I just finished reading, The Flinch, by Julien Smith. It was published as part of Seth Godin’s Domino Project, which he named after the domino effect—where one powerful idea spreads down the line, pushing from person to person. It is free to download from Amazon. Don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle or you can download the kindle app to your computer or your phone. The Flinch is short. You can read it in one evening, and I promise it will expand your horizons for the New Year. It is such an important idea that I wrote the cliff notes below in case you don’t get around to reading the book right away.
You know that reflex we feel when confronted with something unpleasant? Uh huh, that one. Smith named it, the Flinch. We flinch when confronted with real physical threats and that reflex actually has an important role in keeping us from danger. But notice that we humans also flinch in the face of anything unknown that creates a bit of anxiety.
There is a Korean spa that I go to that has saunas and steam baths and right outside the sauna door there is a cold pool that will take your breath away just thinking about jumping in. That is the Flinch. If I stand there and think about it, I will never go in. I have to feel the Flinch and do it anyway and I am always glad I did because it is so invigorating that it makes me laugh out loud.
I just hate feeling the Flinch. But when there are things that I know I want to do, I make myself do it anyway and work like hell to get through the part that creates the Flinch. Like dancing, for example. I didn’t learn to dance until I was 45. But I saw people dancing Zydeco and I was so envious. I tried it and was horrible at first, so I made up my mind to go to the first weekend workshop I could find. There was one in Seattle and I signed up and went. After becoming proficient, I still experienced the Flinch from time to time but the pure joy was worth it. I would never have ever gotten to that point if I felt the Flinch and let it stop me. Watch this brother and sister dancing in their kitchen and you will see what I mean.
We all react to the Flinch and let it stop us from taking action. I think naming it was brilliant. Smith suggests that we can practice fighting the Flinch by feeling it and then doing the thing that is hard or painful anyway. He says learning to handle painful or uncomfortable situations, both physical and mental, strengthens us and so we know we can handle much more than we do. A lifetime of feeling the Flinch and letting it stop you can keep you safe, but you will find your world getting smaller and smaller and safe is not necessarily a good thing when it numbs your senses and keeps you from learning to dance.
Can you think of times that you thought about doing something, but it seemed too hard, or too foolish? Has the Flinch kept you from doing things you really want to do or need to do that are outside your comfort zone?
I suggest that you download Julien Smith’s book and read it over the holidays. What a great way to start the New Year!