The Flinch

3 minute read

Being able to tackle a task without self doubt, or backing down is something I think everyone wants to be able to do. And that’s the core idea behind Julien Smith’s book “The Flinch”.

What is the Flinch?

Julien Smith explains in his book that the Flinch is:

“In a fight, there is a fundamental difference between boxers and everyone else. The guys who have trained are different. If you hit them, they don’t flinch. It takes practice to get there, but if you want to fight, you have no choice. It’s the only way to win.”

“For anything you want to do, finding out how is easy. Do the research and make it happen— or so any book would have you believe. Yet every day, you smoke, gain weight, and stay at your old job. Every day, you do the exact opposite of what you plan to do. Why? “

“The flinch is your real opponent, and information won’t help you fight it. It’s behind every unhappy marriage, every hidden vice, and every unfulfilled life. Behind the flinch is pain avoidance, and dealing with pain demands strength you may not think you have.“

Julien describes how the flinch is our built in instinct to respond to danger. This “Flinching” instinct while useful to protect us from bears, does no good in our safer world of today.

Julien refers to this as our defective “Defective Alarm System” that remains from the past.

“In your daily life, you might never experience anything dangerous at all. Your life is safe— but you’re flinching anyway. You don’t flinch at bears, because there are none. But you do flinch at the prospect of speaking publicly or joining a gym. You flinch at the doctor’s office. You even flinch for sitcom characters. Anytime there’s potential change, there’s a flinch, whether it’s a threat or not.

You think the flinch is natural, and part of your life, which it is. But have you ever asked yourself why your stomach tenses up and you can’t watch imaginary characters on a television screen do awkward, embarrassing things? You should.”

“Think of a bear. You see it, and you react, instantly. You know how to deal because your brain is built to help you survive it: you run, jump, fight, or hide. But that’s not the world you’re in, so instead, flinching happens at job interviews or when you’re asking a girl to the prom.”

“What these encounters have in common with bears is that they’re changes in the status quo. This used to mean danger, so that’s how your flinch reflex sees them. It attempts to stop the changes from happening, using the same fight-or-flight mechanism it always has.”

“Your flinch has become your worst enemy. It should be a summoning, a challenge to push forward. Instead, the challenge is getting refused.”

The rest of the book goes into further detail about how to recognize your flinch and over come it. And the key to doing is recognizing your own flinch.

The book is an excellent read, that one can read in single sitting. I highly recommend picking up a copy of “The Flinch” and reading it for yourself.