I came across The Flinch by Julien Smith during one of my Google searches for ideas associated with the cold showers challenge. The Flinch is a short 38-page e-book packed with pithy reasons why we need to face our fears. This is a short, easy read for multitasking with something else during quarantine. I read this over eating a bowl of noodles during my lunch break.

Key Points & Favorite Quotes

What is the Flinch?

Smith defines “the flinch” as:

  • The moment when every doubt you’ve ever had comes back and hits you.
  • The instinct that tells you to run away.
  • Exists to support the status quo.
  • Is why you don’t do the work that matters, and why you won’t make the hard decisions.
  • Thrives on making risks look worse than they are.
  • Prevents you from learning what’s necessary to adapt.

The flinch comes in many forms including but not limited to:

  • Having hard conversations
  • A job interview or phone call
  • Asking someone out on a date
  • Pitching an idea to investors or a group project
  • Not adapting to innovations
  • Having a conversation with a stranger
  • Asking for help

Collect Scars

Collect scars; this appears to be the book’s mantra. The best lessons in life are the ones that we learn from firsthand experience in which we fall and then get back up. Again and again. Firsthand experience is visceral, painful, and necessary; it burns us and leaves a scar. Falling down and learning from our mistakes requires the conscious, the unconscious, and all our senses to process. Scars are evidence that the experience has left an imprint on our brain, thus increasing our threshold to tolerate the flinch.

Flinch-breaking is all about eliminating the pointless and habitual, and choosing the useful instead. We can’t discover the useful in the abstract. It has to actually happen.

Benefits of Facing the Flinch

Expand Your World

There’s a secret here, too: getting lost is not fatal. Almost every time it wil make your world bigger.

If we never step up to life’s challenges and instead listen to others who know what’s better or what’s safe, over a lifetime, we’ll build a habit of conformity. To simplify put, we’d be training ourselves to actively limit the scope of the world.

Inspire Others to Get Out of Their Comfort zones

Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? The ones where you watch the protagonist rise above a daring issue and come out a better version of themselves. People are looking for proof that you can be amazing so that they can be amazing, too.

Future Problems are Not Problems

You can’t make yourself feel positive, but you can choose how to act, and if you choose right, it builds your confidence. Over time, this process becomes a positive cycle.

When we train ourselves to lean into the flinch we’re conditioning ourselves to respond to challenges by pushing ahead instead of shrinking back. In a sense, we’re teaching ourselves to view life as a game full of levels to beat instead of a scary monster we need to hide from.

In Conclusion, Take Cold Showers

If you aren’t willing to sacrifice your comfort, you don’t have what it takes.

I gobbled The Flinch to get a deeper understanding of my cold shower challenge and to remind myself why I’d want to do hard things. Forcing myself to take daily cold showers is a real, visceral example of what the flinch feels like. Cold showers are a metaphor for the physiological hesitation we feel when we’re about to encounter a difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable situation. We get anxious about the shock and discomfort of cold water hitting us before even stepping into the shower. We need to remember that the discomfort is temporary and eventually we’ll get used to it maybe even comfortable in it. The only way to speed up the adjustment period is to continue to put ourselves into the path of the cold shower. The practice of challenging ourselves is going to build the habit of seeing the flinch and going forward with it, not rationalizing fears and turning away. The less we’re provoked by “scary” things, the more we can focus.

If need a confidence boost in under an hour, I’d recommend this book. Now go take a cold shower.


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