Back when I was about 7 or 8 years old, my uncle decided that I was old enough to finally learn how to shoot a gun. So, he grabbed an old 30-06 he had, iron sights and all and we went outside for my first training session. I was exited to learn how to work a gun, but at the same time I was kind of annoyed that he picked the old 30-06 over one of his more interesting guns, that had red-dot sights, scopes, were semi-auto and looked more “military”. When I voiced my displeasure to him, he responded with “Son, you couldn’t hit the broad-side of a barn from 3 feet, you have to master the basics first”. What followed were a lot of sessions where I learned gun safety, we practiced trigger pulls, handling recoil, aiming, loading, unloading and a lot of other basic skills. I did eventually get to fire the guns that I found the most exiting, but I learned the most mastering the basics with that old rifle.
Like many men, I’m a bit of an equipment geek when it comes to my hobbies, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that the underlying principle that my uncle told me when I was a kid holds true for most of it. Master the basics, in simple manageable steps first, then you can move on to more advanced equipment and techniques. A simple example would be that before you can handle the recoil of semi-automatic fire, you need to learn how to handle the recoil of single-shot fire.
I found myself thinking of this after having a conversation in a gym not far from my hotel with a gentleman who was there for the first time. The guy had obviously done his research, because because when we started talking training he started mentioning super-sets, drop-sets, breaking down into body-part splits, isolation movements and the likes. The trouble was that he didn’t know the difference between a deadlift and a dead-hang pullup. He had done all his research, read up on a ton of different routines, and made the error of thinking that making something complex would ensure progress.
This made me think about the 3 stages of self-improvement that I devised a while ago and that I use as a short-hand roadmap for any change process. This is based on the fact that in the beginning just making small, simple improvements will get you great results, but diminishing returns kick in and over time you have to dial in your skillset more and more in order to improve further. In essence, this is about going from the big picture all the way down to little details over time. Continue reading