It’ll Never Happen to Me
That’s the prevailing mindset of students that show up at the USAF SERE School. They say, “Other people get shot down or captured, but not me. It’ll never happen to me”. They’re here because the training is part of their pipeline; it’s required for their job. They’re here to check the box and move on. They go through the motions, but it’s not authentic. The training is not internalized.
Once in a great while a student comes through who’ll eat up anything they can get their hands on. They ask great questions, exceed every standard placed on them and leave here armed with a craft that can save lives. This is a great example of someone who is capitalizing on opportunity.
If you are only pursuing your passions, you’re missing out on so many opportunities. Instead, jump on the chance to learn something new and bring passion with you! Never before in the history of the world has information and opportunity been more accessible and abundant. It’s not just the entitled that have access to this information either. The internet is widespread and available to the vast majority. YouTube alone is a priceless resource: I can learn how to disassemble my dryer and change out a thermostat, cook the perfect omelet and understand how to build a lower receiver for an AR-15 in just 20 minutes on my laptop from the comfort of my couch. Getting off the couch and applying the information is the genuine obstacle.
Knowing is Not Enough
Derek Sivers says, “If information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs”. Truer words were never spoken. The trait that sets us apart is putting action to the knowledge we attain. Information must be acted upon to induce change and build skill.
Let me illustrate this for you- I knew a guy who had multiple high-end assault rifles encrusted with numerous lasers, Trijicon ACOGs, etc. Would you believe that not one of them was zeroed to the weapon? He just had them mounted on there for show! In practical applications, those guns will do him no good. He has never trained with them. He’s just another guy suffering from what I call “bowflex syndrome”. Just because you have the equipment doesn’t mean you’re using it. Anyone with money can own all kinds of high-end gadgets, but the real payout comes to the practitioner who puts in the time and effort to internalize training and transform new information into an acquired skill. Like a scalpel in an untrained hand will only maim and destroy, but a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon can heal and restore. Training makes all the difference.
Invest in Yourself
I play disc golf recreationally and carry two discs (one driver, one putter) that I found on a river diving trip (training breath-hold and water confidence). Occasionally I get to play with guys who take the sport much more serious than I do. They have specialized disc golf bags loaded with probably 40 discs or more that all have a unique weight and flight pattern. At the tee, they spend a lot of time carefully selecting the perfect disc for their throw, while I’ve long since thrown one of the two discs I’m carrying. The interesting thing is that I often beat these guys (or am only a few strokes behind them) with all their specialized equipment. Not because of talent or luck, but because I know exactly what the two discs that I carry do. I know precisely how they fly when I throw them forehand or backhand because I throw them every single time I play any hole. The guys with 40+ discs are constantly trying to remember how each disc performs that they have in that overpriced bag. They’re too busy farting around with their equipment instead of reading the terrain and adjusting their next throw. This gear fetish is abundant in a multitude of other disciplines. Maybe you’ve seen these types of guys in life who have lots of fancy equipment but are far too short on skill.
Unfortunately, it seems that we’re content to be a nation of consumers. It’s exciting to buy fancy equipment and outfit your kit for…whatever. But the harsh reality is that we’re putting more faith and financing in our possessions than we are in our abilities. There are a lot of sites out there in the preparedness community that touch on a host of issues and offer a barrage of shiny widgets as logical solutions. Preparedness is a multibillion dollar business and we’re getting really good at lining the pockets of the manufacturers. Meanwhile this “solution” appeals to the consumer as it’s much easier to throw a gadget at the problem than to develop skill by training to the hurdle.
Avoiding the trap of buying material solutions to your problems will free up funding to invest in yourself and develop variety and proficiency in your tradecraft. Step out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill, take a class, or refresh a skill that has atrophied over time. Act on what you’ve learned! Teach it to someone else and you’ll both benefit. Become a student of life and never settle for thinking that you have “arrived”. Your mind is like a muscle; it must be exercised and exposed to new stressors to keep it strong. The big takeaway here is this: Knowledge weighs nothing and skills will beat gadgets any day of the week and twice on Sundays.