Komodo Dragons are one of the most brutal predators.
They wait patiently in tall grass or bushes until an unsuspecting water buffalo, wild boar or Bambee stroll by. Then the dragon torpedoes out of the bushes, sinking its claws and shark-like teeth into its prey.
Sometimes the dragon overpowers the animal.
Sometimes the animal breaks free and bolts off like a spooked rabbit.
But even if the animal escapes, the clock is ticking. Because the giant lizard has infected it with lethal doses of bacteria. So the Komodo Dragon slowly stalks the animal, sometimes for miles. And usually within 24 hours, the animal finally collapses.
This “Komodo Dragon Attack-Strategy” is similar to how negative thoughts bring people down. They wait until you’re wiped out or run down. Then they get you.
When you’re firing on all cylinders, it’s easier to brush off negative thoughts. But when worries are eating away at you, you’ve had a hectic day, or you’re at the end up your rope – it ain’t so easy.
Then those same negative thoughts begin to catch up - and whisper certain lies in your ear. Lies that you may normally tune out, but in your vulnerable state, it’s easy to succumb to them.
Lies that can bring even the most confident person to their knees. Lies that replayed enough start to make you doubt yourself, doubt your skills and doubt what you’re truly capable of.
No matter what the negative thought is, there are dozens of tactical ways to get rid of them, some of which I’ve explained in depth in Primal Panic – but there’s one way to knockout these thoughts almost immediately.
Pull up a chair and listen closely:
Your thoughts only have power over you if you believe them.
If you don’t believe them, they have the power of a gentle breeze.
And that may sound so simple, but it’s not easy.
To do this requires knowing deep down that your thoughts are not you. You’re much more than your thoughts. And once that message sinks in, you start to figure which thoughts to tune out and which ones to crank up the volume on.
Recognize and ignore the ones that weaken you… that discourage you… that derail you…
So then you can get out of your own way.
P.S. Negative thoughts are such a crippling problem for people that I’ve devoted 3 full chapters in Primal Panic to tactical techniques for silencing them quickly. One of my favorites was inspired by a cognitive psychologist whose written 44 books and published close to 600 scientific articles. This one strategy has radically dropped the power that negative thoughts used to have over me.
Last summer, I checked the forecast (clear skies), laced up my tennis shoes and hit the pavement for a run.
As soon as I stepped outside, it started drizzling.
“It should pass any moment,” I thought.
Well, it didn’t and the heavens opened up, releasing a torrential downpour. Within minutes I’m drenched, feeling like Oscar the Grouch and looking like a drowned rat. So I speed up my pace to get it over with… but as the rain (and tears) stream down my face I’m reminded of a lesson from Hagakure – an ancient samurai text, which happens to be one of the most influential books on the samurai spirit.
Why might I be reminded of the samurai in a God forsaken downpour?
Because, in it, Yamato Tsunetomo states:
There is a lesson to be learned from a downpour of rain.
If you get caught in a sudden cloudburst, you will still get a
drenching even though you try to keep dry by hurrying along and
taking cover under overhands of roofs. If you are prepared to get
wet from the start, the result is still the same but it is no hardship.
The hardship was not in the rain.
The hardship was in thinking it shouldn’t be raining.
And this made me focus on getting the run over with… which made me tense up and dampened the experience (pun very intended)… but once the samurai quote came to me, I surrendered, my body relaxed, and I just let go.
Now this idea doesn’t transcend rain, does it?
Of course not…
Some will say it’s lowering your standards.
But in fact it’s raising your standards. It’s saying, I’m going to embrace whatever happens. Whatever comes my way. Even if it’s not how I envisioned it.
Like an old friend once told me, “If it rains, let it.”
P.S. Besides embracing whatever comes your way there are other tools for handling the storms that life throws at you, some of which are perfect for restoring your sense of personal power, others radically change your perspective and free you from suffering. Here's a great example of tapping into this personal power after 600 rejections.
Ben Horowitz (inventor, CEO, and author) is one of the greatest movers and shakers in Silicon Valley, and he attributes much of his success to a handful of life lessons.
Such as this one:
One day, while Ben was working at Netscape, a lightbulb went off in his head. He realized Netscape could pivot to a new product line, which could potentially knock down Microsoft (their competitor) a few notches and give them the upper hand. So Ben worked feverishly on a game plan.
When the dust settled, Ben could hardly sit still with excitement. He handed the plan to his co-worker, Bill Turpin, who looked at him like he was a green horn with a LOT to learn. Bill was a seasoned pro who had fought tooth and nail with Microsoft for years and was unmoved by his ambitious plan.
He told Ben:
Those silver bullets that you and Mike are looking
for are fine and good, but our Web server is five times slower.
There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that.
No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.
So they refocused their team on going back and repairing those fundamental performance problems, which rocketed their server speeds beyond Microsoft’s and soared the company to $400 million.
Six years later, Ben was CEO of the company Opsware and this time instead of competing against Microsoft, it was the company BladeLogic. His smartest employees put their heads together and churned out flashy new ideas for how to pivot and beat their competitor. He faced his team and told them: “There are no silver bullets for this, only lead bullets”
So once again, they refocused on the fundamentals, the pillars of the business (in this case the product) for 9 straight months which then soared the company to $1.6 bill.
So how does history lesson apply to you?
Whether it is weight-loss… growing a business… mastering a music instrument… climbing in your career… or becoming confident - many people are hunting for a silver bullet.
Instead of searching for the one thing, start using lead bullets – the fundamentals you know in your heart of hearts will help you (you just need to do them), whether it’s a rejuvenating morning walk… carving out time for writing… shipping off a few personal thank you cards… squeezing in some deep breathing… or scribbling in your gratitude journal for five minutes a day.
Not silver bullets, lead bullets.
But fire these “lead bullets” day-after-day and you start to cover some serious ground. You start focusing on the behaviors that really matter. And you start to enjoy the feeling of true progress and wind-at-your-back momentum instead of spinning in circles.
One of the greatest military heroes was General Norman Schwarzkopf, known for his lightning fast decision making.
But he didn’t start that way.
Early in “Stormin” Norman’s career, his mentor, a general in the Army, was in a meeting to make a crucial decision, a decision that had been bouncing back and forth for 10 years straight. A decision that would forever change the structure of the army. Piles of documents… paperwork… and analysis sat on the table in front of the group.
Finally the general made his decision.
Schwarzkopf was shocked. There was no possible way the general had read all the documents and all the research. There were too many moving parts to the decision. So Schwarzkopf mustered up the courage to question the general:
“There is so much information here, there’s so much to consider, no one’s really going to know for sure. How the hell could you just make that decision like that?
The general replied:
“This has been a decision that no one’s been willing to make for 10 years. The best minds have been on it and they can’t decide, so you know what? We need to pick one and do it. Decisions are power and I’m here to make them. That’s what I’m in this position for.”
Schwarzkopf then asked, What if you’re wrong?
The general said, If I’m wrong we’ll find out quicker, and if I’m right the job will be done.
Schwarzkopf always remembered that lesson.
A bad decision or the wrong decision is almost always better than a lack of decision. Because at least a decision sets you in motion. And once you’ve picked up speed it’s much easier to course correct than to get going from a dead-stop.
Plus, an interesting thing happens when you keep moving and keep your momentum:
Incredible things happen independently of those you personally create.
When you’re pushing hard on Door A, someone or something opens Door B.
Often, when you look through Door B, what’s behind it is much better than
What you were going after in the first place. However, you wouldn’t have seen Door B open
If you hadn’t been in the hall pushing on Door A.
-Jack M. Zufelt
So no matter if you haven’t gotten the traction you’d like to this year… or have fallen off the wagon completely… use today’s message as an excuse to hop back to it…
And push on doors again.