To many individuals the terms practice and training are interchangeable. Falsely thinking that time spent practicing, by extension, qualifies as training. That practice IS training. This is not the case.
Sure training and practice are obligate symbionts (unique, coexisting, separate entities that are integral to the others survival) but they are fundamentally different. Requiring different mindsets. My focus in this article will be developing a Training mindset. Let’s first look at the definitions of practice vs training.
Practice: The improvement of already acquired behaviors and skills through repetition. The
purpose of practice isn’t to learn new skills but rather to perfect already acquired knowledge.
Practice is what we should be doing between training. Focused, consistent and effective practice is essential to skillset mastery but it isn’t what we’re discussing today…. another beast for another time.
Training: what you’re doing now, why you’re here reading this article. Training is the
procurement of knowledge, skills, and/or competencies as a result of being taught. It is the goal of improving capability, capacity, productivity and performance via learning. The training
mindset can be summed up as “always a student.” Training is how you put more tools in the proverbial toolbox. It is how you establish a proper foundation and then build on it. How your skills and ability progress.
Since teaching is central to the definition of training an instructor is needed, a subject matter expert (SME). Someone who directs or oversees the imparting of new knowledge, improves existing skills and provides feedback. Entire articles have been written on finding appropriate, qualified and suitable instructors. That journey won’t be covered here except to say that instructor choice is a major determinate of truly training or just paying to practice.
With the assumption a proper SME has been chosen, it’s your mindset that will determine what you get out of training. Back to “always being a student”. We’re going to cover 5 things that are key to the development of a training mindset.
3. Accepting feedback
4. Moving past failure
5. Developing motivation
Before we get into things it will inevitably be brought up that some small learning can occur during practice and minor skill refinement can occur while training. I agree with this, however, this speaks only to the synergetic nature of the two topics and isn’t a reflection of the true purpose of each activity. Each are separate skills and mindsets.
The training mindset begins with curiosity. The desire to know more, endless questions that drive your impulse to investigate. Back to the grade school basics of who, what, when, where, why and how. Curiosity should be a persistent part of a training mindset that is present from the early stages of skill acquisition throughout the learning process and as skill mastery is achieved.
This curiosity is what drives the desire to learn into action. Curiosity is a developed skill set. It comes through seeking out information. Curiosity is following through with the desire to improve a skill, make it faster, smoother, more efficient or find out what the next “step” is from your current knowledge. Developing curiosity requires an expenditure of effort and energy by reading, watching, thinking about, analyzing and evaluating current knowledge and recognizing deficiencies.
Even if you already possess a high level of knowledge and competency curiosity should always be present. I spend thousands of hours a year practicing anesthesia and yet I continue to explore and question the advancements, success and failures across my specialty and others. I am always curious how I can better deliver medicine and more effectively save lives. Curiosity is opening the door that leads to new skills, experience and knowledge.
Curiosity sparks the desire to learn. Before true learning can occur though one must establish
where they are starting from. What skills do you have? Do you lack practice or are you lacking
knowledge? Self-awareness determines where you need input from an SME and where you need to simply put in more practice time.
Honest introspection can be difficult and frustrating but is a key part of developing a training mindset. One cannot effectively gain knowledge if there is resistance to an honest view of where one currently is. This takes time, effort and objectivity, it too is a learned and developed
skill but it makes it possible to accept open feedback.
3 Acceptance of Feedback
Feedback, both positive and negative, is what makes training productive. Feedback should
involve learning something, it should assist in making you better, faster, more consistent or more economical in your movements. It should increase knowledge and build skills along with decreasing deficits.
Positive feedback highlights techniques and knowledge that should be continued during
practice. Negative feedback signals a need for correction and change to the students practice.
Instruction and feedback is how an instructor passes on knowledge.
If little to no feedback occurs the likelihood of learning falls dramatically. If there is little to no feedback (instructor or results) examine your instructor choice and your self-awareness. Self-awareness is closely tied to acceptance of feedback. Don’t let your ego get in the way.
Accepting feedback takes a humble attitude but it will increase the effectiveness of your training and encourage prioritizing additional training when deficiencies are inevitably discovered. It often isn’t easy. I vividly remember early in my shooting career being informed
by an skillful instructor that my stance and tactics needed updating. Despite excellent stationary marksmanship results my combination of old police tactics and a Vietnam era shooting stance wasn’t optimal for more dynamic environments and I needed to change.
The feedback wasn’t what I wanted to hear but I took the feedback for what it was and began anew. Transferring what fundamentals I could and then working with various instructors to learn more efficient and effective shooting style and tactics. It wasn’t an easy transition but the end result was a better overall product.
4 Moving Past Failure
Failure at new activities is often the norm. Initial efforts are often clunky or incorrect and the
desire to quit and instead return to practicing skills that one is already good at is very real. It was very real in my case. The draw to go back to what we excel at when faced with our own incompetence must be overcome.
Real learning requires accepting temporary ineptness with the realization that through
practice mastery will come. It does need to be reiterated that a training mindset isn’t a reflection of one’s proficiency but rather a commitment to learning and progress. The path to being great at anything includes many, many points of being average, or even terrible. Proper training should challenge you as a student. It should push you out of your comfort zone into the unknown where learning occurs.
Having a training mindset is realizing this, embracing it and working through it. Overcoming failure is also where you discover that training often isn’t exciting. In fact it can be downright boring, repetitive, time consuming and an annoying combination of mind-numbing details and intense mental focus.
Much of my learning has felt like a grudge match, me against my goal. Time and time again, forced to overcome the many different approaches that didn’t work. It’s frustrating and at times even embarrassing but with determination and help from some very excellent instructors I’ve found what worked, while learning from what didn’t.
Mental toughness and overcoming failure is a key part of a training mindset.
5 Developing Motivation
Motivation, enthusiasm, drive, ambition, initiative, determination or whatever else you want to
call it. The stuff that inspired sayings like “the only easy day was yesterday”, “you can rest when you’re dead”, “pain is weakness leaving the body”, etc. It’s the culmination of the training mindset. It’s what drives you to learn despite setbacks, obstacles or inconvenience. Motivation is what prioritizes training.
Training has three common requirements: time, resources and sacrifice. Training opportunities are often determined by the extent to which you are motivated to invest in these three requirements. Motivation is extremely personal. It is influenced by background, experience, personality and environment. It is a very broad and complex subject that encompasses thousands of books, blogs, research and theories which warrants study and learning outside of this article.
Learning what motivates you is vital to solidifying a training mindset. Since motivation is so diverse and personal I am going to forego an itemized list in favor of highlighting examples of different and unique motivations from three men I know and admire. Each man is very different, from their geographical locations to their jobs, but they all are men who have impressed me with their constant striving to train often, train hard and always be
As I have worked, watched and trained with each man up close I am constantly reminded of
Cabajar who said, “Observation is education”.
First, Chris. 16 year south Florida police and SWAT veteran, ranger qualified army vet and accomplished leader. He has an intense and unrelenting type A personality whose approach to tactical, physical and mental improvement are full of words like crush, dominate and 110%.
Setbacks and failure are just motivation to learn and overcome. His approach to having a training mindset is that “To be hard, you have to train hard”. For him the more he knows the better prepared he can be.
Second, Robert. Civilian IT security specialist, avid shooter and currently one of the top world figures in MILSIM airsoft. He approaches training with a systematic and intellectual mindset.
Learning to connect science and theory as they are applied to the psychological and kinetic aspects of the disciplines he pursues. Utilizing airsoft training to augment firearm skills and strength and endurance training to augment defensive shooting capabilities he strives to maximize his knowledge.
Last, Jay. Retired Tier 1 Delta Force operator, green beret, voting member of the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) and now instructor, trainer and small business owner. Despite recent retirement he continues to exemplify the training mindset ingrained into him as one of the world’s most elite soldier.
From bomb disposal to advanced medical care he is an example of constant learning and
honing of skills. He persistently asks questions, reads and keeps current on the research of other experts and SME’s. Jay actively passes on his own knowledge through teaching. As an SME of unique caliber he helps departments, units and individuals to cultivate the same training mindset that he possess, improving both himself and those around him.
He feels that training others promotes continual training of oneself. To him the Warrior Mindset includes a highly developed training mindset. Learn what your motivation is. Have it drive you to take classes, pursue knowledge and receive instruction. Motivation will sustain momentum and combat stagnancy that results in skill loss and ignorance.
A training mindset is developed through exercising curiosity, self-awareness, accepting
feedback, overcoming failure, and being motivated. It should be a priority for everyone, a crucial way of thinking that leads to the improvement of existing skills and development of new skills. It is what directs practice and drives progress. It depends on solid instruction and your willingness to always be a student.
Seek training out, get the most of it and keep in mind better training is better.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jesson Bateman CAA, PA-L, MHSc currently practices Anesthesia in the US and is a member of the Emergency Industries (EMI) TECC/TCCC instructor cadre and proud member of the Weaponized Medicine TACMED team. He is an avid shooter who has trained and worked with Military and Law enforcement units/agencies across Canada, Central America, and the U.S. As a proper Calgarian he enjoys cold weather, growing his beard and drinking Maple Syrup.