Failing > Skill Atrophy: Practice Makes Functional

Trying beats sitting on the couch every time.

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No matter what you do with your free time, when you do it, you are actively getting better at it both physically and mentally. When you sit down to binge watch the latest Netflix series, your tendons and muscles are being conditioned to remain in that position, your metabolism slows down, and your brain focuses its maintenance efforts on the neural pathways necessary for receiving a bunch of passive information. You are honing yourself into a Netflix-watching machine. Similarly, if you head to the range, gym, or the woods several times a week, you are doing precisely the same thing, but for completely different activities. Tendons and muscles condition for those activities, and your brain starts bushwhacking new paths to improve your ability to mentally process and respond to what’s going on. Whatever you do, whatever it is, you get better at just by doing it, even if it’s incremental, and even if you fail.

So for those of us who deliberately choose to drive our minds and bodies toward a particular goal, by devoting our precious free time to related activities, it can be incredibly frustrating when we fail. Even moreso when it’s a regular, or even constant thing. But while it’s tempting to either give up completely, or decide that you’ll never get better, and abandon that goal for a different one (admittedly the least awful of those two options), there’s a better answer that the venerable Greg Ellifritz discusses at his excellent Active Response Training blog: Suck more.

Greg outlines an explicit path toward success, and you should read it, but the jist of it is that failing is a relative thing. Sure, the No Fail drill is a wildly difficult shooting test, but it’s supposed to be. You are probably guaranteed not to get it your first try, because, you probably aren’t in the top 10% of shooters. This isn’t a drill to try out on your first range trip, because without really, really, solid fundamentals, it’s impossible. If you’re in a solid space already as a shooter, and you fail a high-level drill like this, the answer is to keep sucking at it until you don’t. Adjust the standards to a place where you CAN succeed, and then push yourself from there. It’s not cheating, it’s the way to get there without beating your head against a wall. Alternatively, take a class from a vetted instructor (Greg offers some here). Explain the drill and your specific difficulty with it, and it’s very likely that a competent instructor can diagnose and help correct your issues.

Whatever you do, don’t quit. As a wise philosopher once said, “Sucking at something is the first step to being sort of good”. Remember that your actions have consequences, and if you give up and succumb to the couch, you will stop moving toward shooting (or hiking or whatever it is you do) excellence, and towards couch excellence. There’s too many couch experts out there already, so do yourself a favor, get back out there, and go suck harder until you don’t.

Lars Smith
Lars is one of Gat's Wordmancers, having come to the company after years of experience in biology, agriculture, management, marketing, and writing. He found the gun community through prepping, and after realizing where he was on the Dunning-Kruger scale, jumped into the self-defense community with both feet. Since then, the 80 hours of professional firearms instruction he's taken has only made him hungry for more.