Have you ever had to fight for your life?
Today’s post is our SafeSourcing Archives
There is some disagreement about where the term “The whole 9 yards” originated, ranging anywhere from WW2, to baseball, to concrete trucks, but I think the metaphor offered by the machine gun story is the most helpful context. The story goes, that early machine gun ammunition belts came in 9 yard lengths, and so it was easy to see the metaphorical application for everyday life. If I could break down the meaning into 2 components and the emotion behind them, it would look like this:
“The whole 9 yards”:
- Meaning: Give it all you’ve got. Emotion: Determination.
- Meaning: Fight for your life. Emotion: Fear
In war, winning meant living. Either you won the fight, or someone killed you first. Can you recall a time you were in that severe a situation? Where you would either beat what was threatening your survival, or you weren’t going to make it? The closest I’ve come to that was when a malady was threatening to kill my wife, and maybe me along with it. We overcame it, but the win or die situation it created changed me forever by teaching me several things:
Failure identifies the limits we need to overcome. Until you know what your limits are, how can you overcome them? And how can you identify your limits, until you’ve tested your abilities to the point of failure? Take calculated risks, see temporary failure as a necessary step to success instead of a fixed state. Fail forward by getting back up overcoming your limitations. Once you know your limits, you know what needs to be destroyed in order to become more.
Fear is a powerful but dangerous motivator in that it motivates us to destroy what we fear. Externally imposing fear at work or in relationships can cause employees to work harder to preserve their jobs or force significant others to be more agreeable, but can also cause them to see the organization or you as the enemy, creating resentment and causing more long term problems than short term gains. Self-imposed fear caused by identifying your own limitations can cause you to destroy your own weaknesses, breeding humility and self-worth once overcome.
Apathy sells me short of what I’m capable of. How many times have you said or been told “I’m doing my best”? But ask yourself, if your life depended on the task at hand, would you be doing it any better? If the answer is yes, you’re selling yourself short. Why settle for assuming your best is less than it really is?
My worldview had to change to fit my observations. At one point I had to come to the honest realization that the approach I was taking wasn’t working and would probably end up killing me, even though my worldview told me it was the right approach. I wouldn’t have been willing to recognize the solution without the crisis. Once I allowed observation, research, and testing to inform my worldview rather than let my worldview filter what I allowed myself to consider, the solution became obvious.
It’s easy to get distracted from being your best by fear, apathy, lack of belief in ourselves, the opinions of others, or personal biases. Every activity you undertake is a once in a lifetime event that you can’t go back in time to do over. But if you truly give it your all, approaching it as thoroughly as you would if your life were on the line, you’ll never need to do anything over again. Don’t wait for your 9 yards to be spent before deciding the life you want to build is worth fighting for.
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6 Responses to “Origin story: The whole 9 yards”
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