Saturday, 14 November 2015

Taking Responsibility

Success in any sport or endeavour at the elite high performance end of the chart is often measured in millimetres or micro seconds. The difference between winning and losing is normally down to correct, consistent practice over a period of time that enhances skill level and protects the machine (body/mind/spirit).

Most modern warriors have the same basic skills as each other and the difference between each can be down to very small things, like genetics, a slightly more effective training program or tactics. Possibly the difference could be sheer will power or spirit to triumph over adversity.  

I have been around world class fighters and tier one soldiers for most of my adult life either as a friend, training partner or coach. Whilst all of them have put in elite level performances, they all acknowledge they can have off days.  One skill all of them seem to have is a self awareness of what is needed and required to get the job done as efficiently as possible.

One of the key areas is taking responsibility for their own development. They don’t expect to be spoon fed, they use critical thinking as a tool and they identify weak links in the chain of elements that enhance or degrade their performance at any given task.  They zero in on the weak links in the chain and turn them into strengths. 

Many years ago as a basic infantry man I was sent on a three month course where the training staff were a mixture SF instructors and other specialists. The first part of the course was what today would be called an aptitude test. Its purpose was to determine if each trainee was capable of performing to a set standard. Basically fundamental skills and hill work with bergens and anything else the training staff could dream up to test candidates. Lots of people left at this stage as they failed to meet the standard. I had a wobble early on due to poor organizational skills but pulled it together to pass.

The training staff used to walk around a lot between us as we were dying from the latest run and say things like, you know the standard required, it’s there to be done, do it or get lost.

When I passed the course I realised that was only part of the improvement journey I was on. I was surrounded by what I recall were super soldiers who carried out each skill set a hundred times better than I did. I had a list of weak links in my chain to work on to continue to improve. The main short falls were CQB pistol shooting skills, fitness mainly related to wanting additional strength but also the desire to run faster for longer, to push my limits.

When I got back to my unit I sat down wrote a list of the above and plotted and planned additional training to get where I wanted to be. This was in addition to the training the army expected me to do. If success was ten on a scale, I was was hanging around at six, looking to pull myself up. I was that person who was up at 0500 running around with a bergen. I was in the gym lifting weights instead of being out boozing. I managed get additional coaching and practice on the range.

A couple of other things happened, like attracts like and I was soon joined by a couple of other people on the early morning runs. I sought and met a physical training instructor who helped me in the gym with coaching me on power lifts. I started an informal group to work on CQB skills. I volunteered for special duties. I just kept pushing until I got want I wanted, which was me but better.  

In short despite the Army paying for my formal training and ensuring I was busy, I took responsibility for myself and my own training. When I did that I realised that I could do the same with any other skill set.

If I could leave one bit of advice to a student of anything, it is take all the instruction and help you like but above all take personal responsibility for your development.