Guest Post: Progress, Stagnation, and Helping Your People

This is a guest post from my close friend Scott which was spurred by some conversations we had about stagnation, frustration, and moving past training plateaus. We have been discussing being truly helpful to those who come to us for advice and support. Scott is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and a dedicated multidisciplinary self-defense practitioner. He walks the walk. He had great thoughts on the subject, so I just asked him to write something for you guys. Here it is.


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Negative Self Talk

Sometimes we get into our own heads. Sometimes we let people get into them who don’t belong there.

I recently was awarded my brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and even though most folks in the know would likely say that at this point I wouldn’t have a problem doing just fine in most jiu-jitsu schools, there are plenty if times when I feel like I have no business tying a jiu-jitsu belt on at all. This is me, introducing doubt that I know isn’t real but still takes a bunch of time to move past. The thing that helps me is talking to my coaches and training partners about these things and being reassured that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. That’s how a team or tribe is supposed to behave. To support each other, particularly when a member comes to you basically saying “I need help.” Sometimes it’s just a 2 minute pep talk, and sometimes we need hands-on, direct assistance with an issue. I’ve been fortunate to have a great jiu-jitsu training environment that provides that type of support in spades.


Having given an example of the ideal situation, let’s examine its opposite. What’s really unfortunate is that this opposite is a common thing. If we’re really interested in seeing the people who we would consider our friends, family, tribe members, etc., grow then this opposite needs to be addressed.

If you’ve ever told someone to simply just –
Be faster
Be stronger
Squeeze harder
Lose weight
Read more
Suck it up

…or any variant of the above, with no offer of actual assistance to the person asking, outside of those “recommendations”, you are far more of a hindrance than help and you probably should have abstained from commenting. Captain Obvious doesn’t have a seat at the table here.

what you owe your peers

Most folks who would have read this far are on some type of personal journey towards betterment in any number of varied pursuits. If we mean to make our individual selves better, to be a greater service to the whole, at some point we’re going to need some help in one way or another. If we’re smart, we’ll ask for it. If our people are truly our people, they’ll offer up their help and make good on that offer. That last part can become a rarity. Life happens to all of us, but if you say you’ll be there, move mountains. Don’t be that guy. Honor and Loyalty are real things that actually hold weight with your peers. If you don’t take yours seriously, the ones who do will have a hard time taking you seriously.

Also, on helping people… If you know someone is working towards something, let them know that you notice that. Not with criticism or resistance, but with positive pressure. Proclaiming “that’s stupid” to someone who didn’t ask (outside of a safety issue) is pretty rude and inconsiderate. I don’t enjoy being rude and inconsiderate to the people that I trust and care about and I’d bet they don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of it. Particularly if they are doing work that you aren’t doing. Don’t like lifting weights? That’s fine, but don’t dump on someone who does or ask them to skip a workout for sit-around-and-do-nothing time. If what a person is doing is important to them and will lead them to being a happier person, you should be a borderline cheerleader for them.

Dressing up for the part is on you, but a text or phone call saying, “how was it this week?” can go a long way towards helping your people stay on track. This appears to especially be an issue with significant others. I’ve seen way too many times one person wanting to pursue a goal and the other half of the relationship putting the brakes on it through complaining or resisting the idea. If you do that, you are hands-down being a prick. Stop that. Your selfish tendencies are preventing what is supposed to be one of the people you care for the most from realizing their goals or seeking out their own happiness are absolutely zero help in what is very likely an already strained relationship. We can’t make each other happy, but we should get out of the way when one of our people are making moves to find their own happiness. If it’s a training partner that is thinking about picking up a new routine, going to a new gym, taking classes with a different instructor, reading a new author, or trying a different diet, support them. Let your people know that you support them. Confidence breeds competence, and in turn competence breeds greater confidence.

If you happen to be a winner of the genetic lottery, try to be patient with those of us who aren’t. That’s not to say that those blessed individuals aren’t working, but the fact is that some things come easier to some than they do others. Just because a person doesn’t have sub-.25sec splits on a shot timer, hasn’t lost all of those 50lbs, can’t run an 8 minute mile, or doesn’t have a 2.5x bodyweight deadlift doesn’t mean that they’re not working, either. If you want to help folks, volunteer to actually show up and help. Just giving one sentence’s worth of criticism over the internet doesn’t really help anyone at all and kind of makes you look like a douchebag to the rest of the readers.

If the goal is to grow your family, team, or tribe, making sure that they not only know that they belong there, but are made to belong there through the shared efforts of the group is a good idea.

If you are one of those people like the rest of us – keep plugging away. Don’t let yourself talk you into quitting and definitely don’t let outside voices lead you off course. Find good people who like what they do and are good at what they do to surround yourself with.

“It’s not the critic who counts….” – Teddy Roosevelt

Scott F.

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Why Do The Least Knowledgeable Have The Most Conviction?

Regarding the Personal Protection community (but applicable to every discipline), one of the great mysteries to me is trying to wrap my head around the idea that the people who have the least experience, training, and knowledge, always seem to be the ones who are the most vocal about what they view as absolutes and certitudes.

How it feels sometimes.
How it feels sometimes.

These people (usually) fit into the following categories:

  • New gun owners
  • People who ‘grew up around guns’, with no formal training
  • People who have only completed their state-mandated CCW qualification
  • People who have only trained with one instructor/school

Conversely, the greater the depth of knowledge, the more experience, and the broader and deeper their understanding of the various personal protection disciplines, the more likely they are to speak with nuance and never in absolutes. They are aware of what they don’t know.


The Dunning-Kruger effect is the oft-cited cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Also, high-ability individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others. (wikipedia)

I think that perceived ability is part of it, but there is likely a lack of awareness that isn’t necessarily the fault of that person.

Let me use a metaphor to illustrate



Imagine you are a soap bubble floating in a large pool. The pool represents Everything you DON’T KNOW about a topic. You have no awareness of the size of the pool because your bubble prevents you from seeing it.

The internal volume of the bubble is your knowledge. You are confident that you KNOW everything that is happening inside of that bubble.

You are ALSO aware of the inside surface of your bubble. You see the barrier between you and the pool. You recognize this surface as Things You Don’t Know. It’s where ‘things you know’ meet the unseen ‘things you don’t know’.

Since we can’t know the true size of the pool, only the size of the inside of our knowledge bubble, then it seems reasonable that the larger our knowledge bubble, the more we are aware of what we don’t know.

So the less we know, the less we are aware of what we don’t know. The more we know, the more we are aware of what we don’t know.


This imagery has helped me realize that folks with minimal knowledge are in such a small bubble that it must appear to them that they know almost everything. Their bubble surface is tiny, so they go forth on the internet and to local gun stores and tell you to shoot the guy taking your TV and drag him back inside.
This realization only allows me to be less frustrated with outspoken doofuses. It doesn’t solve any real issues. No one knows how big the pool is. I keep expanding my bubble and I’m finding the metaphor to hold true for me.

I hope it helps some of you deal with people like this with more understanding, and hopefully expand their bubble. We’re all on the same team, after all.


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Here comes the BOOM!

The Good Doctor gives a great rundown of Tom Givens’ shotgun class at the conference. I was honored to be able to spend most of Sunday with Dr. House.

It’s Time to Complete Your 2015 Tactical Audit

Well folks, 2015 is nearly behind us. I don’t really know where it went, but it’s December already. Since I have a sizable audience (15 subscribers can’t be wrong!) I’m going to post about the yearly skill-set audit that I have been doing since 2010. It’s a way that I have prioritized my training in the major self preservation skill-sets. It keeps me honest and on-track to guarantee I don’t get goal hijacked. It is crucial for resource constrained people to do these evaluations. Without prioritizing you could let a needed, but less enjoyable to practice, skill slip through the cracks. I really believe it is the shortcut to becoming tactically proficient. I encourage you to do your own list, in whatever level of detail you find useful.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Evaluate your risk profile and decide what skills you most probably need? Pick 6-8 skills and list them from most to least important.

  2. Rank those 6-8 skills based on your relative current proficiency level.

  3. Choose the 3 skills with the biggest difference in rank from the most probable list and your current competency list. Those are the skills you should concentrate on next year.

  4. Write out your plan to improve those important, but lagging, skills.

  5. Do The Work.

Risk Profile and the Priorities List:

Here’s a list of some of the tactical skill-sets you can use in your list. The skills you choose depend on your personal situation. A stay-at-home dad will have different needs than a Tier 1 door kicker, but there will actually be some parallels as well. In no particular order:

  • Fighting Mindset
  • Verbal Deescalation skills/Verbal Agility
  • Fitness
  • Combatives/Empty Hand/Impact Weapon/Edged Weapons
  • Driving Skills
  • Pistol Shooting
  • Rifle Shooting
  • Medical Training
  • A particular Tactic (low light, vehicle, Structure Clearing, etc)
  • Primitive Skills (Fire-starting, Land Nav, etc)
  • Add your own

Consider the big picture of LIFE in this step (or keep it confined strictly to self defense if you’d like). Consider your profession, how much you’re in a vehicle, your neighborhood, your fitness level, etc. Complete a rudimentary risk profile to visualize your biggest threats. Also be honest with yourself and reflect on your real priorities.

I’m a suburban engineer dad who spends a lot of time with his family. Here’s my priority list:

  1. Fighting Mindset (having the will to do violence to those who would do you violence is the basis of all self-defense)
  2. Fitness (no better way to ensure longevity than with a healthy body)
  3. Verbal Agility (Most problems can be solved with good verbal judo, not to mention good verbal skills get you further in everyday life)
  4. Medical Training (You’re more likely to run across someone who needs a tourniquet and a compression bandage than someone who needs to be shot)
  5. Driving (A basic understanding of Defensive and performance driving could easily save you and your family’s lives)
  6. Pistol Skills (You’ll only need to shoot a human on rare occasion, but when you do, you’ll want to be skilled at it)

What am I Good/Bad at?

Now we’ll make a second list, using the same items in your priorities list. This time, organize them relative to each other according to your proficiency. Say, “I think I’m better at X than I am at Y” and make the second list. My list and comments follow:

  1. Fighting Mindset (Being a cancer survivor has made me a master at seeking self preservation, and I won’t let anyone take what I’ve fought so hard for)
  2. Driving (I’m not a performance driver, but I’ve never had an accident and never had a ticket *knock on wood*, though it’s been a long time since driver’s ed.)
  3. Pistol Skills (Not being able to train my body had me putting a lot of work into shooting)
  4. Verbal Agility (I like talking, but haven’t had much opportunity recently. I feel like my conversation skills are dulled)
  5. Medical Training (It’s been several years, but I still will get the training TQs and Bandages out and practice what I know for skill maintenance)
  6. Fitness (recovering from a stem cell transplant put a damper on my fitness plans in 2014/2015)

2016 Priorities

Now we’ll figure out the top three skills we should pursue in 2016. Look for the biggest differences in rank in the priority list vs the current skill list. Mine are as follows:

  1. Fitness (separated by 4 slots)
  2. Verbal Agility ( 1 slot)
  3. Medical Training ( 1 slot)

2016 Training Plan

Now we decide how we want to attack our weaknesses.

For me, fitness is absolutely top on my list. I had the unexpected surprise of a recurrence of my disease in 2014, so my fitness has degraded to the point of pitiful. Since I’m a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kickboxing guy, I’m going to sign up at my local MMA gym and start training next week. This will actually serve to increase my fitness level, build a technical skill, and give me an outlet for my creative energy. Martial arts are also meditative for me. Your mind can’t be anywhere else but in the present moment, or else you’ll get punched in the face or choked. I also feel it builds mental toughness.

Verbal agility. I’m going to make it a point to read a few books about communication, but nothing beats flight time. Engaging in conversation frequently is the only way to get good at it. I plan to join Toastmasters this year.

Medical training. I’ll schedule more frequent practice sessions with my medical gear, read 3 medical/trauma related texts, and if a training company comes to my town I’ll try to attend if funds allow.

I also like to make a list of my ‘wants’ when it comes to training and self improvement/exploration. It might be a class I’ve been wanting to take, a goal to read 10 fiction books (I only read non-fiction generally), deadlift 500 pounds, a travel destination to visit, start doing yoga one day a week, etc. Add a few things that are slightly uncomfortable, and a few things you really want to do.

You get the idea. You can get as detailed as you want.

Do The Work

Plan the work, work the plan. Go. Do it.


I have been doing this deliberate audit for 5 years now (proof). Every time I do it, it allows me to re-focus my priorities to assure I’m making the best decisions I can. It also helps me to properly allot my limited resources (time, money, energy). The most crucial thing is that you be honest about what you really need, and what you’re actually good at. This takes some honesty, and you might not always like the path you discover. It takes courage to admit you suck, and even more to do something about it.

If your list includes anything that you’ve never trained in before, fix that first. You need to have some basic training in all of your prioritized skills.

What about the skills that didn’t make the top 3 priorities list? It’s time to put those in maintenance mode. I got the idea of 8 week blocks of training prioritization from Larry Lindenman of Shivworks. Block off 8 week of time to concentrate on your current priority for 3 to 4 days a week and everything else gets only 1 or 2 days a week of practice. This could be cardio, strength, shooting, whatever. You’ll have to scale the time depending on how much time you have to dedicate to training. Just keep it relative. After that 8 week block, switch priority and put everything else in maintenance mode. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

This audit process doesn’t  really allow for things you enjoy doing. So you’ll have to do that independently. I love pistol competitions. Realistically, I don’t need to practice shooting beyond maintenance. But I’ll still do my daily dry-fire and shoot the local match monthly because I like it. You have to keep it fun.

Another tip is don’t let your training/practice impact your personal life. I have made that mistake. I don’t suggest the same for you. Take all of your loved ones into account when allotting time to training.

Let me know if you found this exercise useful. I guarantee that it will save you time and will shorten the path to make you a more dangerous human in the long run.

Be Safe.

Be Dangerous.

Do The Work.

Happy Holidays,