I often hear students and other shooters say how overwhelming the information and “advice” they find online and from friends can be. The world can be a fire hose of information – both good and bad, sound and unsound. You can go from the shallows to very deep water in the space of a single sentence. Sorting through it all to get to the good stuff that actually helps you where you are right now can be a real challenge.
So, how do we put things in perspective?
Well, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The first step in this process is to know where you are on the skills continuum. Knowing where you are helps you to know what you should be focusing on.
Where are you?
If you are new to shooting then this question is a pretty straightforward one to answer. you are at the start – the bottom of the mountain – the beginning of the journey! :) Don’t let advice for more established shooters cloud the issue for you – your number one priority should be to learn and master the essential skills. In fact, shooting well at any level is still just about mastery of the essential skills. Grip, stance, sight alignment, sight picture, breathing, trigger control, and follow-through are all there is to this. You just learn to consistently apply those skills in more challenging situations as you progress.
Learn the essential skills well and revisit them often!
For those of you who have had more exposure to shooting, determining your skill level can be more tricky… There is a concept in social psychology called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It recognizes that those at the lower end of a skills continuum have a strong tendency to overestimate their skill level. It is all too easy to think you are better or more capable than your skills would actually prove. It is not a character flaw – it is simply a side effect of not knowing what you don’t know.
Interestingly enough, there is a flip-side to Dunning-Kruger. People with a higher level of skill may assume that what they can do easily, others can as well. That can be especially frustrating for a new shooter – not only does that guy on Instagram make it look easy… he acts like it should be easy. Don’t be fooled ;-)
So, what is the answer here? How does one accurately assess their skill level?
Standards help. You have to have an objective way to measure your performance level.
Training also helps. A good instructor can save you time and grief. After all, having to unlearn bad form takes ten times longer than learning proper form to start.
Whatever you do, don’t let your current skill level discourage you. Find ways to enjoy the journey. Set goals and surpass them. Keep on putting in the work and getting better!
I like to think of getting better as competing with myself. Every time I step up to the line I am trying to best what I did last time… I am NOT going to let that guy beat me! :)