1000 Days of Practice (Part IV)

What have I gained from the second run of 1,000 Days?

Purely on a mechanical level, lots of reps. The average number of repetitions I did each day was somewhere between 30 and 40. Some of the regimens I have used frequently in the final year are:

  • My 12 shot drill; two hands, primary hand only, support hand only – 36 reps
  • The LAPD Bonus Course – 40 reps
  • A two target adaptation of the Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course (pre-9/11) – 30 reps
  • An Enhanced Standard version of the State of Illinois Police Qualification Course – 30 reps
  • Defensive Pistol I of the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program (through Sharpshooter) – 80 reps
  • Tactical Performance Center dots – two hands, primary hand only, support hand only – 75 reps
  • The Georgia Security Guard Qualification Course – 48 reps

Let’s say the average is 40, which might not seem like a lot on an individual daily basis. However, by the end, I will have seen the sights and pressed the trigger smoothly 40,000 times. Dryfire provides feedback on the quality of those movements in a way that livefire cannot, simply because of recoil. Even if I didn’t already know how to the see the sights and press the trigger smoothly, 40,000 deliberate repetitions of them with quality feedback would go a long way to learning them. Not to mention the difference in cost between firing 40,000 dryfire repetitions ($0) and 40,000 rounds livefire (~$10,000 for the ammunition alone).

Since I religiously check the status of my pistol each day before dryfiring, I will also have completed 1,000 repetitions of correctly determining the load status of my firearm. My procedure for doing that has become completely automatic. I notice it when I go to the range or a gun shop and someone hands me a pistol; I don’t even think about checking it, I just do in a sequence.

On another level, I learned to plan ahead, develop a list of options, and then decide which option to implement in the moment. All of the above regimens have some training aid readily available in my dryfire practice area. For example the TPC dot target and 12 shot drill are two of the targets I have hidden behind a novelty sign in my practice area. The LAPD Bonus Course, Ill-Annoy Police Qual, and FAM TPC are recordings on my phone and in my computer. Defensive Pistol I is a sheet I have on a clipboard in the area.

For each regimen, I developed the material ahead of time. Then I set it up so I had immediate access to the target, the recording/sheet, or both. This is John Boyd’s true legacy to us about tactics, drawn from the Aerial Attack Study, not some nearly incomprehensible diagram and touchy-feely misinterpretation about outwitting our enemies in the moment.

By having an already developed group of options, we can pick from them and execute immediately even when we are tired, stressed, or simply don’t know what else to do. Getting into the habit of thinking ahead of time, developing options, and then simply picking from the list when needed has been a powerful learning experience for me.

Having a list of options doesn’t preclude me from adapting and improvising for the situation. I don’t have a set regimen for practicing with my flashlight. Instead I pick one of my regimens and do it with a flashlight.

Philosophically, making the commitment to follow a daily process of repetition and desire for excellence has been the most valuable part of the 1,000 Days. Periodically, people ask questions like “Are you really planning to do this for 1,000 Days straight? Although I generally respond with a simple ‘Yes,’ there’s a lot more to it than that. Aristotle said:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

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That applies in many areas of life. While I was developing some sales tools for real estate agents and other salespeople, a friend commented that her firm already had a training program and tools for their people. She said that many of the salespeople didn’t use them though and were always looking for something new or ‘cool’ or simply improvised on their sales calls. Doing so tended to produce mediocre results because they were always improvising.

Improvisation is overrated.

–William Aprill

The really successful salespeople followed the company program and used established tools. As a result, they closed a lot more sales using a limited set of tools and techniques. They had practiced extensively (every sales call is a practice) and could use a small set of tools and techniques to a high standard of excellence.

Bruce Lee is reported to have said:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

Colonel Boyd provided us with an example of how right Lee was. Boyd’s reputation as ’Forty Second Boyd’  [Coram, p 88] was gained through his ability to perform one single aerial maneuver with the F-100 fighter better than anyone else in the world. During his years as an instructor at the USAF Fighter Weapons School, he was never bested and only was only flown to a ‘dead heat’ once. He had pushed and tested the F-100 to its absolute limit on one aerial braking maneuver over and over again until he could slow the aircraft several hundred miles per hour in a matter of a few seconds. His opponent, unable to replicate or defeat the maneuver, would then unintentionally fly past him. Boyd would then regain his speed and get on the opponent’s tail, radioing the kill signal “Guns! Guns! Guns!”

There’s a lesson for us from ‘Forty Second Boyd.’ The real estate phrase ‘location, location, location’ can also be paraphrased as ‘repetition, repetition, repetition’ when we need to prepare ourselves for action and achievement.

Part I

Part II

Part III

 

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  1. […] Source: 1000 Days of Practice (Part IV) […]

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