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fear Archives - Andrew Wittman


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Shoulder to Shoulder

When I was a street cop, the way the good officers judged whether another officer was a good partner, was not based on the other officer’s personality, gender, race, looks, cologne, or any criteria other than, will this officer backing me up, leave me in a fight?

 spartans batte formation

Over the years, as a cop, federal agent, and security contractor, I have been privileged to partner with many good men and women, standing shoulder to shoulder with me, facing any threat that came our way, and never leaving me during the fight.  I have also experienced many, many more folks that bailed out, and ran at the first sign of trouble.  Some of them, wouldn’t even show up and answer the 9-1-1 call if it sounded dangerous.  (Those folks, oddly enough, got promoted.)

The only true way to find out who is who, is to actually be in a fight.  It doesn’t have to be a physical fight, it might be financial, or emotional; it could be sickness, or a debilitating injury; it might be an issue affecting your children, your spouse, your job or a dear friend.  After 27 years together, Kim, my wife, has never left me in a fight (and in that amount time, we’ve faced some pretty tough fights).  On the flip side, I’ve never left her flank open.  We stand shoulder to shoulder, no matter what.  We aren’t looking to partner up with folks that turn tail and run at the first sign of trouble, either.  It turns out badly for everyone involved.

The ancient Spartans utilized what they called a “phalanx”, as their standby battle formation, to face any threat.  The warriors would stand shoulder to shoulder, protecting each other with their shields.  As long as the line was held, they would prevail in the fight.  If someone in the line cut and run, the whole line would collapse, the integrity of the protective formation disintegrate, and the battle was lost.  Be very selective of who you let into your phalanx.  Your success depends on it.

Boo Yah!!

Desensitize Yourself:

Trepidation To Trite 

Desensitize yourself

Back in the late 1990’s, I drove through the gates of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, in Glynco, GA. I was met by the security force (FLETsee 5-0, as we called them), and the horrid and putrid sulfuric smell of the nearby paper mill. WOW! The odor was like fermented rotten eggs on steroids with Brussel Sprouts on top (insert gagging here)! I’m not sure how long it took, but by the time I was bedding down that first night, I didn’t notice the smell any longer. Wind shift perhaps? No, desensitization. My brain had shut down sending the out the “foul odor signals” and allowed me to function normally, without the gagging and choking back down the rising bile and vomit it caused.

The same thing happens when eating that yummy special meal of your “favorite” food. Once you eat it so much that it no longer becomes special, it doesn’t taste that great. In fact, if that’s all you had to eat, every meal of every day, it wouldn’t be your favorite before long, and wouldn’t even taste good. It would become trite, banal, boring and downright blah.

Alcohol is the same. That initial drink that puts a teetotaler on his or her butt, with head spinning, has no impact on the seasoned-drinker that can hold his or her liquor. We humans quickly build up a tolerance for things, or put another way, are easily desensitized. When Elvis first hit the scene with gyrating hips, it was shocking. Looking back now, after almost 60 years of desensitization, his movies are deemed mild enough for preschoolers.

What if we deployed this phenomenon to our advantage? The Warrior Culture has been doing it for eons. First, we must take an honest assessment of what causes us fear, trepidation and anxiety. Once recognized, go and do the very thing(s) that you fear. Very quickly your trepidation will become trite, just like that favorite meal eaten over and over again. Panic becomes pedestrian.
During a family trip to the beach, I had my 16 year-old son drive the majority of the time. He was a new and inexperienced driver at the time. He had fear and trepidation about driving on I-95 for several hours, in the midst of beach traffic, thunderstorms and high-speed lane changes. After about an hour, he went from butterflies to banal. And after two more hours, from banal to bored, with the long, dull stretches of straightaways at same steady speed, mile after mile. We can do the same, and should.

I used to be terrified of any kind of “selling”. How ridiculous! I’ve made my living being shot at by bad guys the world over, and yet, terrified of someone telling me “No” in a sales environment. Well, businesses don’t build themselves, and if I wanted mine to succeed, selling was a must. I took on a project that had me making 50 cold calls each week. Guess what? By the second week, desensitization worked its magic. After 6 months, I stopped the project, having gained what I needed, trepidation turned to trite. I don’t fear sales calls, sales call fear me. I don’t fear taking calculated risks, calculated risks fear me.

Identify your trepidation. GO and DO it until it becomes trite. Desensitize Yourself.

Boo Yah!

Facts Ain’t Always The Truth

Facts and Truth are two completely different entities.


Facts and Truth are two completely different entities. Facts are something that have actual existence. A fact is merely information, neutral, independent and objective. As a cop, investigating a crime, I was always in search of the facts. If, and when, a case went to court, witnesses would swear an oath to tell the truth. We know, for a fact, that eye witnesses are unreliable at best. Why? Because, people deal in truths, not in facts. The truth is our internal perception of the facts and circumstances that make up the experiences of life.

For example, the fact is, it is 68 degrees outside. The truth is, that after 3 years of living in Hawaii, 68 degrees was downright cold. However, it is also truth, after spending a winter in Serbia and Kosovo, 40 degrees felt balmy, and 68 degrees is heat stroke territory.

Facts cannot change, they are unalterable. Truth, on the other hand, is pliable. Knowing this, we can take the facts of any circumstance and perceive them from any angle we want, creating for ourselves, a truth or truths. (Heads up, you are already doing this and have been your entire life, usually to your detriment.) Truths are what beliefs are founded on, we take action on our truths. Almost everyone knows the medical facts that fast food isn’t good for you, but for most of us, the truth is that “it’s okay.” (Based on the fact that the fast food industry does billions of dollars in sales each and every year, and the fact that 1 out of 10 deaths are related to obesity. It’s killing us, but we’re bellied up to the fry-daddy feeding trough.)

I’m reminded of the story of the 300 Spartan Warriors of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. The Persians were attacking Greece during a Spartan holiday and it was against Spartan law to go to war during the holiday. To work around the law, the Spartan king, Leonidas, selected 300 members to serve as his bodyguard and accompany him on a “stroll” to the battlefield.

Legend has it that he selected only warriors that had living sons to carry on their family’s bloodline, because the mission was a one-way ticket. The King, in his wisdom, went further and selected the warriors based on their wives’ and mothers’ ability to show courage and leadership under the grief of losing husbands and sons. Leonidas believed that if the wives and mothers were bitter and depressed, it would spread like a disease, cascading into the defeat of all free Greeks.

In essence, the warriors were chosen based on their wives’ and mothers’ abilities to take the facts of war, gore and the death of their dearest loved ones, and apply the higher truths of freedom, liberty and patriotism for the good of the nation.
We must collect as many unbiased, objective, and evidence-based facts as possible, in order to make logical, well-reasoned and clear decisions. We must also perceive the facts in way that elevates us and puts us on the path to success and fulfillment, in even the face of the deepest sorrows.

What truths are you using as “facts” in your decision making? (This is not good)
What truths are you manufacturing that puts you on the path of fear, depression or defeat? (Also, not good)
Can you create new truths by changing your attitude, perception and level of awareness that will put on a path to confidence, fulfillment and happiness? (Yes, you can and this is good)

Remember, Danger is a Fact – Fear is a manufactured Truth… but so is Love.

Boo Yah!

How Do You Respond?

Pop Quiz: What would you say in response to emotionally challenging information?  What if it was devastating information? How do you respond to change? What if it is life-altering change forced upon you?


First Response

I don’t like to think about these things, but I’ve found over the years, that if I have thought about my response to the unexpected, it helps….a lot.  I’ve also found that my initial response sets the course of how everything goes after any surprising news hits.

Several years ago, I had a coaching client that was diagnosed with the advanced stages of an insidious disease.  The client was told that he a certain amount of time to live, and to get his business in order.  This is an extreme example, and one I hope none of us will have to face.  I had given this client the Pop Quiz long before this incident occurred and he was prepared.  He responded by being grateful for knowing the problem and what he was up against, but decided he would rather live than die.  His initial response was to NOT roll over and blindly accept what he was told about the amount of time he had left on planet Earth.

His fighting spirit set the course for his aggressive treatment plan, and his attitude toward his family, friends, and his business/career.   If he hadn’t prepared his initial response, the news might have taken him out before he even started to fight.  Any professional will tell you that the “will to live” plays an enormous role in the outcome of a fight for one’s life.

Take the Pop Quiz and decide now to have an initial response that spurs you on to victory.  I hope we never have to deal with anything even close to this example, but no matter the case, commit to yourself to win any (and all) challenges life throws at you.  Big, small, huge, or tiny; decide to win, no highway option.


Boo Yah!

Life on All 8-Cylinders – Emotional Health

“Nothing external to you has any power over you.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Emotional Health

Most folks are on an emotional roller coaster. They get sucked into the drama of the office, neighborhood, PTA, church, civic club, and most intensely, by family relationships.  When things don’t go the way we expect or want, that is the exact time to be in control of our emotions.

I always try to keep things in the center of the highway concerning my emotions.  I have learned the hard way that allowing my emotions to run free has put my ”muscle car” in the ditch on the side of the road; either the “blissful, waterfalls and rainbows” ditch or the “frustrated, angry and fearful” ditch.

Will Ross, in his book, A Guide to Shameless Happiness, gives some great tips on tuning-up your Emotional Health cylinder.  When you find yourself starting on the emotional roller coaster ask yourself this question:

Where is the proof?

As in, “Where is the proof that I can’t stand this situation?” or “Where is the proof that its’ awful – more than 100% bad?” or “Where’s the proof that this is the end of the world?”

Humans tend to exaggerate when our emotions run wild, we use words like “everything”, “nothing”, “always”, and “never.”  If you find yourself using this verbiage, red flag yourself, your emotional health cylinder needs attention.  Ask yourself, “Where is the proof that so-and-so always or never does this or that?”

Whatever happens in life, whatever drama or disappointments, or even whatever pipe-dream like success, you are the only one that can control your reaction(s).  No one else can make you feel and react in any particular way.  No one can “push your buttons” without your permission.

You aren’t going to get control of your emotions reading a 3-minute blog post but the Mental Toughness process can get you there.  If you feel like your life is out of control, and you feel helpless to right the ship, get in contact with me.  We’ve got a long track record of helping folks get their lives running on all 8-cylinders.

Boo Yah!

Play Like A Gladiator

“When I’m on the court, I picture myself as like a gladiator.”

Tyson Chandler


In the past, I have had the privilege to coach several people with terminal or life threatening diseases (many of them with stage 4 cancer of one type or another).  Hands down, these folks have been the easiest to performers to coach.  Why? Because each was playing like a gladiator.  If a gladiator didn’t win his/her fight….well, you know.

Someone who is in a fight for their life has inherent motivation, although not always.  Medical Doctors call it the will to live.  The same holds true with professional warriors, we have an intrinsic emotional driver, beating death or dismemberment.

It’s much easier to be disciplined in carrying out the process of performance, when failure to do so means dying. For cancer patients, the process of performance can entail many things, including diet and nutrition, surgeries, radiation, chemo, and rest cycles.  It takes enormous amounts of Mental Toughness, focus and emotional control to fight a terminal illness.

Anecdotally, the terminally ill are much better performers than the middle class professionals, who hate their jobs and “want” to pursue their dream careers or businesses, but don’t play like gladiators.  Always keeping the safety net of their much maligned occupation, only willing to face the lions from inside the safety of a cage.  It’s very rare to win big in any arena of life, but nearly impossible if you don’t go all in, sell out, and fight like your life depends on it.

As a coach, it’s much more rewarding to work with a performer who plays like a gladiator.  The cancer patients I’ve worked with embody all the traits of the greatest champions of all time.  They know what they are fighting for, they know what outcome they want, they know it’s a difficult fight, but they work at the process of performance like there’s no tomorrow, because there might not be one.

Get clarity, and play like a gladiator, there’s no guarantee of a tomorrow for any one of us.

Boo Yah!!

Go Ahead, Hit Me

“I can’t teach someone how to take a punch.  That’s about internal fortitude, you have it or you don’t.”

Mike Tyson

 take a punch

Fortitude is the mental strength and courage that allows one to face pain, danger, adversity, difficulties, and even temptation, and not draw back.  Without the mental toughness to not draw back in the midst of harsh conditions, you have lost before you even start.

Growing up, I was the fat kid and a cry-baby, and therefore attracted the attention of bullies.  I was the king of drawing back.  I couldn’t take a punch, didn’t want to take a punch, and would cower at merely the thought of taking a punch.  Guess what? That mindset invited even more punches to be thrown my way, and not just physical punches, plenty of emotional ones as well, aimed directly at my core identity, “the guy who was easy prey.”

Everything changed once my mindset changed.  Once I learned how to “punch” back, and to do so in a strategic and skillful manner, taking punches equated to motivational stimulus, not pain.  The Warrior Culture of the Marine Corps, started out by teaching me how to physically punch back, but in the process, instilled a Mental Toughness mindset that took root and became internal fortitude.

Being able to take a punch might not be able to be taught, but the Mental Toughness mindset can be learned, and deliberately assuming that mindset, day in and day out, will eventually lead to an internal fortitude that is tougher than steel.

Mental Toughness is a process and a lifestyle.  Controlling your emotions and conquering your fears is a game changer, without it, I shudder to think how dreadful my life would have been.  I don’t go looking for adversity, I don’t go looking for a fight, and I don’t enjoy difficulties. On the other hand, difficulties don’t enjoy me either, adversity doesn’t much like me, and I actually like getting punched occasionally, it reminds me how much fun it is to win a fight.

Boo Yah!

Words With Friends

“Our language is the reflection of ourselves…language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.”

Cesar Chavez


During this time of ending one year and beginning a new one, we usually take time to reflect on the past, decide what we want to change in the future, and plan accordingly. (Or we just watch bowl games, eat, and go to a couple of parties.)  If you do happen to find yourself taking time to reflect and plan a change or two, then I would encourage you to reflect on the language you use, and plan to upgrade how you speak, generally to others, but especially to yourself.

To help with reflection, ask yourself, “Do my words express thoughts and beliefs of excitement for life and any challenges that come, or are they based more along the lines of dread, fear, and anxiety?”

We humans have a tendency to mimic or regurgitate the language of the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs we nourish most.  If you really want to know what you have immersed yourself in most, listen to the language of those you hang out with most, or the media you read, watch or listen to most.  The words we listen to and use most, truly are a reflection of ourselves.

I recently attended a family function, and had the opportunity to see relatives I hadn’t seen for a long time.  Within minutes of the gathering, I knew exactly who I wanted to be around and who I didn’t, simply by listening to the language folks used in one or two sentences.

Doom and gloom, fear and scarcity, offended and bitter, or love and abundance, joy and excitement, cheerfulness and lightheartedness?  Which would you rather be subjected to? Which would you rather be around? Which do you project?

For New Year’s Day, stop yourself from using the language of doom, gloom, and worry and replace it with love, gratitude, and cheer.  Then try it again on the 2nd.

Boo Yah!