100 Day Challenge

In about 100 days, I will turn 50 years old.

I remember being a teenager and thinking “shit… 30? That’s fucking OLD.” And I couldn’t fathom what it meant to be “thirtysomething“. And here I am, about to turn 50.

About a year ago I thought to myself how it’d be cool to diet down, get lean, and post a thirst trap for my 50th birthday.

That won’t be happening.

I continue to fail at diet. But I continue to work at it. A few months ago I came to realize part of my problem is I’ve been very outcome-focused with my diet work – I should be process-focused. I am and can be process-focused in many other areas of my life, but diet for whatever reason escaped me. I’ve been focusing on process in my diet and while it’s not making a difference in my scale weight, it’s building habit – the habit that I will need when I start taking specific steps to drop weight (e.g. reduce caloric intake). So, it remains a struggle, but I struggle on.

The discomfort of the past few months is behind me. I’m settling into my new position at the primary job. And ahead I have no hard things to prepare for, like in 2019 when I had to stash off the Sig P365 adventure because I had to prep for Gabe White and Rangemaster Master Instructor. I mean, I shot my franken-P365 at the TacCon22 match – no qualms about sucking in public (much anymore). Seems now’s the time to make the switch to the red dot. I’ll suck for a while, and that’s fine.

There’s some other things about myself that I want to unfuck.

But that’s often the thing. People see all these things, big things, many things, monumental things. They dive headlong in with only so much plan and direction, or even manageability – and it often leads to failure. In software development we don’t implement a HUGE new feature (a “13 point story”) in one fell shot. No, we analyze the big and work to break it down into smaller, more workable, more consumable chunks (break it into 13 1-point stories). It’s also easier to pivot mid-way, if necessary.

I have big places I want to be with and for myself – but I need to start small. As I’ve been saying lately (inspired by Jim Wendler):

Slow progress is still progress.

That whole “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” thing. A lot of baby steps consistently over time add up into some big changes. It’s easier to take baby steps every day.

“It’s always been one of my goals to standing press 300 pounds. In the summer of 2008, I did just that. When someone asked me what my next goal was, my response was simple: “305 pounds.” If you bench press 225 pounds and want to get 275, you have to bench 230 first.”

Jim Wendler

So here’s what I’m planning to do:

Read every day

I must read something every day. It doesn’t matter what, just so long as it’s meaningful, useful, growth-oriented. It doesn’t matter how much, tho keep it reasonable (I’d rather read 2 pages than fail to read 20… that whole “if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly” thing). It can be a blog post (e.g. anything by Claude Werner), it can be a chapter or passage of a book. It can even be a YouTube video if it’s educational (e.g. I watched a Scott Jedlinski instructional video while on the treadmill earlier this week).

I want to ensure I consume something meaningful and growth-oriented every day. Not just the scroll of the feed and what the algorithms put in front of me. I want to build my tolerance for “sitting and staring at dead trees” and just be reading more.

“Yoga” every day

It’s not really yoga. Rather, it’s me making sure I move and use my body fully every day. I sit (curl into a ball) in front of a computer every day. I need to stand, I need to stretch, I need to squat and bend and twist and extend and flex and all those things. I want to ensure that every day I USE my body and all its muscles, joints, and parts.

I know what my body needs (e.g. right now it’s a lot of door stretches to open up my pec minor). So I am devising my own routine. I might even make 2, like a quick in-between-meeting thing or a longer session thing… a morning, an evening… I dunno, and I’ll see how it evolves.

I want to move my body every day. I would love to increase my mobility/flexibility. I don’t have to be a gymnast, but I know some improvement would help with some body alignments, issues, etc.

Workout every day

Basically this is that I go to the gym. If it’s a no-gym day, then I must dry fire.

While it’s not hard to motivate me to get to the gym, somedays I don’t want to go and must do it because discipline. This is pretty core to my habits and behavior and “who I am”. So while I don’t expect problems here, I also must use this as a tempering – I cannot afford to get injured, so I must curb my enthusiasm and play the long game.

I need to dry fire more, especially if I want to move to the red dot. I want to carry/shoot the P365XL (with Wilson Combat grip module, curved trigger, Holosun 507K-X2 2 MOA Dot or 32 MOA Circle Miniature Red Dot Sight – Red). Givens is coming in June and that’ll be a nice checkpoint. So… I better put in the dry and live work.

I want to grow stronger in these two disciplines.

Eating – and being less fat

I’m tired of being fat. I’m tired of carrying this around. I’ve been tired for a long time, but it’s been a struggle. As I wrote above, I’ve adopted a more process-focused mindset and approach. I think it’s helping, but it’s going to take time. As someone said, it took you years to get fat; don’t think you’ll become lean overnight. It’s about getting the habits in place, really. I’ve been evolving habit for a long time, and it’s good, just slow. But again, slow progress is still progress.

One huge change? Mrs. Hsoi is helping. I love her cooking. I think that’s been the missing ingredient. I can make macro-correct food, but there’s no love. She’s been doing this for a few weeks now and it’s making a HUGE difference. Sure the food repeats every day, but it’s still something SHE made – and it’s just wonderful. For someone who has emotion and eating tied together, Mrs. Hsoi’s cooking hits the spot. I’m still focusing on just building habit right now (there’s more to it than this), but so far so good.

Ultimately I do want to be lean. I look at Vincent Dizenzo and his 11 years of progress. Process. That will give me progress. It’s also been wonderfully freeing to not stress so hard about the “scale weight” (and how I look naked); truly go through the process and don’t sweat it – it will come.

Here I go…

So there we are. Four things. I have a few other things, but those are private. To me, the “ask/demand/expectation” within each day is reasonable and small. But even if I only read 1 page a day, when I turn 50 I’ll have read 100 pages.

That’s pretty cool.

I’m keeping a spreadsheet. Provides a bit of a diary, but also some accountability.

Let’s see what happens.

Discomfort grows

My “freak out” around TacCon22 is because I was uncomfortable.

When Tom Givens asked me to present at TacCon21, holy shit – I had never felt so uncomfortable in my life. I embraced it, because I knew I would grow. And grow I did.

I was asked back for TacCon22. Of course I presented AIWB Skills, but I wanted to present something of my own. I presented my Minimum Competency stuff.

My discomfort level spiked.

I’m putting myself out there. I’m seeking to grow a body of knowledge, but I gotta make some assertions and back them up. And doing it in front of the TacCon audience? An audience of new impressionable minds, and seasoned “they forgot more than I know” veterans – my peers, my mentors. I mean… tough crowd, but that’s who I want. If I’m full of shit, I need to know.

It’s a little scary putting yourself out there like this.

I came out on the other side.

We’ll see where this goes… and how I grow.

Because it is through discomfort that we grow. When your discomfort (level) grows, remember that the discomfort (that you’re feeling is what) grows (you).

TacCon22

TacCon22 is in the books. A fine time was had.

I taught 4 blocks: 2 AIWB Skills (live fire), 1 panel with Lee Weems & Erick Gelhaus, and my presentation on Minimum Competency. I participated in 1 live fire class, and observed a few presentations. I stunk up the match. Of course, being able to hang with “the family” for a few days is what makes this awesome. So many hugs given and received – my heart is full.

I first presented at TacCon21. Tom asked me to step in for brother Spencer Keepers (Spencer had some medical issues to tend to; all good). I was quite surprised yet honored to be asked. My imposter syndrome skyrocketed to 11. I was honored to be asked back for TacCon22. 

Scott, me.
photo: Tamara Keel

AIWB Skills went over well. Saturday lunch, Scott Jedlinski asked me if I had any open slots in my Sunday class – I did, and Scott joined. Imposter syndrome 12. It was cool tho. My first time really hanging with Scott – my fellow large Asian mammal – and it was good. He gave me some excellent feedback, and taught me the meaning of “cheater”. 😉

“I once caught a fish this big…”
photo: Ed Vinyard

Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol is something I’ve been researching since 2013. I presented my original work, along with my recent thinking. I also presented my “Minimum Competency Assessment” and thinking behind it. My present thinking is to write this up in long form and update my “Drills, Standards, Qualifications, & Tests” eBook. Matter of time and priorities. Stay tuned.

Lee, Erick, me
photo: my camera taken by (I can’t remember…)

The Aftermath, my panel presentation with Lee & Erick. This was… special. I spoke about my 2015 home invasion. Erick about his incident. Lee about 2 incidents his deputies were involved in. Funny thing about this is we did barely any planning/organization work prior to TacCon: each made a few slides, Lee collated, Lee projected them… and then the 3 of us stood in front of the audience figuring out how we wanted to do this presentation. 😂 I went first, then Erick, finally Lee, each giving a short account of our incident focusing heavily on issues of the aftermath. Erick turned to me and asked if he could reference one of my slides (of course!). Before today, Erick and I were strangers to each other. Our stories are different, yet our aftermaths are similar. We didn’t plan our presentation, and I think the organic nature of it all made for a special and emotional session. Erick and I (and those deputies) are in a club, for better or worse. I’m fortunate to have found a new brother. Love you, Erick.

Shot the match with my franken-P365: WC XL grip, curved trigger, P365 slide with irons. Scored paper: 245/250, tie: 35/50 4.49 sec: 252.795. Finished 76/174. On paper, dropped the first WHO shot to just outside the box; tie had 3 just outside 6 o’clock. With that gun, basically cold, after the emotional drain I just went through? If this is where my skill degrades to, I can accept that.

Took class from Wayne Dobbs (HiTS) channeling Larry Mudgett; most excellent stuff, giving me new tools to diagnose problems and help students improve. The excellent learning resources Jon & Sarah Hauptman (PHLster) are producing through their Concealment Workshop will become industry reference. I finally got to partake of John Holschen’s wisdom. I listened to Erick present research. Greg Ellifritz had an informative session on medicine under austere circumstances. Good learning being had.

And of course, seeing old friends, making so many new ones. Eating good food. Having to eat Whataburger. Many many selfies. Endless hugs. More selfies. Hot AF tents (Meadhall Range cookies!). Going to bed late and getting up early. Big thanks to the Dallas Pistol Club for the facility and contribution. Thanks to Tiffany Johnson, Martin Hoffert, Aqil Qadir, the RSOs, the crew. And of course, Tom & Lynn Givens of Rangemaster. What a special event; I am truly blessed to be a part of it. ❤️

See you at TacCon23!

Thank you, Tom.

I’m not freaking out… no…

No… not at all. Not freaking out at all. 🤪

Next week is TacCon22. I am presenting 4 blocks on 3 topics: 2 AIWB Skills live fire blocks, 1 panelist with Erick Gelhaus and Lee Weems on “The Aftermath”, 1 presenter on my pet project: “Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol” including presenting new thinking on the topic. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little stressed. 😬

When Tom Givens asked me to step in for Spencer Keepers at TacCon21, of course I answered “Yes, sir!”. My imposter syndrome spiked to 11. But I presented 3 live fire blocks and I guess I didn’t totally suck because I was asked back for TacCon22. I’m almost finished with my prep (as prepped as I can be). It’s been stressful, but I know the Conference will be good.

Some people are surprised to learn I’m not an extrovert. Sure, I’m good at peopleing, but it consumes a lot of energy, and I need alone/quiet time to recharge (introvert). TacCon is a LOT of peopleing. It’s good, I have a great time, but it’s still a lot of peopleing. Then the added energy of teaching (“being on stage”), and it’s a draining time for me. Doing the math on that right now is building up some anxiety. I know it’ll all be fine and I’ll live, nevertheless I’ve had the stress-tick of bouncing my foot/leg creeping back in.

The Aftermath stresses me minorly. I’ve told this story before, so it’s a matter of ensuring I mind time constraints and ensure topic mindfulness. That’s all that gets me. Plus it’ll be nice to meet Erick.

AWIB Skills stresses me a bit more, but not tons. I developed the curriculum, but I don’t get to run it much so it’s not as “in my head” as say a KR Training Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class. I also made some iterative refinements, and I think it’ll work better this year. One lesson from last year? Print it out, put it on a clipboard – I can do it from my head, but there’s a lot of details to convey so having a reference on-demand is good.

But the presentation about Minimum Competency? That’s got me stressed. It’s not the public speaking part – I’m good at that. It’s the topic – but meta stuff about the topic. The original blog post has been around since 2013 and the reprint in our 2019 book. I reckon if I was totally off base someone might have called my ass out by now? Or maybe no one gives a shit – my brain naturally gravitates towards the latter. Thing is, I termed the session “a discussion” because I want to present but I want to then open the floor. I want to be questioned! The audience is the right one to ask this to, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little intimidated by the potential of who may be in the audience and the questions that may be asked. But that’s what I want and why I’m doing it. I want to seek truth, this is how we get there. It’s uncomfortable to go through, but ain’t gonna grow otherwise.

It’ll be a good time. I’ll be thankful for it when it’s over, but right now I’m prepping and managing my stress/anxiety about it. 😄

See you on the other side.

2022 – Becoming a better man

Selection is a never-ending process.

Paul Howe

I know the importance of being better. I work to convey this to my children, my students, my mentees, the people I work and interact with throughout each day. And I do work by and for myself to become better.

But I’ve grown comfortable.

On the one hand, I’m happy about it because I’ve worked hard for a long time to achieve where I am in life. Still, the comfort has made me complacent. It’s also a conflicting tension between wanting to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor, and feeling bad about being static and growing stale. Yes, life ebbs and flows – and while I want to stay in this ebb, I need to force myself to flow again.

I don’t need to be the best, I just want to be better. Little improvements over time add up to major progress. One principle of Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program (the weight-lifting program much of my lifting philosophy is based upon) is “Progress Slowly”.

Slow progress might not get you the best rewards today but it will tomorrow. The longer you can progress, even if it’s by one rep or 2.5 pounds, the more it means that you’re actually making progress.… The game of lifting isn’t an 8-week pursuit. It doesn’t last as long as your latest program does. Rather, it’s a lifetime pursuit. If you understand this, then progressing slowly isn’t a big deal. In fact, this can be a huge weight lifting off your back. Now you can focus on getting those 5 extra pounds rather than 50.… If you bench press 225 pounds and want to get to 275, you have to bench 230 first.”

Jim Wendler “5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength”

Jim isn’t just talking about lifting weights – he’s really talking about how to make progress. Aiming to be 1% better and achieving it is better than aiming for some unrealistic or undefined target and achieving 0% improvement (or regressing). A little progress is still progress. Granted this process isn’t applicable to all efforts in life, but for efforts that are life-long I think it’s a good perspective and approach to allow for continued improvement in a manageable and sustainable way.

I want to become better; it’s a never-ending process. I have selected a few areas in which I wish to improve. The difference? I’m not aiming for some huge change. I don’t need to take over the world in the next month. In fact, I don’t really have a particular end-goal in sight for these nor do I think there really is one. If simply I can be a smidge better in this area today than I was yesterday, it’ll add up.

More Disciplined

This is a vague and sweeping topic, but it’s accurate. It literally is telling myself to choose a path of discipline when faced with a decision.

For example, ensuring I maintain boundaries, especially at the day job, towards sustainability. Remembering posture, not just when I’m standing but when I’m sitting in front of the computer all day. And then, standing up and working once in a while – that’s why I bought an UpLift desk. Not snacking and accepting a little hunger both physically and metaphorically.

Read

I love collecting books. I collect them far faster than I read them. I trimmed my nightstand books down to three that are relevant, useful, and interesting to me right now. I will work through them, even if it’s just 2 pages while I’m on the shitter, it’s 2 pages.

This also implies that I’m on my phone less. Choose book over phone.

Reduce body fat

I’m tried of gaining and losing, gaining and losing. I’m tired of carrying around the flab. I don’t find it attractive. There are physical problems it causes me too. This has to stop.

And let’s be real. I’ve spent years building some sort of body – I’d like to see what’s under all the cream cheese.

I’m finding a more manageable approach is to ensure I get sufficient protein, hit target calories, and beyond that don’t sweat it too much. As of this writing, I’ve been at it about a month and frankly I haven’t made much progress on the scale, but I see some progress in the mirror. What has progressed more is a greatly improved mindset and finding how to make my fat loss efforts more sustainable. If I take the long view, taking a few months that may not make scale-progress but help me find the ways and habits that will lead to scale progress? Those few months don’t seem like such an expense any more.

Family

We’re in a big life transition period. Last year we moved out of Austin to B/CS. The kids are fledging, which has numerous implications. I took a big promotion at the day job. Life’s in transition; what got me here isn’t necessarily going to keep me going so I must adapt to the changing conditions.

Be more of a husband

For the past couple decades, life is primarily centered around raising the kids. The road ahead is no longer about the kids as primary – it has to shift to be about me and the Missus. This is a great thing, and it is something that will require explicit work. We can’t just continue as we have been because that won’t serve how things are (becoming).

So… we’re going to go dancing.

We have always joked about dancing. I can’t dance. Heck, at our wedding we did the old “junior prom” thing of holding each other and just swaying back and forth for a song. So to take dance lessons and go dancing has always been a joke for us. Well, lessons were my Christmas gift to her.

We’re also going out more and doing different things. We’re thinking about our next house and how this next house has a different audience and purpose. It’s good to turn now more towards each other; just it is something we have to care about and explicitly given attention to – don’t take anything for granted.

Chart my new career path

A few months ago I made a major (to me) career shift: after 25+ years as a professional programmer I moved into management as a Director. Still in the realm of software development, but I’m no longer making the software. So far I’m enjoying the shift because it’s where I’ve naturally been evolving: more towards building the company and the people within. But it is a new job to me, with so many new things to learn.

I’m choosing to stay in the job at least one year (barring any black swan events), to give me some amount of experience and exposure to stuff that such a job can bring. What I do after the year I’ll figure out once I get there. In the meantime, I need to invest in growing in this new role: reading relevant books, attending seminars, finding mentors. I am thinking about where I want to go in this phase of my career.

Embrace uncomfortable

This is really what it’s all about. All the above is ultimately about this:

Embrace uncomfortable.

It doesn’t matter what it’s about: in my day computer-world job, in my side shooting-world job, lifting weights, shedding fat, entertainment habits, dancing in public, daily small things I do.

I need to shed my desire for comfort and embrace the uncomfortable.

Little things

The big shift for me is a shift to the little. I am not thinking about one big change; I’m looking for little changes that will add up. I am not thinking about outcomes, other than to provide me with a direction.

I’ve attempted improvement in a number of these areas before, and while I learned much from the failures, I still haven’t achieved what I want. Outcomes still matter; it’s about finding the right process to get there, breaking it into smaller steps that facilitate achievement, and watching the steps add up.

If I can do one small thing consistently, that will amount to big things.

Is this thing still on?

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I didn’t choose to stop writing… it just faded.

When I started this blog in 2009 I made the rule I had to post every day. It didn’t have to be something deep – and often it was just gym logs – but at least there was the discipline of a post every day: that I wrote one, that I published one, that readers saw (and maybe read). Come 2015, a major event in my life caused blogging to abruptly stop and my streak broken. That event lasted a while, and when I came back to it the spark was extinguished. Plus various things in life were changing and time and energy to write just wasn’t there. As of late, the blog’s just been nothing but Sunday Metal posts, which at least I was able to keep going because I could sit for a couple hours, schedule 6 months of posts, then move on.

A few years ago I had a major day job shift. I found myself writing less – or sometimes no – code at all. I was leading projects, considering bigger pictures, people-ing. Programming was a primary creative outlet for me – it’s my art. Solving someone else’s problem is merely my canvas. But as my day job duties shifted, so too did my creative outlet fade away. Oh sure I COULD do programming on nights and weekends, but in reality after a long day I want to get away from the computer, and my weekends are mostly filled up with teaching at KR Training. Then add in time for family, gym, etc. and there’s just not time nor energy remaining.

Oh sure, I did a complete rewrite of PanemQuotidianum in SwiftUI a few months back. That was fun. But interestingly it didn’t move me that much. As I’ve been telling people “Oooooh… yet another TableView”. It was cool to fiddle around more in the new hotness of SwiftUI, but there didn’t feel much challenge. It didn’t sing to me like programming once did.

I’ve realized… my creative outlets have faded. In fact, since taking on my new day job position as Director of Technology, all I do is meetings and people-ing. Don’t get me wrong, that in and of itself is fine for where I am in life – it’s just not an artistic/creative outlet.

I was lamenting to Mrs. Hsoi how I just don’t have any creative outlets any more. I don’t program nor have the time or energy for it. KR Training work is fun, but it’s work and not a lot of creative outlet (tho it has research outlets). The gym isn’t creative – it’s work, it’s fun, there’s satisfaction, but it’s not a place to pour my creative juices.

I started to think I needed a hobby – all my hobbies have turned into jobs/work. LOL I’ve always wanted to explore blacksmithing, but that’s not feasible right now. Working on engines was cool, but is that necessarily creative for me? And the more I thought about it, I realized it’s not a hobby I need.

I’ve noticed over the past some whiles as I take longer distance/time drives, I don’t listen to music or podcasts – I just think. I’m alone in the car, I can talk out loud, I can be silent, I can do whatever. I realize what I’ve been needing is just that: time to think. I spend all my days just acting and reacting to what’s going on (a fire over here, a problem over there, another meeting, etc.) – when do I ever get to just deeply think any more? I don’t. I miss that. My best work came from being able to just think about stuff. And it’s not something I can schedule: “Oh, it’s 10:00am, time for 1 hour of thinking!”. It’s about just allowing my schedule to have time to breathe.

The other day while driving to the KR Training facility it really hit me:

What I need: it’s not so much creative building, it’s creative thinking.

To program for the sake of programming – to make an app – that’s building. It’s not the building, it’s the thinking that goes into that building. Looking back, it’s why I have so many unfinished projects: it wasn’t about building that thing, it was thinking through a concept or a method or exploring or some other thinking, and once I finished that thought, it was done.

I’ve been collecting a lot of things in my notes – things that I would love to write about, but I don’t because of lack of time. But if I really look, I do have some time. I cut back on gym visits from 4x to 3x per week to better mesh with helping my sons train. But I still wake up early on Tuesday and Thursday, and I’ve found myself wasting that time because I don’t want to start the day job but I can’t do other life things either (e.g. make phone calls, schedule work, etc. because the people I need to talk with aren’t up and working yet). So I watch YouTube videos or other things to pass the time, and while a little relaxation is good, I’ve been finding myself feeling like I’m wasting time.

So… why not try writing again.

I’ve got things I want to write about. I’ve actually got a little time here and there.

I don’t plan on forcing myself to post every day or even every week. I have no idea what the cadence will be. I would like my writing to be better. This post is rambling because I’m just pouring my thinking out, and those posts are fine for what they are. But I also want to better compose particular thoughts. I want to see if I can be a better writer, or at least a more thoughtful one.

So let’s see… let’s see if this breathes life back into me.

My endeavor to be eloquent

“A little less loquacious, please.” – Mrs. Orth, my 9th grade geometry teacher.

You’re not the first to enlighten me of penchant for verbosity.

There have always been people who have issue with this aspect of me. They always tell me about it; it hurts – my ego, but still it hurts. I don’t believe they mean to hurt me, but I keep hearing it and it gets old.

At its core, what chafes me is someone’s demand for me to act in a matter that prefers them (over myself) to my detriment. They expect I must change who I am for the sake of them. Why? Instead of accepting me as I am, they expect me to become who they want me to be. Not asking, but telling, expecting, demanding.

Uh.

No.

“Who are you to expect me to change like that… for YOU? Fuck off.”

You know what I’m talking about. I’m sure you’ve felt this way before. Welcome to being human.

I’ve come to 1. accept this criticism will come again, 2. see how I can grow from it.

A single-panel comic strip, “Mr. Boffo”. You see 2 felons in a jail cell, sitting on cots, speaking to each other. One says: “17 arrests, 17 convictions. Maybe it IS me!” 😂

I looked for merit in the criticism.

I’ve observed this sort of feedback typically results from people who primarily interact with me in conversational text mediums: email, txt msg, Slack, etc. 

Writing and speaking are different things. Our modern trouble the written word has become a prominent tool in how we communicate – and we try to speak through it, and that’s doomed to fail. Twitter? Conversational malnutrition leading to informational malnutrition. Blog post? Article? tl;dr. Reading and writing be hard. Reading and GOOD writing both take time.

Consider your daily time spent posting, commenting, txting, emailing. You’re having speaking conversations through the written word. Sometimes that’s a valid communication medium, sometimes not.

People accept greater volume of information in a speaking conversation than a read one. Which means… I suffer from verbosity when I conversationally write (most people are the opposite, #kthxbye).

Yes, you may well have to loosen your belt from the volume I provide, but I’d rather you be well-fed than malnourished.

I’ve been posting to Instagram. It has a limited but decent size for text posts. I took it as a challenge to improve the quality of my information conveyance within thus understanding from my writing, while reducing length. I’m working on making less more; it’s been a fascinating endeavor.

Opinions I’m long-winded will remain (itself a conversational-speaking allusion). No matter how much I reduce volume, there will always be someone who says it’s still too much (just can’t get this post fully within IG’s limits). 7.5 billion people in the world: I can’t satisfy everyone.

You likely cannot see my improvement. Film left on the cutting room floor. Know every word I type has been considered for the role. I’m not just trying to choose my words carefully, but craft them together to more deeply, with nuance, convey the information and the sentiment I’m attempting to communicate.

My endeavor to be eloquent continues.

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2020-05-03 – While my publishing pace has slowed, I’m still writing.

If you’re interested in whatever I may have to say, subscribe/follow.

Thanx.

PS. Sunday Metal will never die. 🤘

2019 – Becoming Stronger

I’m not a “New Years” type of person – it’s just another day. If something is so important to my success, why wait until some (distant) future date before starting it? Start now.

But, reflection is the zeitgeist of now, and I got to thinking some… so here’s 2019.

It was a year I became stronger.

At the day job, I was on truly the most challenging and trying project of my 2+ decade professional career. I did reach my breaking point – and broke – from it. But I can also see I wouldn’t have weathered the storm and emerged on the other side, if I hadn’t already been strong. So that’s good. And I never would have thought it, but it sparked something inside me. I’m finding a new and renewed purpose in my professional career (beyond code monkey/architect): to helping build technical leads. We’ll see where this goes. I’m thankful for a supportive employer.

At my other job, I amassed 149 hours of formal training – most I’ve ever done in a single year. I broke through some mental (and thus skill) plateaus in my shooting, such that I was able to earn a Light Pin from Gabe White. I also graduated from the inaugural Rangemaster Master Instructor & Development course (if you can’t place the gravity of these things, they are a big deal). Made a lot of solid progress this year. The breakthroughs I had have helped me be become better, and set forth a good road ahead of me.

At the gym, I had both gains and setbacks. I finally broke through a long drought. I’ve been chasing a goal of “2/3/4/5”. That is, 2 “wheels” on (military) Press, 3 wheels on bench press, 4 on squat, 5 on deadlift. A “wheel” is a 45 lb plate, thus 225 press, 315 bench, 405 squat, 495 deadlift. I achieved those lifetime goals: closing out the year with a 225 press, 320 bench, and 515 deadlift. But squat eluded me, with a 358 best. I found my white whale, doubled-down, and wound up injuring my lumbar area. I changed gears, started tinkering with RPE and Conjugate, and literally on the last chance to squat in 2019 I hit a definitive 405 squat with the SS Yoke Bar (which is tougher than a normal bar). I set a goal of 2/3/4/5’ing in 2019, and I pulled it off totally unexpectedly. I attribute a change in mindset, initiated by injury, and having some supportive people around me that pushed me to be better (esp. Steve, Clay, and my wife). Truly, having 400 lb on your back, letting it sink you to the depths, not letting it crush you, then decisively rising up against that crushing force – all while knowing it’s been your lack of confidence, your fears holding you back from achieving your goals? The iron teaches you about life like nothing else.

At home, there’s a lot of change, with the kiddos getting older and dipping toes into their own independent lives. Working to pull back, allow them to be their own adults and not “parent” so much, even if it makes you wince and worry. Guiding them down new paths and roads, towards being a man or woman standing on their own 2 feet.  Being thankful for the strong-ass woman I’ve been fortunate to be married to for 2+ decades, for without her I’d not be able to stand. Diving deeper into my affection and love for her. With our age, time together, kids lives’ changing, and so on, that also means OUR relationship is changing. We must respond to the change, and build an even stronger bond between us.

In myself, dealing with the constant of what 2019 was, I withdrew a bit online. You all have enough people in your daily digital feeds bitching, proselytizing, manifesting hypocrisy, or some other sort of negativity to make you sick. I worked to only post when/if it could make people smile, laugh, be thankful, or some other sort of positive message/feeling – especially trying to make people smile and laugh. Or videos of me lifting, which of course is the primary reason I’m on Instagram. I have my opinions on issues, my “silence” (if you gauge how much I speak solely by what I say/post online) doesn’t mean I don’t work or contribute or fight for or against things. I simply prefer to be the sort of person that, when you think of me, you smile. There’s enough shittyness in the world – I can work on myself to minimize contributing to it, and also work to contribute better things.

So…

2019 set a bunch of stuff in motion, primarily because “bad things happened”. As the saying goes, “tough times don’t last; tough people do”. I’m not saying I’m tough, but I am saying I’m still here. And through those tough times, I’ve found some pretty cool things that I hope to continue exploring in my future.

And yes, thank YOU for your support… because if you read this far, I guess you care about me somewhat. Thank you for caring.

AAR – Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions, October 19-20, 2019

On October 19 & 20, 2019, I participated in Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions course hosted at my home range, KR Training.

Who is Gabe White?

Gabe White, talking and teaching

Gabe White

Gabe White is an accomplished shooter. You should check out his resumé so you can understand his skill and where he’s coming from. An aspect worth highlighting is Gabe’s a USPSA Master-class shooter – shooting his normal carry gear, from concealment. So basically, he’s up against other people and a classification system that rewards “gaming”, and he’s handicapping himself by his choice of gear and approach. Yet, he’s still able to play at an extremely high level.

Why would he do this?

Gabe’s interest is more in the “tactical” and self-defense world than gaming, but he finds gaming a reasonable place for one to put skills into practice, especially under pressure. As well, the gaming world is very interested in technical skill. High-levels of skill generally lead to better performance and chances of winning the game – so why shouldn’t there be such similar focus on technical skill in the tactical/self-defense world? Wouldn’t better performance in that area be more important?

Pistol Shooting Solutions is Gabe’s effort “to help established defensive handgun practitioners realize the next steps in their journey toward technical excellence to go along with the mindset, awareness, and tactics that form the foundation of self-defense with a handgun.”

The Class

Background

Gabe’s website provides information about the class and prerequisites. It’s important to note this is NOT a beginner class. For example, “You should be able to hit a 6″x 6″ target on demand at 10 yards”. There’s a lot more that goes into it as well, and I’d argue even a bit beyond what’s printed on the website. Gabe does assume you have not just a fair level of skill, but also knowledge about the problems and realities of defensive pistolcraft. For example, Gabe referred to the concepts of “ability, opportunity, and jeopardy” and “the doctrine of competing harms” – it’s not critical you know these concepts to get something from the class, but it’s evident Gabe (reasonably) assumes a particular level of knowledge in his audience. Making this assumption, requiring this of his students/audience, allows him to speak at a particular level and move the class pace and concepts in the direction they need to go.

Class was held at my home range, KR Training, hosted by Karl Rehn. There were 14 students, all were from the KR Training instructor cadre or KR Training Challenge Coin holders – that means a high level of skill across the entire student body (and no “that guy”). This sort of environment is weird. You’re friends with all these people, so it’s a very supportive environment. It’s also one that leads to being more challenging and  more pressure-filled because you know these people will push you, and you also want to perform at your best in front of them. But it’s also forgiving because these people know you – and they’re like you – because they too have similar successes and failures. When you blow a run, they’re not going to think you suck – they’re going to support you and help you get better. This makes for a great learning environment.

Class was LONG. Each day ran from 8:00 AM to 6:30 PM – yup, two 10+ hour days. There are breaks, but the class is reasonably fast paced and keeps moving. I wouldn’t say it’s a highly physical class, but for sure some level of fitness helps. One interesting note is I didn’t get much sleep Saturday night. I woke up after just a few hours of sleep, I guess because I was somewhat amped from Day 1 and excited about Day 2. What’s more interesting was chatting with a number of my classmates Sunday morning and they too had abnormally less sleep. Take it for what you will.

My equipment was my normal carry gear, plus a few things for the range:

  • S&W M&P9 M2.0 4″ Compact
    • Always starting with a 15-round mag, but then reloads to my old “1.0” 17-round mags.
    • Only mods: Apex Tactical DCAEK (but stock trigger), Dawson Precision sights (serrated black Charger rear 0.125″ notch; red fiber front 0.100″ post).
  • Dark Star Gear Orion, with Dark Wing and clip. Worn AIWB.
  • My old Comp-Tac dual mag pouch (then 2 more mags in my left cargo pant pocket)
  • Federal American Eagle Syntech 9mm 124 grain (shot shy of 1000 rounds).
  • My Lone Star Medics prototype fanny pack IFAK.

No, I did not shoot the Sig P365 (more on that later).

Material

PSS is a highly-focused class. It’s about improvement of technical skill. Gabe structures things quite methodically. Class started in the classroom with Gabe’s safety lecture, and him discussing his background and philosophy. All good things to help establish the class, where he’s coming from, and where he intends to take us. After a couple hours inside, we headed to the range with a warm-up so Gabe could assess the student body, especially for gun handling and safety. Then a series of blocks were run to focus on specific skills.

Then we started to get into the meat of things.

When Gabe’s class is talked about, it’s often discussed in terms of the Technical Skills Tests and the resulting Pin awards. The class is so much more than that, but the tests and chance of earning a pin provide both structure and incentive to the class and students. Each “pin block” went something like:

  • Discussion of concepts, including Gabe demoing.
  • Dry work.
  • Live work, pushing yourself to where you’d like to be.
  • Live work, keeping it in the realm of your current capability (how you would shoot the test).
  • 2 runs of the test for time but not score.
  • 2 runs of the test for time and score.
  • A steel head-to-head shoot-off.

We worked up to 2 tests the first day (Bill Drill, Failure to Stop), with the other two drills (Immediate Incapacitation, Split Bill Drill) the second day.

While the work-up to the test was a large part of things, the head-to-head shootoffs were cool. Gabe would set up a short steel course with person on the left shooting one thing and person on the right shooting another. For example, left had a steel target 10′ away and started from concealment, with right having a steel 20 yards away starting from low ready. The go-signal was left-person starting their draw, and right-person having to react. Two different tasks, but of about similar difficulty. The course of fire was related to the testing block we just completed, and became more challenging as the class progressed.

Day 2 started at 8:00 AM sharp on the range (I deeply appreciate his on-time starts), with a quick warm-up and into material. Material continued with a logical progression, eventually discussing shooting on the move. Gabe took a track that isn’t often seen: moving and shooting at speed. It wasn’t the typical gaming “slow and smooth duck walk”, nor was it necessarily the “move OR shoot” approach. You can get an idea of how this worked by watching Lucky Gunner’s video review of the class (which is also a great overview and review of the class). This eventually progressed to the use of barriers, cover, and concealment, touching on the subject in facets and depth I’ve not experienced before. Gabe’s choice to keep the class fairly narrowly focused allowed him to go into great depth (and I suspect there’s even more going on in Gabe’s mind that just can’t fit into 21 hours of class).

Class wrapped up in a usual way, returning to the classroom for thank yous, certificates, awards, and pictures.

My Assessment of Class

In a word: transformative.

When I first heard about the class and the shooting tests, I took at look at them, appreciating the times and breakdown by shot and pin-level – I like numbers and data. I knew my skills were in the Dark Pin realm, but I also knew I had a key issue: my drawstroke. It’s two parts. First, getting out of the holster is a new issue due to carrying AIWB. It’s establishment of grip, and it’s also just that last bit of hesitation because screwing up (e.g. finger enters the trigger-guard too soon) leads to disaster. So while I can clear the garment and make contact quickly, I’m still finding my best grip and then ensuring it’s secure with no screw-ups. That winds up costing a bit of time. Second, getting the gun out, on target, and being able to accept the sight picture and break the shot – it may not be textbook perfect, but is it good enough for the current context? I still hesitate slightly from wanting “just that extra bit of on-target confirmation”. As a result, my draw-to-first-shot is slower than it could be. When I would push myself, I would wind up being too tense, or would just flub things.

Another issue is… 7 yards. 7 yards is this crazy, magical distance (at least for me). At 3 yards, things are close and sloppy tends to work out. 10 yards is where things start to feel far away. Even 5 yards still feels close and you can often get away with things. But 7… it feels close, but if you shoot it like 3 yards you’ll blow it, and if you shoot it like 10 yards you take too long. It’s far yet close, close yet far. So it’s a great distance to work at, because it messes with my head. Shoot aggressively like at 3, but shoot carefully like at 10, 15, 25.

My biggest issue (or rather, the one this class had the biggest impact upon) is how I’ve long been focused on the outcome. “I need to pass this test”. “Don’t screw this up.” “Did I hit it?” or any manner of focus on the result I need to generate. And what happens? Sometimes I generate it, sometimes I do not. If I’m working well within my capacity, I usually achieve the result. But when I have to push to  or get pushed to the edges, when I have to work under high-pressure, focusing (worrying?) so much about the outcome gets in the way of doing what needs to be done right now – I focus where I need to be, not on what I need to do!

I realized this some time ago and have been working on it, especially in my shooting. Every time I’m here in the now and focused on what I’m doing right now at this moment, things go well. Focus on that draw, eyes glued to the front sight, and just do what needs to be done. Don’t worry about the holes right now while shooting, because they will be there when I’m done; stay focused on the work at hand this moment, trust the process and yourself, and the results will be there. After the gun’s back in the holster and things are safe/clear, THEN I can consider the result. And what’s great is if I shut up and trusted myself to do my part, then the result happens. It’s magical. 😉

There are things Gabe did in class that helped me address all of these things.

The 7 yards is easy: all tests are at 7 yards. How to get better at X? Generally speaking, do (more of) X.

The other issues tho… it’s things Gabe said, and how he did things. He speaks with great confidence, almost to an inspiring level. He spoke of being process focused, and something about his talk, his approach, made something click in my head. Maybe it just drove me harder to focus on the process, I don’t know for sure. But something Gabe said/did clicked and helped me break through.

Furthermore, the structure of the shooting drills helped. Length, detailed explanation of the drill and concepts within it. Demonstration of the drill, including commentary on his own performance. Then we would shoot dry drills, including a few rather unorthodox ones of his own creation, that would isolate a relevant aspect of the skill to be focused on. Next we’d perform live at a level of “what we want to perform like”. This is shooting beyond our bounds, out of reach, a 110% type of thing. This is great because you might find you can actually perform faster than you think, you just needed permission to go faster. Then you dial it back to what you can perform, then you perform. This approach is somewhat novel amongst classes I’ve taken. Typically you get a drill/skill, you shoot it “as is” a few times, then move to the next thing. But here, it’s 1 “thing to shoot” and shot in a manner to help your performance of that thing. It helps you find it, it helps you dial it in under a watchful eye. But note: you yourself need to have some level of self-awareness and ability to self-correct to get the most out of the class (Gabe can’t watch every run you do).

What is the typical response/solution to shooting in a manner that’s a bit beyond your skill? “Slow down”. But that’s not Gabe’s response. Gabe basically wants you to shoot at the same speed, but address whatever is causing your problem. This is not a beginner-level solution to problems, but it sure is a way to be able to do things faster. I’ve heard this before, but again, something about how Gabe presented it. So instead of me backing off when the wheels fell off, I kept the pedal down and worked to address the wheels.

Straight up? Lee Weems’ Deliberate Speed Pistol class contributed here too. I found myself applying Lee’s deliberate techniques, which would help me keep a locked-in focus on the front sight. That kept me “in the moment” and focused on the process. Watching that front sight, being able to call my shots (just about every shot I “pulled” I knew it the moment it happened).

Results

When I put it all together – it’s what enabled me to earn a Light Pin.

A Light Pin is: “An early stage of excellence in core technical skills of drawing and shooting”. I’ve been thinking about how to convey the significance of the pin to those who may not have the frame of reference, and I’m failing to find a way (open to suggestions!). Just know that this is well-respected amongst my peers, and is a big accomplishment.

Actually, there’s a post from Gabe on the Pistol-Training forums where Gabe not only explains the tests, but his philosophy in their design. One particular comment stands out:

One other quick comment – I think standards is the wrong word to describe these. To me, the term ‘standards’ refers to an obligated level of performance, and if you can’t do it all the time, then you are wrong. These are intended to be difficult goals to reach for. I specifically set the Turbo threshold to be difficult enough that almost no one would be able to easily walk through them at 100% without effort. I certainly can’t.

I feel like I broke through a plateau in my shooting skill. I was made aware of my performance, especially where my performance is inefficient, sub-optimal, and needs work. I also was made aware that I’m much better than I give myself credit for.

The last part feels funny for me to say. What it is is trusting myself.

I’m so focused on defensive shooting (vs. gaming). I care immensely about issues like unacceptable hits. As a result, it causes me to slow down, to confirm and confirm again. This is all good and I believe a right mentality to hold. But it also holds me back, and potentially that hold back could be costly. It’s evident I have some degree of unconscious-competence in this area, and I have to allow myself to operate in that way instead of inserting (potentially unnecessary) conscious thought into a time-critical event and risking problems and failure. When I stay “in the moment” focusing on the task at hand, everything about that moment is clearer. And since we know following this process does in fact lead to desired outcome, just… follow the process.

So it’s weird to say “trust myself”, it’s not really the right words. But there were things shown and behaviors reinforced by Gabe’s class that were positive and right.

What’s next?

Taking some time off because my hands need to heal up. But it’s giving me time to reflect, review class notes, and other useful things.

I see where I need to work. I want to solidify Light Pin performance. I have work on my drawstroke and “draw to first shot” to deal with. Continuing to be focused in the now.

Long term, I’m presently a B-class Production shooter in USPSA. A Light Pin can be thought of as a solid A-class performance (based off data from our book Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training). I’ve been wanting to get to A-class, because I feel that’s a pretty good level for someone that likes to shoot well but isn’t deeply interested in playing the game itself. Having broken that plateau, I feel this may be attainable now.

Remember my Sig P365 fail saga? Early on in evaluating the P365, I did think that if it passed muster and was in fact to be my daily carry, I ought to take Gabe’s class with it. I knew that was kinda crazy to do, but “train like you fight” and all that. Well, after the P365 went to crap, there was no way I was going to bother taking Gabe’s class. The replacement P365 ran 500 rounds with zero hiccups, but it needs needs to prove itself fully. Will I take Gabe’s class with a P365? Not currently in the cards, but I think when I get back to working with the P365 that I will shoot Gabe’s tests and see what I can do. Getting at least a Dark Pin level of performance with the P365 would be a nice start.

Other Stuff

The person-on-person shoot-offs were great. Tons of pressure, immense challenge, lots of shit-talking and fun amongst friends, a bunch of laughter and high-fives. Just great stuff. It provides a different dimension to the class, contributing to the lessons but also providing a change up. What’s great is I believe everyone won some and lost some (and I believe everyone did earn a patch). A great set of classmates to shoot against – we sharpen each other.

One thing I personally liked with the steel shoot-offs was the chance to experiment more. For example, on the running drill there are a number of ways you could approach the problem. The structure of the shoot-offs allowed me to try one approach, then another, go back to the first, try it again, try it one side, try it the other side, as many times as I was able to within the time allotted for the drill. Discussing this with fellow KRT Instructor Ed on the drive home, we agreed that such structure allowing you permission to explore was quite meaningful.

It was great watching Gabe demo. He would demonstrate every skill, and demonstrate it as he wanted us to perform it. In doing so, he “failed” often – his words. Now many of us would look at a Gabe White failure run and esteem to fail so well. 🙂 But Gabe knows his level and he felt this weekend’s shooting wasn’t representative of his best. But this shows a number of important things.

  1. Instructors should not be afraid to demo in front of their students, but only if they can actually do what needs to be demoed in the first place. Failure doesn’t mean you suck – it means you’re human.
  2. Getting up to demo, just like public speaking, takes a lot of guts. It’s pressure, and being able to perform under pressure is important. The more you subject yourself to performing under pressure, the better you will become at it.
  3. Gabe talked about a 25% performance tax. At KR Training we tell our Defensive Pistol Skill 1 students a lesson from Paul Ford that when the flag flies you’ll perform at about 70% of your worst day on the range. Gabe can shoot really well – then under pressure and other environmental factors, he didn’t perform to HIS level, but he still performed at a very high level.
  4. This is why it’s so important to train well above levels of minimum competency, so when the time comes and your skills will degrade, that degraded level is still high enough to get the job done.

Class dynamics were good. Gabe has spent time not only on his curriculum, but also how to run the class. I spoke with him about some classroom management techniques he used, and it’s evident he’s put a lot into managing issues of a traveling trainer (ranges will vary in what they provide), keeping the class smooth, efficient, on time.

I will restate the classes are very long. I do wonder if the classes might be too long. People were pretty spent by early-afternoon on the 2nd day, and once the last test was completed a number of people flat out stopped shooting – myself included. Heck, I barely made it through the fourth test (Split Bill Drill), intentionally dialing it back because my hands just couldn’t take it any more.  My hands were raw, blistered, and got to a point of major tenderness in my right palm (as if bruised). Shooting nearly 1000 rounds with a grippy-gun, a hard-clamp grip, aggressively driving a gun on every string of fire for 2 days – it takes a toll. I didn’t want to stop shooting, but I had to stop early. As well, I – and I know others – were just so spent towards the end of class that it was difficult to focus on his instructional block about cover/concealment and movement tactics. It was extremely informative, but I just had a hard time staying focused on his lecture and I know I didn’t register as much as I would have liked simply due to exhaustion. My feet ached, my hands were beat-up, my brain was drained, it was hot, sweaty, tired – just not a conducive environment to learn in.

Plus, I wanted to go out to dinner with Gabe one evening, but I just couldn’t. Having to wake up at 4 AM, not getting home until maybe 8-8:30 PM (then shower, supper, maybe a smidge of family time), and repeat – there was just no way (especially since I am making fixing my sleep issues a priority, even if I have to miss out on stuff). Granted, we’re not attending class for social hour, but I know I and often other intermediate/advanced students like to go out to supper with a visiting trainer – few were able to go just due to schedule.

I guess it just means I have to take the class again. 🙂 Not just because a Turbo pin would be cool, but there is so much material it would be great to hear it all again.

And yes, you should portion your training budget to train with Gabe. I cannot recommend him enough.

“Be mentally composed and focus on completing the task at hand.” – Gabe White