Blue Line

Winning is the only thing

November 17, 2014  By Michael Soden

764 words — MR

Winning is the only thing

by Michael Soden

“Winning isnÆt everything, itÆs the only thing,” UCLA Bruins coach Henry Russell “Red” Sanders famously observed. Today we’re in the age of the participation trophy, where it’s all about doing your best. The fact you tried is all that matters.


Law enforcement is like a competitive sport. The goal is to win — win the fight on crime, win the fight with the bad guy, win the fight with the community — winning is ultimately what we do and everything comes down to it.

The most important victory is winning a gun fight. Loss could mean the end of your life or the life of someone you’re trying to protect. The term “surviving the gun fight” must be stricken from the vocabulary if every officer — we will not survive, we will WIN.

Brian Willis uses the ‘What’s Important Now’ (WIN) philosophy, so the big question is whether you consider it more important to win or survive. They are not the same thing. Surviving does not mean winning. It is a last ditch effort not to die.

Winning a gun fight is broken down into two parts — during and after. We all know how important it is to win the ‘during’ phase but what about winning the post event? This is where many officers run into some issues and where the term surviving seems to really be stressed. Some gunfights last only a second or two — others last a little longer — but it’s what happens after that can stay with an officer for the rest of their life.

Why do some officers walk away unscathed without any mental injuries while others end up with varying degrees of mental problems? The problems range from minor quirks to PTSD, depression and in some cases suicide.

Many people with psychology degrees will tell you that genetics and many other factors play a large role in how someone handles stress. I agree, however I donÆt think it plays that large of a factor.

Mental imagery works. It is used by police, athletes and many others who want to pre-program their performance into Boyds cycle (ooda loop). It can also be used to pre-program your way through stress. We all use it for performance and it can also be used after a shooting.

As an example, suppose I walk into a store to buy a coffee and see a guy at the counter holding up the clerk. I will clear my weapon move to cover, give clear commands and end the threat. I will perform flawlessly. No one gets hurt, my training kicks in and the good guys win û but it doesn’t end there.

Your mental imagery should continue. Example: I just took a life. I was justified, my actions saved a life and they were true and just. I will be under scrutiny by the media, my peers and family. They may not understand but I will explain it to them. Things may happen that I donÆt understand but I am up to the challenge and will win this battle at every stage.

Just as no two officers involved in shootings are the same, everyoneÆs reactions will differ — but you will be on track to win the mental battles if you prepare for them. The main goal of the body and mind after being involved in a critical high stress event is to return to homeostasis (normal). Hundreds of chemical changes (adrenaline dump) occur during the event but afterwards your body and mind begin the process of returning to your normal.

It is a well-known fact that the better physical condition you are in the more resilient you are and the better you handle stress. It also aids in your recovery from stressful incidents. The same will hold true with mental conditioning or hardening.

Everyone knows someone who has been involved in a very high stress incident, whether it be a shooting or something else. Talk to them. While some officers are hesitant or donÆt want to talk about their incidents, many will talk about the problems they had, how they coped, what helped and what did not.

For those of you who have been involved in stressful incidents, be willing to share what worked for you. Many times the fight doesnÆt end when the incident stops

Surviving is existing; you exist by breathing, getting up each day and going through the motions.

Winning is living, itÆs a choice you can choose to survive or choose to WIN. I challenge you to choose to WIN.

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