The Top 4 Lessons I learned from a Horsefly Attack
Last year, I was attacked by a horsefly.
In my effort to turn a nightmare into a positive growth opportunity, I have compiled a list of the lessons one can learn from a bug attack. But before we talk about the lessons, allow me to help you visualize the event.
Imagine a fat man (that’s me, before I lost weight) on a blue and white ten-speed bicycle. Imagine the fat man pumping his pedals furiously, sweat running down his face and arms, his shirt soaked through. Imagine his wife, slim and athletic, glancing back at him over her shoulder. Imagine their two bicycles kicking up white dust beneath a canopy of trees. To their left is a steep vertical bluff, to their right the muddy waters of the Missouri River. The only sounds are the wind, the crunch of bicycle tires on gravel, and the labored breathing of the fat man.
He cries out, “Stop! I need to catch my breath!”
The sound of his voice is the cue for nature’s most voracious pest, the giant horsefly. Like a black bullet, the bug explodes out of a rotten log and lands on the back of his shirt. He doesn’t know it’s there.
“Hold still,” his wife says, climbing down off her bike.
If you’ve spent any time outdoors, I don’t have to tell you what it means when someone tells you to hold still. It means some creature is crawling on you. Maybe a spider. Maybe a scorpion. Maybe Godzilla. Maybe the 7 headed hydra. The fat man stands perfectly still, panic flickering in his eyes. “What’s on me?” he asks, gritting his teeth.
She creeps up behind her husband silently, like a ninja. But instead of attacking the bug in true ninja style, she swats at it like a little girl. You know what good that does? None. It just pisses the bug off.
Suddenly the black bullet is circling, spinning, buzzing, and bearing its hideous blood-sucking fangs. Do horseflies have fangs? Surely not! But the fat man isn’t taking any chances. He flails his hands about like he’s having a seizure, trying to ward off the bug. The bug, crafty and quick, speeds around behind him. Boom! It lands on the back of his shirt. Boom! It lands on his head. Boom! It lands on his face.
Now the fat man is screaming like a girl.
He climbs onto his bike and speeds off down the trail. The adrenaline pumping through his body turns him into Lance Armstrong. How fast is he going? 20mph? 30? 150? The world is a blur of trees and shadows and gravel dust. His wife falls behind, unable to keep up. The horsefly keeps up fine, propelling itself at supersonic speeds. Boom! It lands on his arms. Boom! It lands on his head. Boom! It lands on his face. He swipes at the bug every time it lands, but the bug is too quick for him. This deranged ballet goes on for over two miles. Two miles! That’s roughly twelve minutes during which this giant bug is crawling on him, biting him, and basically having its way with him. Disgusting! When it’s over, he is so exhausted he thinks he’s having a heart attack.
Here lies Fat Man: Hassled to death by a bug.
Finally, he bursts out from beneath the dark canopy of trees and into the sunlight, where the bug dares not follow. Freedom at last! But his freedom is little consolation, since he has completely lost his mind. Still screaming, he climbs off his bike and picks it up over his head.
“Come get some!” he screams at the bug, which is no longer anywhere to be found. He throws his bike toward the trees. When the bike hits the ground, the chain and other assorted parts break off and scatter. Oh, that’s just great! Now he has to walk home!
As he walks home, he keeps brushing imaginary bugs off his arms and legs. “The horror,” he whispers. “The horror.”
Lessons Learned from a Horsefly Attack
Well, hopefully you got a kick out of that. But honestly, there’s no point in sharing a story unless it has a point. Okay, who am I kidding? I’d share that story with anyone regardless of whether or not it had any point simply because I love telling it. It’s one of my favorite stories of all time. I mean, how often in life does a person get attacked by a horsefly while riding a bicycle at break neck speeds for over two miles? It’s classic, man. Seriously.
But lucky for you, there is a point. It’s amazing how the silliest stories can offer valuable life lessons. So with no further ado, here they are.
Lesson #1: Decisiveness and Determination
That goofy little insect knew what it wanted and refused to be deterred. It wanted to bite me, no question about it, and it wouldn’t take no for an answer. Decisiveness and determination lead to success – the pest managed to chew on me multiple times in some very sensitive areas!
Before you can obtain what you want out of life, you have to decide what you want and pursue it with abandon. Keep moving forward. Never say die. Never look back. Never mind about rejection. It’s hard to stop someone who has tunnel vision and guts, whether that someone is human or bug.
Lesson#2: Don’t Overthink
A horsefly has a brain the size of a grain of sand, so it’s not going to overthink anything. It’s hellbent on instinct, brother. Because it has an automatic reflex to attack, that’s just what it does, and the end result is hundreds of successful attacks per day.
As human beings, our massive frontal lobe allows us to be more than animals. That’s good! I mean, who wants to live his life chewing on someone’s forehead? But if you’re the type of person who gets caught in analysis paralysis, unable to act on your dreams, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to just start moving. Sometimes it’s easier to course correct than to create a perfect plan.
Lesson #3: Stay in Shape
In my story of the bug attack, I kept referring to myself as the fat man because I thought it was funny. But make no mistake, I really was fat. My lack of cardiovascular fitness forced me to stop in the middle of the ride, which gave the bug an opportunity to land on me.
And so it is with life. If we are out of shape, all sorts of bugs have a greater chance of landing on us – bugs like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. And then there is the opportunity cost of being out of shape, all the positive growth experiences you could be having while your body is slowing you down. Throughout the course of my life, I have found that no single thing does as much to improve my effectiveness as getting healthy.
Lesson #4: Stay Calm
That bug drove me nuts, and I totally lost my cool. In a fit of rage, I destroyed my bike, which forced me to walk home. It just doesn’t pay to lose control of your emotions, no matter what’s bugging you.
This list of four lessons was mostly for fun, but there’s some truth in this list as well. And no matter what anyone tells you, #3 is a good idea.
May 15, 2007 Tuesday at 1:26 am