Weathering The Storm

by Braxton Taylor

If you are among the daring few who have committed to the lengthy and painstaking training road to shooting exceptionally well, then welcome to level one of Hades. According to Dante’s Inferno, this first layer is Limbo, a hellish wasteland of uncertainty and despair. As the saying goes “Abandon hope all ye who enter.”

Yes, some shooters have endured such training long enough and have come out the other side of mastery able to perform at much higher levels. Yes, with enough trigger time replete with errors, wailing and gnashing of teeth, eventually you will begin to develop greater skills.

The longer you walk that path, the greater your skills, the greater your skills the more consistent your performance, the more consistent your performance the greater your confidence. However, until that time the seemingly endless uphill battle of such pressurized training can be a confidence crusher.

Soul Crushing

Inevitably, when you ultimately push hard past the very edge of your current skills envelop it can feel like your confidence is being ripped out by the spine, spun in a blender on the highest setting, poured all over the ground and then stomped on. Most shooters quit at this point in the training game and decide that their shooting skills are “good enough.”

It is said that the 1,000-mile journey begins with the first step. Some people are born with a natural aptitude or innate talent to excel at shooting and others (like me) must work at it very hard. However, if you’re looking to experience unprecedented levels of frustration, press the limits of your discipline and commitment to your art, then stay on the path a while longer.

Consistently challenging training will not disappoint you. Frustrating and dauting as it may feel at times, there are glimmers of hope when you least expect, that show you what you’ve never been able to do before.

It may seem like countless hours of grinding away at the stone before yielding even one shiny speck of progress, but when it does happen, the clouds part, the heavens open above and the sound of trumpets played by angels can be heard across the firing line as you have finally caught lightning in a bottle.

At first you can pull it off once in a thousand tries, then eventually maybe once in 100 tries and over time even more than once in 50, inching ever closer toward making it a repeatable skill. Mastery is being able to perform consistently greater than 80 percent of the time. Grandmasters shoot to the tune of 85 percent on demand repeatable performance.

However, as soul crushing as it all may seem, despair not, as there is a reason why things tend to happen this way and it has nothing to do with your training regimen.

Learning Curve

One of the most prominent and interesting observations over my entire career spanning nearly four decades working with literally tens of thousands of students including myself and my training partners is that the learning curve is not a straight line.

It always appears darkest before it gets light. When you feel you’re right on the verge of giving it all up and throwing your hands up in abject despair in your darkest hour, the good news is that you’re knocking on the door of a major breakthrough. We are reminded by the masters that what we are trying to do, shoot consistently well, is exceptionally difficult. If it was so darn easy, then every shooter out there would be a grandmaster.

Arriving at this level of personal development is nothing but a ton of hard work filled with failure and disappointment. Those in the know have learned to “embrace the suck.” As such any number of my teachers have said “Welcome to shooting hell.”

Should you make it to the other side you will have attained your goal. Few have what it takes mentally to cross that bridge. However, without keeping on keeping on it can never happen. To this very day I’m still trying to develop the commensurate mental discipline it takes to perform consistently at the higher levels.

The learning curves spikes on some days and bottoms out on others.

You will experience days where you feel like you have backslid to levels below where you even started this training quest. Know that when it all feels like a complete mudslide backwards and your confidence is completely uprooted, that it is a sign that you are on the very cusp of a revelation.

The Chrysalis

What most shooters don’t realize is that in the throes of such committed training, your mind, body and soul undergo a complete metamorphosis. You are “dying” as a neophyte and being “reborn” as a remarkably more confident and consistent shooter at a completely different performance level. You emerge with core capabilities that you once admired in others but could barely visualize yourself doing the same.

Step one is to get on the path. Step two is to stay on the path. Along the path celebrate your successes and learn from your failures. You will fail more than you succeed. If you are not failing, then you are not pushing yourself hard enough. Errors are the experiential instructors that usher you clear outside your comfort zone.

Push that envelope, watch it bend. Weather the storm. Know that moving that heavy stone just a bit further down the road brings you that much closer to coming out the other side a better shooter.

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