Own The Night
Have you ever ventured out into the woods or the ocean at night and tried not to use any lights? The darkness, for most people, makes us feel uneasy and apprehensive of dangers or the possibility of getting injured from falls, unknown objects, etc. Being “in the dark” is a metaphor that we use to denote when someone doesn’t know what is going on and may be surprised by unwanted events. We always seek to illuminate the darkness, whether real or figurative, with lights and knowledge. If you serve in the military or are in law enforcement, you may have used night vision devices that allowed you to see in complete darkness. These devices give you the tactical advantage to win a confrontation. In this situation, when you own the night, you win the battle. But how does owning the night apply to the more figurative sense of a lack of knowledge or facing the unknown?
Do Your Homework
When I was still in the Navy, I found myself stationed on Oahu, Hawaii for 2 years. I had heard about the surf on the North Shore in the winter, and decided to go give it a whirl. I had surfed for many years in San Diego, but nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered that day. I paddled out into the line up on an 8 foot fun shape. A fun shape is board that you commonly use in small to moderate surf of 2-6 foot, not the 30 foot rollers that were cruising in that day at Pipeline. Before paddling out, I had heard that many military individuals that had attempted to surf during the winter had been injured, some severely. Occasionally, you would hear of individuals drowning after being knocked unconscious on the reef. Even with all the warnings, I decided to paddle out on the largest surf I had ever seen. When I finally attempted to catch a wave, I realized that dropping down from a 3 story building was probably not a good idea. I ended up getting caught inside and getting pounded by waves for quite a while before I decided to call it a day, almost losing my board that was pulling me under in the process. The lessons learned from that day were numerous. I believe that my training as a SEAL saved my life that day, and I was very confident in the water and knew my limitations. When you are about to face difficulties in your life, you should do your homework and give yourself the most advantage that you can, with respect to both gear and knowledge. Assume the worst case scenario and plan backwards from that, no matter what you are facing. Doing you homework can save you time, money, and possibly your life.
Embrace the Unknown…But Don’t Be Stupid
Venturing out at night or in large surf requires a new state of mind. Going surfing at night without lights requires embracing something that is visceral in all of us. While stationed in San Diego, I would frequently go surfing at night with my friends. We would light a bonfire on the beach so that we could have something to keep aligned from the ocean, and we would paddle out and challenge ourselves. Most of us were just learning to surf so this added to the challenge. We would never go out in huge surf because that would be a death wish. However, we did challenge ourselves just enough to get out of our comfort zones. The lessons that I learned from surfing at night, I take with me anywhere when I am challenged with something new or unexpected. Embracing and seeking these challenges allows you to develop that attitude of invincibility that I have talked about before. This attitude is something deep inside of you that is inside even human. This spirit of adventure that drives you to seek new things is at the physiological level a dopamine release. As you get older, you need to do more and more novel things to keep your dopamine centers (which degrade with age) active.
The key to making it through dark times is helping others. By helping others, you reduce your thoughts about yourself and become focused on the well being of others. Ultimately, this leads to your own help; but, that is not the purpose of it. We frequently connect blind folded exercises during our resilience classes. These individuals are most certainly in the dark, and are tested to new heights with challenges that people with sight would have trouble completing. Some of these challenges are only possible with the help of others. By helping others who are in the dark, you gain new perspectives; furthermore, when you are in the dark, you will ask for help and let others help you. We should not expect to make it through the dark times alone. Helping others should be an integral part of your day, and if it’s something that you get paid to do, find a way to help others and not get paid for it.
Owning the night takes training, equipment, time, and the courage to go out of your way and embrace the unknown. This week, go out of your way to challenge yourself in a way that you have never been challenged, outside of your workspace. Imagine yourself being outside in the forest in the middle of the night with no light. The apprehension that you feel is normal; embracing that apprehension is the key to owning the night. Understand that embracing the apprehension requires self confidence, and self confidence comes from the proper training and application of equipment. When you find something that you want to accomplish that is outside your comfort zone, write down what equipment you will need, and the training that you need in order to accomplish the task. A warning is needed here. If you accomplish the task this week, you could develop an attitude where anything is possible and a new zest for life itself. What I neglected to mention is that owning the night and achieving what others (and you) may think is impossible will give you a dose of something that we all need in today’s fast paced world, gratitude.
“Lean into it!”
Dr. Ed Naggiar