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    Fear: The Final Marketing Frontier

    Welcome to America 2017. A place that many feel is reminiscent of New Jack City, a film that highlighted the violence surrounding the crack cocaine epidemic of the 80’s and 90’s. We live in a country where national violence statistics have been on the downslope for almost 25 years with only a very recent uptick in dense urban areas; a nation where the odds of a kid dying in a mass shooting are 1:12,000,000. Wait, what did I say? Yes, you are twelve times less likely to die of a mass shooting than you are to be struck by lightning. To further complicate your media influenced worldview, since September 11, 2001 you are more likely to be killed by falling furniture than by a rogue “إرهابي”. So why is it that everywhere we turn the firearms and self-defense training industry is trying to convince you that your family’s safety depends on your ability to morph into an egalitarian John Wick? Why is the majority of marketing about defending yourself and others from evil forces of mythical proportions? Is this dialogue building better citizens that are more competent technically and tactically, or is it creating a dangerous mindset that sacrifices proficiency in favor of a false dichotomy?



    The sky is falling, the sky is falling…

    First, let’s talk numbers. I have tried to be as pragmatic about the interpretation of statistics as possible... after all, haters will say you can make numbers say whatever you want them to say. The lifetime risk of dying in a mass shooting is around 1 in 110,154 (surprisingly high due to a generous definition and the inclusion of atypical data that barely fits the common definition), about the same as being legally executed. The odds of a student being shot in a school shooting are 1 in 7,800,000. The odds of being murdered are 1 in 18,900... but that is misleading; the odds for someone living in a rural area are much lower and the odds for someone in a poor urban setting much higher. Where you are and how you carry yourself have a huge bearing on the likelihood of becoming one of these statistics. Much like getting struck by lightning (1 in 1,100,000) the likelihood of it happening is dependent on where you are AND the population density of that location. We would also be wise to remember that less than 30% of murders occur as a result of an active attempt to commit a felony, such as a robbery. With males it is almost universally a product of social confrontation and, for females, the final evolution of an abusive relationship.



    So What?

    You might be asking, “why do I care about numbers, and what does it mean to me? I know a guy who was robbed and I have a friend of my cousins who was a victim of mass violence.” Bottom Line Up Front, statistically there is not a credible threat of wholesale violence present to normal citizens in the United States. Are there a variety of anomalies out there that are scary? Sure, but training for those is counter productive. We only have so much time on this planet to focus on what matters. Most of us pay subject matter experts to winnow the wheat from the chaff and break down what is important to us as consumers. A quality instructor and an ethical firearms organization will be focused on providing a realistic and grounded training program that focuses on reality, not fantasy. Being handy with the steel is something I advocate, but it is far less important than conflict resolution skills and a heightened sense of situational awareness.  



    How do you determine snake oil from ambrosia?

    It’s easy to be romanced by the tropes of the firearms charlatans. “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six.” “You can be prepared or you can be a casualty.” “Just try it.” These kinds of phrases sound amazing in sound bytes but they are almost never accompanying a sound base of instruction that focuses on the boring and grinding repetition that make a better shooter. Presentation drills until muscle failure aren’t sexy. Dry fire is time consuming. Sustainment training requires personal accountability. Most of the instructors selling fear, stress shooting, and scenario based fantasy have found out the hard way that it’s difficult to sell good training, so they have resorted to selling a romanticized idea of “violence behind every blade of grass” to an audience that is ripe for their message because of a constant 24 hour barrage of heavily spun and always negative news.

    When a consumer resolves to spend money on training it’s usually because they don’t feel confident in their existing skill set or because they want to see an appreciable improvement in a performance metric they feel is lacking. Marketing clouds that judgement process and makes finding an instructor a daunting task. Instructors should be releasing their program of instruction, their course of fire and goals of training should be specific and explicit, and their focus on mindset should be grounded in legal constraints and understanding how to de-escalate or break contact before a gunfight ever begins. Any attempt to obfuscate training goals or promote John J. Rambo aggression in civilian shooters is a huge red flag.



    How do you find the right balance?

    Shooting is a martial art, meaning it is an art/sport centered around war. Becoming good at shooting under mental and physical stress involves mastery of the basics of shooting accurately and quickly from a static position. It is important that as a student of shooting you don’t outrun your headlights. If you are developing advanced skills using training wheels, you’re likely going to burn in bad habits and be unable to implement these skills effectively if you ever have to use them practically. Shooting is also a highly perishable skill. If you aren't training it regularly, you will lose your proficiency. If your budget allows for one shooting course a year, make sure that it is targeted at the skills you need to be working on, then train those skills in dry fire practice after the course is complete to burn them into your neuro-pathways.

    An instructor that survived war and has a military background doesn’t necessarily translate into being the best instructor. Consumers need to get honest assessments from their fellow shooters before they spend money. The mindset that makes one successful at war isn’t always the one you need or want when using a firearm in the United States. As with civilian instructors, it is often a mixed bag. Even the most elite units in the military still consult a lot of civilian shooters for ways to improve their skillsets.

    A great forum for learning to be more proficient at shooting is the competitive shooting arena. A lot of military instructors are quick to discount competitive shooters as “gamers” but most competitive shooters are more capable shooters than their military counterparts due to having made the process fun and repeatable. I cringe when I hear guys accuse an instructor of being less relevant because he never deployed… shooting is shooting.


    Fast Accurate Hits

    Most people who resolve conflicts with firearms have little to no formal training, I firmly believe that the most important part of resolving or avoiding a situation with a potentially violent outcome starts in your head. Everyone is happier walking away without having to take another person’s life. However, when I train to use a firearm, I know that shooting fast and straight are the biggest concerns in winning a gunfight. As an eternal student of the craft, I will never know everything. I do, however, know what a solid foundation is built upon. Don’t allow yourself to bypass the most important fundamentals in your haste to achieve hero status resolving a violent situation that may never come.  If it DOES ever happen to you you’ll be glad that you spent countless hours on the basics, honing your ability to place rounds where you desire them rapidly while creating space and finding cover. One thing you’ll never think: “I wish I had spent more time figuring out center axis relock.”


    Why Your Detox Is Bullshit

    Cleanses and detoxes seem to have taken hold as a trend in the diet industry. A cleanse or detox diet usually restricts specific types of foods or entire food groups. Sometimes food itself is even restricted for a few days, and miracle juices full of empty promises replace it. This idea that you need to purchase an overpriced system sold by some pyramid scheme to flush out toxins is straight nonsense.

    What’s a toxin anyway?

    I imagine Dr. Oz and friends love this word because it sounds intimidating, sparking action among soccer moms and gym rats alike. There are two main types of toxins, endotoxins and exotoxins, which are a part of everyday life. Endotoxins are byproducts of the body’s normal functions. An example of an endotoxin is human waste. Exotoxins come from the environment. We can introduce exotoxins into our body through food and drinks, but they are also in the air we breathe and even absorbed through our skin.

    This Just In: Your Body Detoxes Itself

    Detoxification refers to the metabolism and excretion of toxins. Your liver, kidneys, intestines and colon are all organs that play a role in your body’s natural detoxification process. Toxins leave the body through breathing exhalation, feces, sweat and urine. Your liver cleanses your blood. Your kidneys filter waste in the body and excrete it through urine. Your intestines and colon absorb nutrients and water, letting waste bypass and leave the body as feces. Your body is constantly going through its natural detoxification process, every single day.

    How to Help Your Body

    Before you take the BeachBody “Which Cleanse is Right for You?” quiz, take a step back and examine the eating patterns you engage in on a daily basis. Making realistic healthy changes can help support your body’s natural detox process. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the day. Make sure to eat your fruits and vegetables, about 5 to 9 servings per day. Include fiber in your diet from nuts, seeds, vegetables and whole grains. Eat fermented foods with naturally occurring probiotics like kefir, sauerkraut and yogurt. If you aren’t a fermented foods fan, high-quality probiotic supplements might be a good option for you. These healthy eating habits promote bowel regularity, which is good indicator of the body’s ability to detoxify itself.

    Wait, so this isn’t a 10 day cleanse?

    If you want a truly healthy and sustainable lifestyle, you need to throw this idea of fad diets, cleanses and detoxes out the window and never look back. If there was a “21 day fix” to eternal health, the billion dollar diet industry wouldn’t exist. Your body isn’t designed to drop five pounds in five days. The secret to fueling your body to achieve your goals is to commit to a healthy lifestyle. If it’s overwhelming to suddenly adapt these healthy eating patterns mentioned, just work on tackling them one at a time. The key is to be patient, and be consistent. I know this concept doesn’t sound as glamorous as the Fit Tea promise, but I can tell you- it actually works.


    The SOFLETE Crew Hits Boulder, CO

    The SOFLETE HQ Crew shows up to Boulder, CO. Of course, the first stop.... a gym. Huge thanks to CrossFit ETB for letting us come #ClangAndBang in your weight room. 
    After a very professional warmup lead by SOFLETE George, we threw down on a solid strength session of a power clean complex.
    The Stamina session was brutal, leaving Doug feeling like he had just survived his first day in prison. #WhichSetYouRollin 
    Luckily some breathing drills got us back to that #SafeSpace we needed.
    After some much needed grub and recovery, we hit the local trails around Boulder. #RunningBreedsCoweardice  
    The nights were long, but rest assured, completely professional. 
    ​Tuesday morning the whole crew picked up some badass mountain bikes. Thinking we would conquer the mountain, we resolved to #DiePanting once the altitude hit. 
    Once everyone could breath again we set out for some rocks. Some local guiding and talent put us onto some awesome climbing. 
    In short the HQ crew had an amazing week getting outside and pushing the #DieLiving philosophy as a team. We highlighted our own strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly we grew as a team through shared experience.

    Measuring What Matters

    When we first began to play as children, it was simply play.

    As young kids, we loved just to kick the ball around the yard, hit a ball with a bat or toss it into a hoop. Harken back to the days of the Sandlot, when Scott Smalls stumbles across a group of unruly, charismatic young boys just out playing ball in the yard.

    The narrator in the movie, Scott Small's future self, mentions how "they never kept score, they never chose sides…they really never stopped playing the game".

    It isn't until later in life that we learn to score our games and choose sides. Scoring denotes a clear winner and loser, creates competition, and frames our reality into a hierarchy allowing us to make sense of things. Comparatively, when we grow older, numbers, statistics and placement begin to mean more to each of us.

    Nobody would disagree that healthy competition drives each one of us to a higher state of performance, but to measure performance solely based on how much, how fast or how high can really detract from your lifelong journey as an athlete.

    Don’t Measure By Focusing on Beginner Numbers

    If I laid out my athletic journey on a simple line graph to show my "numbers," my chart is by no means straight or necessarily pointed upward.

    For many of us, training is circular. I'm not talking about macro and micro cycles here; I'm referring to the point at which we reach the extent lifting skill and must revert to a lighter weight to fix our technique. Many lifters experience those beginner gains where more and more weight get stacked on, and PRs get recorded on the "1., 2. Or 3." slot on the gyms record board. We ceremoniously conclude our feat by posting videos on social media to remove all doubt of accomplishment.

    If anyone reading this is like me, your beginner gains plateaued relatively quickly, and you soon outran the headlights of your skill as a lifter. Perhaps you've injured yourself by thinking you could get away with "muscling through it" — or even worse, you made a lift with atrocious form giving you just a little more confidence telling yourself you could TOTALLY do more next time.

    Periods like this are where numbers fail us. We've convinced ourselves that higher or heavier is better even though we might have just narrowly escaped or suffered a career-ending injury for the sake of "progress."  

    For those who love the game, we need only apply a little patience during our plateaus to focus simply moving better and more efficiently with a lighter, more manageable load.

    Measure Your Training To Be Effortless at the Basics

    In sport our perceived level of optimal performance or goal caps our training pyramid: for example: doing a triathlon, competing in a tournament, going to regionals, etc.

    If this is you, then performance in your area is what you should measure and value.

    Samuel Spiegelman, a coach and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner at Applied Strength and Conditioning in Chicago, breaks it down simply for his BJJ athletes: "strength will help you in your sport but strength ISN'T your sport." Anyone who practices MMA or BJJ will certainly agree that "being strong is important" but as many of the greats, including Sam have noted, "being effortless is a real sign of mastery." Effortlessness in this regard is a concentrated focus on skill development.

    For most of us in the normal world, effortlessness reflects on our ability to do the basics really really well and as such is frankly hard to quantify with a number or a statistic — but hot damn if you don't know it when you feel it! Hence why we often find ourselves saying, "gosh, they make it look so easy!"

    Coincidently, when you or I screw something up in the gym or throw a round at the range more often than not, we failed at something basic.

    Measure Performance Correctly

    As coaches and athletes, points of performance while lifting becomes exponentially more important the further we climb towards the top of our pyramid. Levels of effortlessness and mastery become reflective in proper timing, or keeping the bar fractions of an inch closer to our bodies during a snatch or clean.

    These significant milestones in development should not be overlooked and ought to be recognized as enthusiastically as a PR despite their lack of "sex-appeal." Athletes and coaches need to become mindful of movement and understand subtleties that indicate not IF a person could lift more weight but when they are ready to.

    Numbers and statistics play a significant role in the psychology of training and sport as well. Like many of us serious gym nuts, we use numbers; benchmarks and scores compare ourselves to one another. Competition, like alcohol, is an excellent mistress but a poor master. No two roads to human optimization are exactly alike, and each person needs to be mindful that their road is exactly that, their road.  

    In 1998 quarterback Ryan Leaf was the number two pick in the first-round NFL Draft. After a promising college career at Washington State, Ryan was one of the most hyped players coming into the NFL. After a stellar 3-year career, peppered with injuries, poor work ethic and bad play Ryan Leaf left the NFL and later sentenced to seven years in prison for burglary, felony, and drug-related charges.

    Two years after Ryan Leaf was drafted in 1998, another young quarterback was drafted into the NFL. He occupied the prestigious 199th slot in the 6th Round of the NFL Draft (there are seven rounds total).

    His name was Tom Brady.

    As tactical athletes, it is imperative that we measure performance correctly and not over or understate the importance of certain aspects of our training. For those of us who are guilty of allowing our "numbers" in the gym to impact our attitudes towards everything else in our daily lives, take a minute and remember when you started down this path and never forget what it felt like to just play for no other reason than simply loving the game.