James O. Born
Like a lot of law enforcement officers, I'm not always crazy about some of the classes I'm required to take. As political correctness and different interest groups take root within politics, the policies and training needs of any law enforcement agency must adapt. When I was recently told I’d have to attend two full days of training more than 65 miles from my house, I cringed. How are we expected to complete our overwhelming number of assignments if they're sending us off to training which has nothing to do with our jobs? At least that's how I viewed it when I got the call. To make matters worse, no one could really tell me what the class was about. It appeared to be some sort of motivational and inspirational class which, if you're staring down the barrel of retirement in just a few months, is not something that necessarily interests you. But I found out a long time ago it's much easier to shut up and do certain things than to fight them. In other words every cop must, "Pick his or her battles."
As the name of the class was Blue Courage. I liked the title, but again, was reticent about spending almost half my week not attending to the cases I’m currently working on. As the class began, I realized I liked the two instructors. That immediately lowered my anxiety and I sat back to listen. But it wasn't that easy. We were expected to participate as well.
There was a lot of motivation about mindset and to consider the reasons each of us entered the field of law enforcement in the first place. Aside from the lists of casualties, which are staggering when added up over the years, most of the information could apply to other professions, including writing.
There was a lot of information and stats thrown out and I tried to copy down a few of them. The first one that caught my attention was that we, as humans, have roughly 70,000 thoughts and a day. That's staggering to consider. No wonder we are tired all of the time. And two of the issues they brought up was whether we focused most of our thoughts on the past, present or future (and of course, the more we focus on the present, the more effective we can be in any profession) and how to use certain exercises to clear your mind for just a short period of time. The idea is to break the pattern of constant noise in our head. In this case, they suggested sitting in a quiet room and slowly breathing in for four seconds, holding that breath for four seconds, taking four more seconds to expel that breath and then waiting four more seconds until you start again. Those 16 seconds can be crucial in breaking a pattern of cerebral anarchy that can confuse and distract us on a daily basis.
Another comment they used was the eighteen, forty, sixty rule. Basically it says that at eighteen we’re concerned about what other people think of us. At forty we really don't care and that at sixty, we realize no one has ever been thinking about us. I like that.
The instructors of the course went on to talk about having faith in yourself and forget about comparing yourself or your career to others. They may have been addressing a roomful of police officers, but they could easily have been addressing a room full of authors. The complaints are often the same, just like the excuses. The process is unfair, it's all politics, someone else got lucky, they are interchangeable between the two professions.
Instructors also want us to avoid negativity both in ourselves and hanging out with others. They talked about how easy it is to walk away from someone who is a constant stain of negativity. And one of the most important stats to take away from that is that, as a general rule, people are 30% more productive when they are positive. For a police officer that is a tremendous amount of work and for an author it can be even more effective. It's not that hard to dwell on all the positive aspects of our life. If you're working on a novel, you're already ahead of the game. It doesn't matter if you're published or not, at least you have a goal and you’re working towards it.
In publishing, the seemingly endless flood of negative responses are the norm. But you can't let it rule your entire life. They showed a video which I've seen on TV which made the perfect point in the perfect way.
One of the other concepts in the class is that approximately 360 words a minute go through our brains each hour. Once again, we need to break that pattern and using the 16 second breathing exercise is a way to do that. I know, as writers, the idea of having 360 words a minute rush through our heads seems like a positive, but sometimes it's better to just have silence.
Our quote today is: Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him unto himself. – James Allen