Upgrading (article)

Everyone wants to improve their shooting and there are many ways to do it.  Your first thoughts might be to increase your knowledge by investigating some of the books, audios and videos that skilled instructors and champion shooters have produced.  You might think about adding another day a week to your practice schedule.  How about upgrading the level of tournaments you attend from local to national?  Now might be a good time to start taking lessons from an instructor instead of trying to go it alone.  Is this the time to move from my old gun to a newer higher-dollar one?  How about a custom stock?  These are all good examples of upgrading.

Upgrading is an important part of moving up your mastery curve.  The key is doing it well.  Let’s look at some examples, both good and bad ways, to use upgrading, to see if we can improve your ability to use this technique.

First, you must decide what needs to be upgraded.  Begin by determining if it is important at all for you to improve.  If you are satisfied with where you are then I take my hat off to you Sir.  If, on the other hand, you are less than satisfied and you are ready to upgrade I must offer you a note of caution.  Be careful only to change the things that need improving and keep the things that are just fine the way they are.  It is not necessary for you to completely start over.  You are doing a lot of things well.  List the things that you feel you do not need to change first before changing anything.  You need to reinforce these strengths by writing them down and it will jog your memory to look at the things that need improving.

Next, changing many things at once leads to chaos. If you upgrade two or more things simultaneously and you improve even a little you cannot know for certain what caused the change but if you only change one thing at a time you can know for certain that the upgrade worked.  To determine what to upgrade first you must prioritize the list of things that you intend to upgrade.  Breaking down the items in the following categories always helps me to better decide how to proceed; what would make the biggest difference in my score, rank the list in order of how long you feel it will take to complete, order the items based on how much or how little you need to discipline yourself to do them and how much will it cost in dollars, effort and in time.  Most of the time an item will jump out at you, compelling you to upgrade it.  Often the really important upgrades are in areas that we have avoided until now because we really do not want to pay the price required to make them work.  We tend to do the things we like to do and avoid those that are boring, painful or require us to change.

OK, you know what you are going to upgrade.  Now is the time for laser-like focus on the things required to maximize this upgrade.  When I was in high school I started playing guitar.  I bought a cheap guitar to learn on.  Then I bought one a little better but not the one I wanted rationalizing that I just could not afford it.  As years passed I realized that I had spent more money on the six guitars that I owned than the one I really wanted cost in the first place, and I still did not own a really fine instrument.  I sold all of my guitars and bought the high dollar one.  I still have it today and I have no desire to replace it.  Many shooters buy shotguns the same way.  You will be happier in the long run to just bite the bullet and get the one you really want to start with even if you have to sacrifice going to a few shoots to pay for it.  I believe that the purchase and fit of a shotgun should not be something you skimp on in any way.  Most guns will hit the targets if they fit you and you execute the correct move to the target.  What will make a difference is how you feel about the gun.  If you feel pride of ownership every time you take it out of the case your Self Image will grow just having it in your hands and that is worth thousands of dollars.  If you feel that you are at a disadvantage to the other shooters in your class because of the gun you shoot you need another gun, not because it will hit more targets but because it won’t.  But, if you think that a certain gun will hit more targets then it will hit more targets.  Don’t be concerned so much that you should only buy what you need.  It makes sense to only buy what you need but if this were the only factor in purchasing things we would all be riding in the same cheap cars, living in little apartments and married to women without makeup.  Buy the darn thing, enjoy it and move on.

Upgrading form is an ongoing issue with shooters wanting to win competitions.  It is most often done by taking a lesson with an instructor.  First, do not hire an instructor that you are not certain will be giving you sound advice.  Second, follow his advice.  These guys do not stay in business long if they offer bad advice but some are better for you than others because of the way they teach.  The competition among the top teachers is fierce and they know that they must find ways to separate themselves from each other so they are not all going after the same student.  Do not be afraid to interview your instructor.  Ask them what they consider their specialty to be before you tell them what you are looking for.  Some are especially good with beginning shooters while others work best with elite shooters.  Some have better results with juniors while others relate better with veterans.  Find the best instructor for you.  There are advantages and disadvantages to living close to your instructor.  You will save money if they are close by but I believe there is benefit to you to have to travel to your teacher.  I understand why shooters take lessons from the instructors that come to their clubs but you will get far more out of a lesson if you are not at home.  If you have to travel and stay in a hotel you are forced out of your old environment and you will focus better on the training presented.  Also, having time to think on the plane flight or the long drive home will help to reinforce what you have learned.  One final thought on instructors.  Always schedule your next lesson with them while you are attending the current one.  The good instructor’s schedule tends to fill up and their prices are not going down.

Upgrading is all about how well we deal with change.  It is human nature to think that by changing we will get better.  So, we tend to move toward change most often after a poor performance and we tend toward stability when we are satisfied with our shooting.  Another need for caution here; if you misread the reason for your poor performance you may be trying to fix a part of your game that is not broken.  We see this often here at Mental Management Systems.  Shooters are struggling in competitions because of mental error and are misdiagnosing it as technical error.  Be careful that you do not abandon proper form thinking it will increase your score.  If you shot well with this technique in the past there might be another reason why you are not shooting well now.  Try to determine just how good a diagnostician you are by getting a second opinion before you kill the patient.

Upgrading is an important part of the process of becoming a better shooter.  Everyone has to deal with change to improve.  I think it was Albert Einstein that said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Maybe sanity is choosing to upgrade what we need to improve, leaving alone what we do not and having the good sense to notice the difference.

Previous post:

Next post: