Life Lessons in the Real World

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The Top 4 Lessons I learned from a Horsefly Attack

p4029794flycd2.JPGLast 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.


38 Responses to “The Top 4 Lessons I learned from a Horsefly Attack”

  • Liara Covert says:

    You seem to have learned a lot from your recent expeirence. Its amazing how people can permit their negative emotions like panic and self-doubt to take control of focus, and to blow a situation out of proportion. Whether you get attacked by a horsefly or a negative thought, nip it in the bud.

  • JohnPlace says:

    This experience happened a while ago. I decided to write about it now because one of my good friends reminded me of it last week. He said, “John, that horsefly story of yours is Awesome! You have to share it!”

    And Liara, you are so right. It’s always better to retain your composure than to lose your cool.

    But those horsefly bites hurt.

  • First, this is THE FUNNIEST story I’ve read in 2007. You write with great and sincere humor that loses nothing in the translation. Your lessons learned carry great wisdom. I most certainly will remember those 4 lessons.

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks Mike. Welcome to my blog.

    I appreciate your kind words.

    Before I posted this story for the first time, I let my wife read it — and I guess I knew I had a hit on my hands when she about fell out of her chair laughing. At one point, she was laughing so hard she blew soda out of her nose.

    I wasn’t sure whether I should take her response as a compliment or an insult, if you know what I mean. :-)

    If any of your friends would enjoy reading this story, feel free to email it around.

  • Iff says:

    Yeah, I also must say that this is one of the best stories I have read for a while, and definitely motivating. Makes me want to hit the gym. :)

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks, Iff. And welcome to my blog.

  • I previously warned myself against going into texts on the web thinking that most of it are dirt-cheap quality, for almost everything you submit allowed to appear on the pages to the public audience, and not just everybody is a great born-writer. Most cases it proves “right”. But after reading your blog today, it made me pause for a moment and think of ways of finding these good ones, because now you proved that there are such texts on the web.

    Thanks for sharing the story. I just need to have some sort of magic power not to mistake to these selective back alleys.

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thank you, Rinchen, for being so kind as to compliment my writing. One way that I have found to avoid the “back alleys” of the internet is to use Stumble Upon. Are you familiar with it?

    It’s a social networking site that I *greatly* enjoy because it brings back that old-time joy of surfing the Web that I remember from the mid 1990s, when surfing was a new experience for me.

  • janet hartley says:

    Here’s a tip, off the main subject…..horseflies and deerflies will NOT go under umbrellas.

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks for the tip, Janet :)

    I had no idea. I thought they liked the shade?

  • janet hartley says:

    Umbrellas are too much like houses not woods.
    Beats me, but it works. Works for blackflies also but not mosquitoes or houseflies.

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks for the follow up, Janet.

    I could see this trick coming in handy on a picnic near a wooded location.

  • Mihir Patel says:

    Hilarious story John. I know someone ‘exactly’ like the guy in your story which makes it that much better. I enjoyed the read, keep up the great work!

    – Mihir

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks Mihir. I hope your friend isn’t sitting in his room playing the Halo3 Beta all day. :)

  • Kimberly says:

    I just stumbledUpon your blog and have liked everything I read so far. I keep clicking the links to new entries instead of the stumble button. I most likely will return because I found lots of useful advice.

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thank you so much, Kimberly.

  • Allene says:

    What a great story! Having been bitten by a horsefly after my bike ride this evening, I decided to google horsefly. Your story makes me thankful I only got bitten on my stomach and finger (the latter when I was swatting it away). By the way… I’m familiar with the squeal – I amused the group of cyclists standing 10 feet away.

  • J.P. says:

    Let’s not forget that darker lesson to be learned:
    when faced with an enemy that would do you harm given the chance–eradicate it.

    Okay, so I just read Ender’s Game for the first time.

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks for the comment, J.P.

    Believe me, I would have *loved* to eradicate it. :)

  • Chrissy says:

    I’ve never laughed so hard at a blog post in all my life!

  • JohnPlace says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Chrissy!

  • Charity says:

    Hilarious! Suffered an attack on the river this summer myself, your reflections are comical & VERY TRUE!

  • JohnPlace says:

    They are persistent little buggers, aren’t they? :)

  • Jamie says:

    What you say is making so much sense to me, here in England – a quiet sense of despair seems to have gripped many people over that certain age (30+ males are seriously in danger of it here).
    And why? yes it’s the old prison of money minus the increasing cost for living equals not enough so we compensate by simply putting in more hours… in the hope that we will be noticed and a promotion will come our way. Usually in jobs that are not fulfilling us, and the end of every month or week (depending on how we get paid) we tend to hide ourselves from facing facts by drinking far too much and loosing most of Sunday to a hangover.
    Your observations about the American Zombie are just as true on this side of the pond.

    The story about the fly was still amusing though…

    The points made however, are good and vaild.

  • […] option could work. By exposing the patient to their fear in small dosages, he can eventually become desensitized to the fear and manage it more effectively.  The down side to this treatment option is that the […]

  • […] a few seconds. When your body is “pumped up” in this fashion, it can be difficult to concentrate, and the effects it has on your body can be frightening unless you know what to […]

  • Nadine says:

    I was bitten by a horse fly while riding on some trails this weekend . It was so silly. My sister got bitten on her left side just above the waist of her pants .She started to scream , waving and shaking her shirt. For no reason, well maybe nerves, i guess, i started raising my shrit and shaking my cloths and boom! the darn Horsefly saw my exposed skin and bit me. Well that was the most painful bite i have ever gotten .It felt like a needle had pierced my skin…….If I had been attacked like you were, they would have to put me in the looney house for sure.

  • Karen says:

    I was out the other night on my push bike
    I got bitten on the nose by a horse fly.
    Wel i ended up in A and E with a face so swolen i could not see. I looked like i had been in a fight.
    The Dr gave me anticiotics and priton
    But after a few days my face is starting to get back to normal

  • Beth says:

    This is ridiculously funny and proves its point well. I am thoroughly impressed though that the author can laugh at himself like this.

  • Great information! We have a pet shop in Ankara / Turkey

  • […] Originally Posted by Ukwildlifeo Those big 2-3cm long, fat horseflies get my vote! Oh god! yes, they are beasts. I got chewed on twice by one of those. Here is a funny story from a blog i found about an horsefly attack The Top 4 Lessons I learned from a Horsefly Attack […]

  • Kevin Frank says:

    I had a run in with a horsefly similar to yours. I wrote about it though not as well on my blog.

    Your story and lessons were great and if I didn’t have that encounter with the flying human harasser I would have never googled horsefly stories and found yours. Thank you for the great article.

  • Great Information, thanks for your useful Post. I will come back soon * Great tips also : stop biting my nails

  • I had a wierd idea. I heard in Europe, something like 50% of teen girls get plastic surgery before age 18 because for girls, being successful is all about snagging the best guy you can get. best meaning richest. And being physically attractive is naturally the easiest way to snag men.

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  • Your a funny Fat Guy! says:

    Your a funny Fat Guy! …and a real baby when it comes to bugs…stay inside haha

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