Learning to not underestimate your opponents is one of the best ways to preserve our land use and access interests. All motorized recreation organizations are fighting daily to do this, but we must do our individual part also.
Underestimating Your Opponents
by Del Albright, BlueRibbon Ambassador
If you're out there fighting for access to public lands for your sport/hobby or interest, allow me to offer some input into your strategy: Never underestimate your opponent!
You've heard this before, but let me expand the idea a bit. It's happened more than once lately, that we're so close to victory, only to have the rug pulled out by our opponents at the last minute (e.g. lawsuits). This advice applies to many other aspects of life too. Every boxer and professional competitive sports player knows never to underestimate anything. Never underestimate the odds against you, whether it be working on something in your shop, or out in the wilds enjoying your sport. Murphy's Law is always out there.
If you're a regular reader of my columns, then you know enough about me to know I'm no kid, and that I've had my share of runs around the block. So what I have to say is based on experience. In fact, I think they designed the block around me sometimes.
Be that as it may, if you're new to my writings, then please accept this invitation to visit my web site to learn more about me. Suffice to say that my life experiences have included: getting shot at in more than one country/war; running around many blocks; living through divorce; jumping out of airplanes; being thrown from horses; being flipped from a jeep; swimming among sharks; and writing country music (smile). I have survived and really never even broken a bone by not underestimating my opponents.
There's a few steps involved in learning *not to underestimate.* I'd like to share them with you from my perpsective.
First, we must learn to listen in order to determine who is worthy of our attention. I call it aerobic listening - where you're actively involved, listening for every detail, participating with questions, trying to fully understand what's being said (or implied). I always tell young people who ask me how to succeed in the fire service (my previous career), that learning to listen is the key -- especially to the older folks who've *been there and done that.*
It goes hand in hand with the old addage about seek first to understand; then be understood. It's all about communication and listening; but it's the first step of learning not to underestimate your opponent. Probably the worse trap for many of us is to b thinking of our reply rather than listening to what's being said. Aerobic listening is the way to avoid this from limiting our full understanding of the situation.
Second, it's important to learn to rely on your instincts and gut reaction. Learning to trust and listen to your instincts is not easy. It takes practice, but it is one of the most powerful tools you have. The reason many people don't trust their instincts is that they don't know how to listen to them. But if you can get to the point where you listen to your gut (honestly, frankly), you'll find that you may have a better handle on life's situation than you realize. When listening to our elder generation, I rely on my gut instincts to help me separate war stories from helpful hints. But I always listen. Why should we reinvent wheels when all they need is a little grease?
Third, we've got to take time to do our homework and know our opponents. I'm often reminded of General George Patton during WW II who whipped his enemies in warfare and proclaimed about one enemy General: *I read your book!* In other words, he really took the time and effort to learn about his opponent. He applied his homework and won. Knowing where anti-access folks are coming from is critical to developing strategies to beat them. Visit their web sites; participate in their chat rooms; go to a few of their meetings; read their propaganda.
Fourth, never become complacent or figure you've got things rounded up until the last cow is in the barn. Sometimes the battle for access can be like pushing water up hill; you've got to keep pushing in spite of the odds. And don't assume the battle is won prematurely. Plan ahead for contingencies and fall backs. It pays off. Again, don't underestimate your opponent. Assume he/she is going to do something to your barn, even after the cows are in it. Then be prepared to handle it. Some folks call this Strategic Planning. It will pay huge dividends to your efforts in life if you can learn to do this (individually and organizationally).
The idea of not underestimating folks has been around a long time. It still holds true today. And on the bright side, it applies to friendship and family too. My local newspaper recently told of a young woman needing a special type, very uncommon kidney transplant. Her sister stepped up to the plate to offer one of hers as the type was a perfect match. It doesn't seem like a big deal unless you know the family. The sisters had not spoken in over five years because some ridiculous family squabble.
We can win more battles and preserve our access if we never underestimate the forces or influences in our lives. Give yourself an edge by certainly not underestimating those who oppose our way of life.