The 3 Elements of Success

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
-Mark Twain

In any performance related activity, there are three distinct elements at work. In order of importance, they are attitude, fundamentals, and technique. 

In the highly accomplished practitioner, all three elements are honed to perfection. Typically, the journeyman is attached to technique—believing,“if I do this, I’ll get that,” and succeed. The beginner, unburdened from the conclusions of the expert, functions in a state of inquiry, which is the perfect learning state. And fortunately, whether one knows it or not, creates the perfect attitude. 

Mid-’80’s, maybe… Back, left to right, Jerry Barnhart, BE, Chip McCormick, Mike Voigt, Robbie Leatham… bottom left, David Cupp and Frank Garcia.

Fundamental means what must be done to accomplish the goal. Technique is how we do what must be done. Complete coverage of fundamentals and technique—and why it’s important to understand the difference—are here.

Fundamentals and technique are easily learned. To improve one’s attitude, however, becomes increasingly difficult with age. 🙂

Even though technique is at the bottom of the three-element list, as the challenge increases, consistent technique becomes critical.

While doing demos for sponsors, I’d illustrate that with the following example. I’d make a short speech: The third of the three fundamentals is to fire the shot without disturbing the aim. Then I’d loosely grip the pistol with my strong-hand middle finger and thumb, and shoot a small slow-fire group at 10 yards (on my business card).

With a firm, strong-hand only grip, I’d shoot the same size group, twice as quickly, demonstrating the technical advantage of a proper grip. Then I’d repeat the drill shooting with my two-handed freestyle grip, cutting the time in half again, illustrating the benefit of perfect technique.

A Story

One year at Second Chance, I had five minutes to teach a complete novice how to shoot pins, in the famed Timer Shootout. She was, however, an accomplished athlete, so I considered that as I explained grip and sight picture. Then I got to the good stuff, the fundamentals. I described how it will feel to press the trigger and fire the shot without disturbing the aim. Then I said: think only of: eye on the sights; mind on the trigger. Remember, she had never fired a pistol.

The first table was a disaster, all the pins were lying on the table. She was shooting too high, so she couldn’t clear the “dead wood.” Hoping the problem was just in how she was “seeing her aim,” on the next string I told her to, instead of aiming at the middle of each pin, aim at the bottom of each pin. She did, and mowed the five pins off the table with five shots. 

I told her to not change anything, and before each string to think of only—eye on the sights at the bottom of the pin, mind on the trigger. She cleared a few more tables in similar fashion. I started to say something encouraging, and she just shook her head—she knew what to do. I left her alone and she went on to win the entire shoot-off, thrashing a boatload of girls and guys with a medium amount of skill behind a handgun.

The point of that story… Halfway through the shoot-off, an accomplished shooter walked by and said, “Man, why don’t you show her how to stand and how to grip that thing, her technique is terrible.” I replied, “we don’t have time for that stuff.”

To repeatedly shoot five pins off the table with five shots is difficult, for anyone. The targets are small, and to drive the pins three feet off the table, each pin must be centered with full-power loads. She had no technique whatsoever, nevertheless, she shot brilliantly. Why? Because her attitude was perfect, and all her attention was on the fundamentals.

When the goal is a flawless performance, calmly commit all your attention to the fundamentals.

Comments are welcome, and all questions will be answered.

A new topic will arrive each Friday afternoon, in one of two categories. One will be on shooting, and the other will be on living. Or: how I learned to live from what I learned by competing.

Thanks for coming in.