Back to the Basics

famous-quotes-51307-statusmind-comSo much in life revolves around being good at the basics.

In Special Forces we are supposed to be good at a whole bunch of different things, from shooting to speaking foreign languages to doing surgery (for medics, anyway). I think a lot of the time we fall into the trap of thinking that because we are high speed and “special” we only need to work on the high speed and “special” skills. Guys would rather practice surgery than tourniquets. We would rather do live fire room clearing than boring patrolling or dry fire on the flat range. We would rather get jacked and tan in the gym than get cold and hungry in the mountains.

It’s human nature, I suppose. We like variety, and we despise regularity. But the best Special Forces guys I have ever met weren’t the ones with the most high-speed schools, or fancy gear or custom weapon accoutrements. They were the ones who practiced the basics regularly. They say, “We aren’t special because we do advanced techniques. We are special because we do the basic things better than anyone else.”

This is the approach I have tried to embrace more and more as I have gotten older, and (I hope) wiser. I have drawn back from trying constantly to learn new and different skills, and have started to apply myself to refining and deepening the ones I already have.

The key to this is regularity. I did the math, and found that if you do something thirty-three times a day, monday through saturday, for a full year, at the end of that year you will have done that thing 10,000 times. That is not a bad foundation for mastery of that skill, but it requires discipline, and time management. You have to order your day to enable you to practice that thing.

For instance, if you want to master a punch or a kick, then you might hang a punching bag in your garage so that you have to pass it on your way to your car. Then, when you get home from work, before you go inside the house, practice that punch 33 times.

In order for this to work, however, you really have to practice that thing. It is not enough just to go through the motion. Every repetition needs to be intentional, done with the perfect form and utmost intensity that you want to be present if you ever throw that punch for real.

People say, “Practice makes perfect” but fighters are more likely to say, “Practice makes permanent.” Practice simply ingrains synaptic pathways and hence their corresponding motor patterns. Sloppy practice will ingrain sloppy patterns. Efficient practice will ingrain efficient patterns.

This works for far more than just physical skills. Do you want to become better at memorizing poetry? Memorize a line or two of poetry every day.  Do you want to learn a language? Get yourself a quizlet app and study 10 words per day.

Pick something that you want to be good at. Anything. It doesn’t matter what. Break it down into its most basic components, and make it a priority to practice that thing every day, with intention and purpose and the best technical form you can muster.  At the end of the year you will be amazed at how much you have improved.



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