us. The first time you stick the fourth wheel on one side of the bench. The first time the sixth wheel goes up on the squat bar, or on the deadlift bar. You get that queasy unnerved feeling in the pit of your stomach and make two or three more adjustments to your belt, the chalk on your hands and your elbow sleeve, all in the attempt to procrastinate.

We step or lay under the bar and we let the fear rise up to the point that it takes over our systems and allows doubt to ride shotgun.

Right there, it’s over. Even at the point that you un-rack the weight, there's no way to accomplish this lift. You re-rack and make a candy-ass statement like, “next time” or “not today.” You say this enough times to actually believe it. The bottom line is that you’re afraid!

Face Your Fears

I was once counseled by an old Marine Colonel, who took me under his wing when I was a younger man. He made this statement, that stuck with me EVERY time I came face-to-face with a fear. He said, “As long as it doesn’t kill you and eat you, you’ll be alright.” This is really funny when you think about it. On one hand, you might get killed, and that’ll be all right. But, if you're eaten, well…that’s a whole new ball game.

My boy’s quest for riding his two-wheeler neither killed us nor ate us, so we're going to be ok.

If we're to think about what our inherent fears are, the ones we're born with, which are the ones that keep us alive, there are only three that come to my mind. These are the fear of falling, the fear of pain, and the fear of abandonment. There might be more, but these are the ones that I'm aware of. All other fears are learned by either through our experiences, or the ones that are taught to us by our parents.

We have to focus on getting rid of the “learned” fears by actively facing them.

I read a story one time about how G. Gordon Liddy did this. It's kind of funny if you appreciate the man for who he is, and not by what he’s done. Story has it, that Mr. Liddy was afraid of thunderstorms and rats. So on separate occasions he would tie himself to the top of a tree during the most horrendous storms, and one time ATE a rat. While extreme, THAT was facing his fears.

I was about to write there was no need for action THAT EXTREME, but then thought otherwise. We MUST, if we're to get over what we are afraid of, take drastic and dramatic action to do so.

Dave Tate

Below is a story Dave Tate wrote that has a different spin on fear, but is also extreme.

Here's a story about fear that I think many people miss and I discovered through trial and error.

After tearing my pec tendon off the bone and getting it reattached, I was told I wouldn't bench over 400 pounds again. While coming back, I had well over 20 times where my pec popped and scar tissue tore. About half of these sent me back to the orthopedic just to make sure the tendon was still attached. It always bruised and took three to four weeks to get normal again. Training wasn't really an issue because I didn't do what strained it before and stayed with stuff that was easier on the tendon.

My first meet back, I strained it in the warm-up room. It was then I realized I was too timid - scared - and was lifting too tight and cautious.

I tried visitation, self talk and all kinds of other shit to deal with this, but what finally worked was embracing the fear.

Before every PR, meet lift, or max effort lift, I visualized the worst case situation. I would see, feel, hear and smell everything associated with the lift in my mind. I made this as clear as day and as real as I could. Then, I saw myself un-rack the bar and when lowering, blow both pecs off and have the bar smash my face. Blood everywhere, people screaming, paramedics surrounding me, etc. I pictured and saw this in my mind as a huge fucking disaster to the point where I had myself scared shitless when I got called on deck. I had my lift off guy help get my hands wrapped on the bar because they were shaking so bad. Once the bar was lifted out, all I wanted to do was get the fucker off of me as fast as I could. For the next year, these were the strongest and fastest benches of my life. Over time, I wasn't able to scare myself as I used to so the technique lost its effect, but when it was working, I was benching PRs left and right.

So when you find yourself scared, do all you can to make the fear WORSE not better. Once it gets critical, you will change. Real fear makes men do amazing things they would never do without it.

The saying the only thing to fear is fear it self is bullshit. What you need to fear is living a life without it.

–Dave Tate

My Demon

Right now, I am facing not only the fear of an injured son, but another demon that has thwarted a lot of my efforts over the years. While it keeps me up at night, and crowds my thought process, I'm facing this fear head-on with reckless abandon and almost feverish perversion. I won’t bore you with the details, but I know on the other side of this, I will be a better, strong(er) person. Perhaps I will discuss this later (no matter the outcome), but it is a personal issue at this moment and only I can deal with it in the way I'm contemplating.

How many times have our efforts for a new experience been thwarted because of our fears? How many of us could be better at what we do, or what we would like to become because of our fears. Yes, they're real (to us) but the best way to get over it is to face it head-on.

Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!