Touch Your Self Help
Touch Your Self Help: On Tenacity
By Chad Fifer
Nov 19, 2008

I watched a documentary the other night about dog breeds. The whole thing. I don't own a dog. But I'm a fan.

Anyway, there was a woman in the documentary, in the section covering Dobermans. She talked to the camera about her fear of these dogs, how they barked at her and made her feel small. As she spoke on the topic, they showed her name on the screen, and under it, this text: "Afraid of Dobermans."

Most other people in the documentary had a title, like "Veterinarian" or "Breeder." It almost looked like this woman was professionally afraid of Dobermans. Here she was – probably her first and only appearance on television – and this is how she was labeled. This is how the world will know her from now on.

I didn't feel bad for her, though. Instead, I imagined that maybe there was another guy in her neighborhood, and that he was also afraid of Dobermans. When the documentary crew came around, canvassing the area, asking people their feelings about dogs, he was glad to give an interview, and enumerated to the director all the many, many reasons why the Doberman down the street was an asshole. He signed his release, found out what channel the show would be on, and then went back inside, thrilled to have been the center of attention, if only for a moment.

Over the months that followed, he studied the channel's schedule anxiously, telling everybody he knew to watch for him. He was about to set the record straight about this awful breed of canine. On national TV!

Finally, his time comes. The night of the documentary's premiere broadcast, he rallies the family around the television, loads them up with snacks and tells them to keep their mouths shut, even during the commercials.

Halfway through, his neighbor appears on the screen. Her title pops up: "Afraid of Dobermans." She says a bunch of stuff but he doesn't listen. He can't believe his eyes. She finishes talking, they cut to a bunch of puppies and he waits. And waits. The documentary ends. The credits roll. He keeps watching, hoping for outtakes. Nothing.

"They went with her instead of me?" he shouts at his wife. "I'm way more afraid of those dogs than her. I've seen her pet that dog down the street!"

That night, with the kids still crying in the other room, he hatches a plan. He decides that he needs to overcome his fear of Dobermans. It's the only way to right the wrong that has been done to him. He theorizes that if he can overcome his fear, he can buy a few Dobermans, train them to kill, and then let them loose on the neighbor who stole his fifteen minutes of fame. "If she's really so afraid," he thinks, "let her prove it by dying."

He goes to a Doberman breeder. He sweats a lot while standing in the kennel, but he makes it through. He learns all about Dobermans. With knowledge comes comfort. After a few more visits, he takes a puppy home.

The puppy is great. It seems to understand him far better than his wife or his kids. It cares for the simple things, and teaches him to care for the simple things. It loves him unconditionally, which his parents never did. It opens his heart and teaches him to take better care of his own family.

He gets more Doberman puppies. He becomes a breeder himself, then an expert. For Christmases and birthdays, people buy him Doberman knick knacks. He loves them. Then, more TV people come to the neighborhood. But these people are dressed better. They're executives, not documentarians. And they've heard all about him. They offer him a job on their channel.

His show kicks off a few months later: The Dober-Man. It's a big hit. By training people about their Dobermans, he also changes their lives. Fat people become skinny. Ugly people get their hair cut. Somehow, one of the dogs runs an intervention. People love it.

In all of the hubbub, the man completely forgets about the woman he had plotted to kill. His life is good, rich, and he no longer feels the desire to blame his problems on others. When he finally does think of the woman, he laughs to himself and decides he should thank her. Maybe even help her overcome her ridiculous fear.

He goes to visit the woman, but he is too late. She is gone.

No, she has not died. Worse. She had been taken to prison. It seems that the woman who was "Afraid of Dobermans" was also a woman who was "Fond of Serial Killing." In the last two months, for indiscernible reasons, the woman has gone on a stabbing spree, murdering at least twenty men in truck stops and sinking their rigs into a nearby bog.

The man is stricken with horror. He realizes that if he had only followed through with his original plan, all of those truckers would still be alive.

Now, as I said, this was something I just imagined. But I think the point rings true nonetheless. If you make a plan, stick to it. Otherwise, no one will be left to drive our trucks.

More of Chad Fifer's self-help advice can be found here. 

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