One thing at a time

brainpuzzleIs it possible to improve several skills at once or learn new tasks together? The answer, unfortunately, is no. One thing at a time.

The first thing I do, when working with clients, is ask them “what do you want to improve”. Usually, they will list 3-5 areas of improvement with each area requiring hundreds of hours of mindful practice to achieve. I understand the message, which is “I care about my skills and I want to perform everything well”.

The mind is not a multi-tasker, instead we store “skill sets” in our subconscious, which allows them to be performed without conscious thought. Mastery of a skill requires a singular pursuit of fundamentals. We need to perform each “skill set” in isolation until we deeply understand the mechanics and can execute them on demand. We have to be able to isolate the weaknesses in our performance and set a training regimen that allows us to address one thing at a time. This is pattern I use to improve my areas of weakness.

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Pick one movement to improve, gather information from several trusted sources and begin to experiment.

  • Break the movement into subsets of skill.
  • Work each subset alone, until you have the most efficient movement, which allows you to do things sooner. This practice must be mindful, and we must stay on task.
  • Work through each subset in isolation until you can perform that skill well.
  • Put all of the movements together, slowly at first, with care to perform each movement with as much detail as possible.
  • Speed is next, go faster until it begins to fall apart, recognize the area of weakness, and then practice the failure point until it improves and you can execute it at greater speed.
  • Finish with a slightly slower movement with attention to what you are seeing and feeling.

This practice will take dedication to staying with your goal, maybe for several months at a time, and that is perfectly fine!

  • Pressure test with drills and competition, to see if you are improving or if you need to refine your practice.
  • You must always be mindful, and not endlessly practicing without paying attention to the information you receive from your practice. It helps to write your results down or use video to breakdown your movement.
  • The most important part is your relationship with the truth, seeing yourself clearly is absolutely essential for improvement.
  • Your improvement is relative to the amount of mindful practice you perform daily. Example: 10 minutes of focused practice is better than 1 hour of distracted practice.

Let go of tension and your expectations, and practice to improve with clarity of focus and precision. Confidence is relative to the quality of our practice, which allows us to perform at the level of our current mastery.

The Greatest Teacher

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

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There is no way to train and avoid failure. Speed of execution, complexity of the task or the combination of both can lead to failure. Pressure and stress make the simplest task difficult. Fatigue and poor nutrition can degrade our abilities. All of us will fail, and it is good that we do. The greatest lessons are built upon failure.

The only power we have is HOW we react to failure. Learning is passionate, but not overly emotional. Simply performing incorrectly teaches us. If we choose to listen without becoming angry, embarrassed, or disappointed there is power to learn and improve. Mastery requires pushing the limits of performance and knowledge. We need to know where our capabilities begin to falter. This discovery should be greeted like an old teacher, with respect and a renewed determination to improve.

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Explorers are always excited to find new horizons, whether they are external or internal in nature. We are conquering our own limitations. We will rise to the level of our practice, not our expectations. Always train with people who push your limits, and never settle for being “good enough”. This road never ends, but it does lead to competence and contentment. Allow our greatest teacher, failure, to show you the way to improve and then fill your heart with gratitude. Always thank the teacher for such a valuable lesson, otherwise we are doomed to repeat it.

Time

“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it”.                  Seneca (On The Shortness of Life – Chapter I)

seneca_on_the_shortness_of_life_it_is_not_that_we_have_so_little_timeTime, it is the only thing we have, and as Seneca points out, we often waste it. Teaching takes time, and learning takes time. Discipline is the key component for acolytes in the temple of knowledge. Wasted time is often the rule, but our recent Pistol Essentials class was a unique exception.

On a beautiful spring morning in Dahlonega, GA, every student showed up early for class. They all pitched in to help set up the range and the class started 30 minutes early.  Administrative duties were done quickly, and time for training was significantly increased. The students had spent time practicing prior to class, were ready to train, and it was apparent in their shooting skills. Due to the “saved time” we were able to run extra repetitions of the drills. Questions were answered in great detail.  The discipline of this group allowed class to flow smoothly, while still meeting and even exceeding the coaching goals and the lesson plan. Everyone treated time very precious and valuable.

As a coach, I follow a strict time table, class starts on time, the lesson plan is followed and the class ends on time. I respect time, both my own and others. It is too valuable to waste. The timeliness, discipline, and respect of this class showed that every moment is important. The dedication needed to improve is a significant investment of time. Show up early and be prepared to train. Accept the discipline of learning.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0171.JPGThis blog is dedicated to my April Pistol Essentials class. Thank you for following the advice of Seneca. It was an honor to spend our most valuable commodity with you all.