Like a hungry set of wolves, which will win between fear and anger or calm and confident?
The answer is the one we feed. Now, which one do you want to reach out to with your hand?
In the office one day back in 1988 I was having a bad day. I was still in the military and preparing to be honorably discharged from my twelve years of service. There was already some anxiety by going from a guaranteed monthly income to private enterprise and the role of a professional speaker and trainer in a field I felt inadequate considering I would be speaking to corrections officers in a medium and maximum security prison facility. I had no direct experience working in the prison system and I felt I should be doing my first few courses for free as I got my proverbial sea legs under me. George wouldn’t hear of it and asked me negotiate a contract with the state for verbal Judo training for a dozen or so classes. I came home with the contract, and I negotiated a lesser fee base than I believe George wanted in the agreement. I explained my position but he had a way of grinding his teeth to express displeasure with was simply unmistakable as criticism.
Because I had set up my part of the company not as an employee but contracting to use the VJ program and pay a percentage of my earnings back to George, I had full authority to charge what I saw fit and as fair compensation. I had not yet learned to think like a businessman regarding fair market value of a commodity that wasn’t tangible. I now see I was charging based upon my perceived self-worth and not the intrinsic value of the product. I worked from a premise than if delivery is of greater weight than the content then unlike a watch or a car, the value was me and not only the program. Logically, it stood the test of “reasonability”. George agreed I had the right to negotiate my own rate so he let it go, or so I thought. But every day we were in the office together he found a way to clearly demonstrate his displeasure at my decision. Little nit-picking on menial items began to drive me to points of frustrating irritation, which turned to a form of resentment. I began believing he was purposing undermining our agreement, as well as our friendship, by not following the clearly established terms of my work. Granted that our original contract was little more than some pen scratching on a Dunkin’ Donunts napkin agreed to by two over-caffeinated people so much was still subjective. We always figured we would work it out as we went.
Anger is an immediate reaction against the feeling of helplessness. We fear what is not in our control. Think of anticipated fear in a simple example. None of us are perfect and as humans we are prone to making mistakes from an error in judgment to pressing the nuclear missile fire button before getting a presidential authorization. By the way, the latter requires there be two people with keys to the release system for firing so one person can’t by himself or herself screw up the world. Checks and balances are a good thing. Anger and resentment are the one side of our equation and being fired for releasing a torrent or poorly chosen words on a supervisor is the other side of the coin.
My resentment took a few days to work through and I did a little leaning toward benefit of the doubt on George’s part. I clearly believed he had my best interests at heart and he knew from my character I would do what I had promised so basically we were mentally dueling on peripheral issues and the basic understanding was sound. This became my springboard. I knew I would need to bring my speaking skills up to a professional level in very short order and this fact did not help with my anxiety level. I used an old technique I had learned from a psychiatrist I knew from my martial arts training. I asked a simple question to which he gave a simple answer: take what you already know about yourself and relate it to the new task at hand. Confidence is confidence and it all comes from you and not the house you live in, the car you drive, the label on your clothing, or what you do for a living. He went on to explain the main reason for staying on a job or with a person and a bad relationship is because we don’t believe we deserve better. If you can build a bride then you can build a house. A hammer is a hammer and a saw is a saw. The application of tools and skills you already have in play just need to be reapplied. It made sense.
I went back to the office and pulled a Verbal Judo book off the shelf, and at the time we only had the one, Words as a Force Option and Redirecting behavior with Words was just arriving from the publisher. But as I read I remembered George giving me his singular piece of advice, which at the time I found almost useless and now invaluable, “I don’t know how to teach you how to teach this program. You will either be successful or you will fail. What I do know for the time I have spent with you in the marital arts school is you don’t like to fail. I am confident in you. Learn to use Verbal Judo to teach Verbal Judo.”
I combined the advice I had gleaned from two very smart and educated people in vastly differing fields of study and formed a way through the problem. I began by acknowledging my problem for what is truly was, fear of failing. Oddly it wasn’t fear of failing as a speaker but my fear of failing to measure up to expectations. I was afraid of embarrassing George and defiling his program by not measuring up. I wrote down fear of failure on a piece of paper. It even looked ugly as I read it. I thought, okay, that covers the negative side, now let’s acknowledge my skills. The column began to grow until the sentence on fear looked smaller and smaller. I wrote every single success I could remember. I set them in a numbered order from small to large. I drew lines connecting how a small success had given me the ability to have larger ones later. I gave myself an out, since no one was looking and I acknowledged every single success had a common thread, the initial fear of failure. If I could stand in front an audience of hundreds during a karate tournament then I could stand in front of forty people and teach a program. I even put in in perspective to dating. Again, it wasn’t having a nice car or a big house or a lot of money for a fancy dinner but more about charm and likability. The key was my personality, or the one I would manufacture to represent the Institute and the Verbal Judo program. I then realized no one was hoping I would fail. I was being offered a forum for success.
I was ready. I knew the program and I only had to survive a four hour block of training. I knew the first class was the key. If the first went well then word would spread and the rest would have a positive expectation. I knew the history when George started, “Who the hell are you and what this Verbal Judo crap you’re peddling?” He overcame it and it was hard, but I could do this and I would do this well. Confidence. Shaky confidence, but confidence never the less. I needed to spend my energy more positively because being angry and afraid was draining it. I was defending my fear and rationalizing it instead of putting it into its place and walking away from it.
I picked George up at the airport of a Friday night and my debut was Monday morning. Time was up. As we got into the car George noted, “I need you to know something. You are concerned with credibility in a room full of Corrections Officers who work one of the toughest jobs in America and they won’t tolerate a poor performance on your part. I was pretty nervous my first time too so I get it. But when you are in the front of the room all eyes are on you and remember you are not there to teach them their job and they would resent you for trying to do that but here is the key – no one in that room will know more about this material than you. That will be how you will succeed, my son. The money will come when you are ready. Make it sooner than later because we have a company to build and we have something to say that people need to hear.”
On Monday morning I walked into a room full of negative faces waiting to challenge me at every turn. Mistakes were not an option. An officer in the back row spoke as I walked to the front of the room, “Who the hell are you and what this Verbal Judo crap?” I smiled which seemed to unnerve him and it reminded me of facing an opponent in a karate tournament. My answer, “The best training you will ever have for keeping your ass alive, from losing your job or being sued from saying something stupid. Lose your temper, lose your job or worse, your life.
— Lee Fjelstad
Reference: LEAPS – PAVPO – Delivery – 90-93 % of our Success – Mushin – PACE
This particular set of postings on anger, fear, resentment, and success are for the people who asked for my insight so they too can see themselves in a better light for a better future.