Face the Bear

Face the Bear

My friends and I were brimming with confidence in our youth.  It was a kind of naivete and arrogance which Kim and Roland call, “narrogance” in their book “Ditch the Act”.  In our World we could fight invaders, run up walls and wrestle with deadly animals.  I even had dreams where I would fight and defeat lions and tigers and stand firm when rhinos charged.

When I learnt that you could stop a crocodile by clamping its jaws shut with one hand I was delighted.  Apparently they have powerful muscles to close their mouths but no real strength to open them.  I sometimes wish some people had a similar biological set up.  And of course, I do recognise now that this is one manoeuvre that you really need to get right.

I also learnt that you could escape a crocodile by zig zagging away as it follows your path rather than chasing you directly.  But I didn’t want to run from crocodiles.  Or any deadly animal.  Or any difficulty I faced.  And, in fact, that desire to stand up to scary things is still partly with me.  I want to stand my ground. I don’t want to fall under pressure or be defeated by the multitude of tricky things that seem to keep coming. Most of the time.

One of my colleagues says we need to “Face the Fear but do it anyway.” Which is a good recognition that we will have emotional responses that feel far from confidence but we can manage those responses and still triumph.

Enter the bear.  There are obviously different kinds of bears.  Teddy bears, Polar bears, Brown bears and black bears to name a few.  You probably won’t ever get so scared by a teddy bear that you need to run, or get help, or stand your ground, unless you had a part in Toy Story 3.  But I have found it fascinating to read that the way to approach a dangerous black bear is not to run, or zigzag, or shrivel up in a ball, but to make yourself as big, loud and bold as you can.  The bigger the bear makes itself: the bigger you spread yourself.  The louder it screams or bellows: the louder you respond.  Run and get eaten; climb a tree and it will follow you up.  But be brave, be bold and be big; and it will go away.

There are certainly times when we feel weak, scared and want to hide, but faced with a huge challenge, sometimes the solution is turning up, standing firm, and shouting out.  Not in arrogance, not in naivete, but in the confidence that we know ourselves, we understand what we face, we know our stuff and we will not only survive but take our stand in the world with confidence.

We will overcome.

Julian Dutnall,
CEO, LIFE Education Trust