That voice in your head

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Chris Mitchell

A brilliant West Coast comedian named Christopher Titus theorizes that we’re all born with an “inner idiot.”

He describes it as “that little voice inside our heads that hates our guts.”

It’s the voice that says you aren’t attractive enough. The one that says you aren’t smart enough. The one that says you’re going to fail in spite of your best efforts.

Any number of things can wake up the voice.

It can be an embarrassing moment in elementary school. It can be rejection from someone you thought was going to be a love interest.

But whatever it is, he says the inner idiot resides in all of us — and isn’t going anywhere. It can’t be banished, so it has to be beaten.

The origin of the voice in Hank Cherry’s head is easy to trace. It began talking to him — and sometimes shouting at him — after the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. Cherry was fishing his first Classic when he lost what could have been the winning fish on the final day.

His anguish was clear as he collapsed onto his back on the deck of his boat.

Ever since, he’s heard the voice — and it’s never been louder than it was during the 2020 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville.

He had just taken a big lead in the biggest tournament on earth with a Day 1 bag of 29 pounds, 3 ounces. That’s when the voice started whispering.

It got louder on Day 2 when he caught only 16-10, and his lead shrunk from 7-11 to 4-13 with some of the finest anglers on the planet nipping at his heels.

The voice reached painful decibel levels on Championship Sunday when Cherry got off to a slow start and several competitors moved in front of him in the unofficial standings.

That’s when something truly special happened.

Cherry told his inner idiot to find a big, tall cliff and leave a big, deep dent at the bottom of it. Then he smashed 19-8 to polish off a wire-to-wire victory with a three-day total of 65-5.

Cherry had been struggling all week with the ghosts of his past.

The media — a core group of myself, my coworkers and my competitors — did our best not to plant seeds of doubt in his head during post-weigh-in interviews.

His wife, Jaclyn, certainly did her part to keep him sane.

But it was ultimately some advice from fellow Elite Series pro Paul Mueller that helped him send his inner idiot to the corner for good.

“I talked to Paul Mueller in the boatyard [before Championship Sunday], and he told me the devil was gonna try to get in my head today,” Cherry said. “He said just tell the devil to get out of your boat.”

Besides being reason No. 10,649 to like Paul Mueller, that may be the best advice in the 50-year history of the Classic.

It’s advice, too, that can be used in every phase of your life.

Whether you’re fishing a tournament, applying for a job, asking someone out on a date or seeking strength during a key conversation with your kids, don’t listen to the inner idiot.

Like Titus says, the voice can’t be banished. But as Cherry proved, it can be beaten.