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That Damned Old Yardstick

  • 4 min read

There are three things every man KNOWS he is good at: driving, shooting, and fucking.

There’s just one problem: there is almost universally very little quantitative data to support this “knowledge”, and any attempt to measure performance in these areas manifests results that disappoint everyone in the equation.

Typically our personal perspective of our experiences has crafted a sense of competence that may not be valid. Psychologists call this Cognitive Dissonance, orthe state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

Let me create a logical chain, and try to stay with me. If we think we are better than we are, it is safe to say we want to be good at those things, right? But, thinking we are better than we are is not how we increase our performance. In order to improve, we must actually KNOW where our performance stacks up with reality.

So, how do we divorce ourselves from rose colored glasses and start fixing ourselves?

External evaluation is key to a solid understanding of our own abilities. What good are countless hours training if we aren’t evaluating the effectiveness of our methods? We can’t evolve if we aren’t exposing our deficiencies in a crucible. It’s a lot easier to be the strongest person you know when you’re lifting in your parents’ basement as opposed to within the guidelines of a sanctioning body and in the public eye.

Training To Fail By Failing To Train Properly

It’s easy to rest on our laurels when it comes to performance metrics; let me tell you a little story.

I have always been good with a rifle. I have NEVER been more than lucky with a pistol. Guess which I prefer shooting. When I attended the inaugural SOFLETE coaching seminar in Ohio, I thought I was ready because I was in the gym 5 times a week, generally following programming (but more doing of what I wanted to do), and I was shooting regularly (almost exclusively rifles).

We all know how this is gonna go, right? I straight up embarrassed myself on Energy System Development work and pistol shooting: two of the main things I knew I wasn’t prepared for and just avoided because I didn’t like them. I barely saved my self-respect by smoking anything rifle oriented. I mean, I was a still a “Green Beret”, just one who was shitty at running repeat sprints, lifting heavy things, and shooting a pistol.

Wait…those limitations really hurt my ability to be a good Special Forces guy, huh?

Owning that realization woke me up and made me reassess a lot about my training. I re-booted my pistol shooting, spent time daily dry firing, and bought a lot of ammo for a new gun that I had confidence in. I started followingSOFLETE programming that I didn’t have control over, and where my numbers were compared to other participants, I watched my performance and thresholds climb.

Top Tactical Athletes Use External Validation

If we want to be successful we need to make sure our training is specific to our needs, externally evaluated, and open to challengers. Your training requirements should be determined by you and your needs, but there aren’t many individuals out there who can program their own training and follow it effectively. Try to source training that allows competition and provides some level of accountability. That’s whywe built an app at SOFLETE, we wanted people to have a community to drive them even if it was a virtual one.

If you are evaluating your own training, you are setting yourself up for failure. Make sure you have others evaluating your methods and practices. We all need coaches; even the best athletes and shooters have coaches. It serves to refine our fine motor skills when we have someone offering ways to improve our efficiency.

Sign up for races and competitions and shooting matches. Measure yourself against others often. A lot of combat vets point to their survival of combat as proof of their superiority at all things fitness and tactics, they also use this experience denigrate civilian competition as a measuring stick. Since we cannot easily or safely replicate the conditions of combat, nor can we discount the role of luck in combat survivability, we can’t ignore the value of civilian competitions as a metric of proficiency. In fact, the sting of being beaten by people with less experience than ourselves should motivate growth.

Sign up, understand that certain aspects are gamed, and then try to keep up. It's easy to tell people you're the best from behind a curtain. Put up or shut up.

When confronted with their own deficiencies, especially in an area where personal pride is involved, a lot of people will deflect or disengage. Rationalized failure is a major roadblock that prevents growth.

Don’t be afraid of the yardstick. Don’t ignore your weaknesses. Always remember there is room for improvement and no shame in pursuing it.