One thing I need to say before I go any further is that I don’t swear. Swear words don’t even come out when I bang my head or hit my finger with a hammer. I decided long ago profanity is a verbal crutch.
I find that religious people use the same crutch with different words: praise the Lord and hallelujah. Profanity or praise: both end up being lazy habits adding little meaning or power to a person’s words.
But sometimes you have to say f . . .-it.
I try to save profanity or praise for times when the true power of the words can be felt. The F . . .-it Protocol came to me in a conversation this week while talking to a man facing tough personal, professional and family issues. He was getting pulled in five directions, and people were dumping crap on him. I told him he needs to say, “F . . .-it! I’m not going to put up with this any more.”
I searched for another expression to convey the depths of emotion. F . . .-it stood alone. It was the only phrase strong enough to match the depth of passion rising up in me. I didn’t always have this depth of passion. I found it earlier this year. It’s the passion that changed me from a dreamer to a doer.
Dreaming the dream
I’ve always been a dreamer. My dream world captivated me more than school work, so I was tested for learning disabilities. An astute expert told my parents I was a philosopher. It was a label they could understand and work with. I don’t know how, but I learned how to do enough in the real world to squeak by as a student and later as an employee. And all the time I dreamed my dreams.
My dreams followed two general patterns: lottery and magic.
And the winner is . . . !
Winning the lottery, of course, is the ultimate dream. But this pattern also included such things as marvelous inventions I could bring to market, netting me millions. I constructed thousands of scenarios to build empires of fame and fortune in my mind.
The great and mighty OZ!
How cool would it be to meet the great Wizard of Oz? Of course, we know the Emerald City is fiction. But I had the same kind of fantasies Dorothy and her crew carried on the Yellow Brick Road. All my struggles to be somebody and get fame and fortune would go away if I met a “wizard” with the power to give it to me.
The easy button
I wanted an easy button. I could dream of being a hero in the novels I read. If I could just have the skills and luck they had I’d be awesome. I dreamed about being successful, bold and daring. But it was only a dream for me. I wanted a magical transformation: overnight success . . . an easy button.
I missed the lesson in the story of the Wizard of Oz. I didn’t see that it was the journey and the struggle that gave Dorthy and her friends their gifts. The wizard only pointed them out.
Heroes start out average
The most inspiring stories are the ones when an average schlub goes through the fire, almost dies, then comes out victorious in the end. The journey – his trial by fire – brings out his greatness. We’re inspired by the story because we get a taste of the fire without getting scorched ourselves. We see and feel the ultimate victory without any real danger to our safety.
I think I’m not dreaming alone when I fantasize about having the hero’s life without really going through the fire.
Afraid of success
Yes, I wanted an easy button, but I was afraid too. I was afraid of failure. But I was more afraid of success. You see, I knew how failure felt. Success was scary because it was unknown. I know there were times I sabotaged myself because I was afraid to be a winner. I excused myself. “I’m just not a competitive person,” I said.
I wanted success, but I wanted it to come easy. And I was too afraid to go after it with passion and determination.
F . . . -it
I didn’t use this phrase at the time. But I did feel the change and power of my decision. I can’t remember how. I can’t name the time. But sometime around the first of this year I made a decision. I was a f . . . -it decision. Oh, I’d said similar things before. I’d stuck my head out the window and yelled, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” But something inside me always knew I didn’t really mean it. After a while I’d be back to being the same man I always was.
Drawing a line in my soul
Private First Class Vernon E. Haught was digging a foxhole in frozen ground December 23, 1944. The American army was in full retreat in the face of the German offensive that became known as the Battle of the Bulge. A tank destroyer pulled to a stop and asked him if this was the front lines.
Armed only with a rifle and bazooka, he looked up at the men in the vehicle and asked, “Are you looking for a safe place?”
“Yes!” was the eager answer.
“The fall in behind me. I’m the 82nd Airborne and this is as far as those bastards are going.”
A nucleus of stragglers formed around this unlikely group and the tide of the battle turned. The Allied victory in the Battle of the Bulge was one of the turning points of WWII.
The decision that changed me from a dreamer to a doer was the kind of line Private Haught drew. It was a f . . . -it, I’m-fed-up-with-failure line in the ground.
I didn’t draw the line in the ground, though. I drew it in my soul. I knew I was different this time around.
How do you draw that kind of line?
I wish I could show you the easy button. I would be the great and powerful Oz if I could. But the fact is I’ve drawn lines and set “gotta-have-it” goals before. And I failed. I failed a lot.
But I kept digging. Eventually I quit looking for the easy button. And I quit looking for Oz the Great and Powerful. I went back and owned all of my failures. I admitted my fear. I embraced the fire, and I went back and drained every last drop of the hard lessons I endured. I quit looking for success, fame or fortune to make me feel significant. I am enough. I will succeed because of who I am: because of who I’ve become in the journey.
The bullet points
I know how easy it is to read something and not put it to use. So I want to give you a takeaway that will help you use the F . . . -it Protocol.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. You learn by trial and error. You will fail. Don’t worry about it. Keep moving forward. (Don’t be afraid to quit and look for success by another route either.)
- Don’t be afraid of success. You’ll feel a lot of social pressure to conform – to be average. Your friends and family may not want you to change (succeed) because they’re afraid. You may feel the same fear. Keep moving forward.
- Do hustle. The easy button and Wizard of Oz are both fiction. The trials and tests you face on the road will forge you into the hero of your story.
You’ll feel it in your gut when the time comes to dig your foxhole and say, “This is as far as those bastards go.” You won’t get any results if you invoke the F . . . -it Protocol without the passion. When will you know? When you succeed.
Dreams are worth fighting for. I hope you join me and dig in to fight. Oh, and by the way, I’m still a dreamer. But now I’m a doer too.