In the arena

While in Las Vegas recently I had a conversation with a student who was one of our original students, going back almost 9 years ago. First off it was great to catch up with him, but more importantly to listen to his feedback.

It was interesting to hear his anxiety about attending class, even back then there was a reputation with our programs of being physically and performance demanding. Back then the programs were only two days in duration, but literally packed to the rim with evolutions. Those were the days for sure.

The anxiety had more to do with his performance compared to his peers. While it is easy to look back and laugh a bit, I can imagine how difficult it must have been for him. I see this today only I would say it is ten times worse. Most folks don’t like to be seen as being vulnerable or fallible. That couldn’t be further from the truth, showing up to one of classes his a huge accomplishment. I commend those who have the courage to do so, many are returning students and some are new, but they all know that it’s time to put on their big boy or girl pants and go all in all the time.

One of the first things I do is to congratulate those who show up because even though someone might register we still see a no-show occasionally. I then tell everyone my expectations of them and their performance. It is no secret that I hold class members to a high standard, but the difference is I believe they can each attain new levels of skill. I believe in empowering the student and giving them the platform to excel. In my experience they eagerly step up to the plate and give it their all, they just need the recognition that is what I expect of them and the venue to perform.

While some will look at vulnerability as weakness, I see it as courage. It is not easy to put yourself out there, society and the industry has a warped sense of being and performance. It takes courage to risk failure, ridicule and even defeat, but those who dust themselves off and get right back at it will always have my respect.

Probably one of the greatest compliments I could receive came from a long time friend, a professional soldier whom I have the utmost respect for. He had the opportunity to finally train as a student with us after so many years (secretly I was jealous as we both admit how much we love to train) and the opportunity to push himself knowing my expectations. He gained a new affection for some of the more difficult drills and knowing he continues to use the drills for his own professional development is the greatest compliment I could receive.

Teddy Roosevelt said it best and I am paraphrasing his monumental “Man in the Arena” speech; “it’s not the critic who counts, but the credit goes to the man who is in the arena, face marred with blood, sweat and tears.” So, what are you waiting for, get in the arena.

2 thoughts on “In the arena

  1. Rcraigjohn says:

    Having taken two of your classes, I can attest that it elevates your expectation and performance. I do find that I learn more from failure than I do from success. Often, success is, as was whispered in the ear of a triumphant gladiator, fleeing. Failure on the other hand marks where you need to improve and what you need to do to succeed. For me, not performing to my expectations (which I count as failure) sharpens my resolve, identifies my weaknesses and hones where I need to improve. Success (performing to my expectations) is an achievement that is momentary, for the expectation is either too low, or then gets reset to a higher expectation. On any given day in the Olympics, there are probably a handful of people who can win a gold medal in shooting. Many factors come into play, many of which are outside one’s control. All you can do is focus on what you can control — hard work, practice, etc. Thanks, Jeff. Will be at another class soon. “Thank you sir, may I have another….”

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