This concept should be applied to your retirement planning as well. Focusing on just a number without any consideration to the process will lead to missing your retirement target as well as a clay target. Thank you Dan Schindler for allowing us to share!!
All those who want this target to break, please raise your hand. It’s unanimous. Now…how do you break the next 8 targets, intentionally and consistently? Here’s how.
In my experienced opinion, our equipment and shooting methods…while they are very important…are simply tools. Standing in the box, chambers loaded, specifically please, where is your attention? Because what you create downrange (X or O) will largely depend on what you are thinking before the gun comes up. Even with the very best equipment and the perfect shooting method, your performance will stumble if your gun closes and your attention is in the wrong place.
I offer the following to you with common sense as my reasoning.
“Where is your attention?
Because the road of life
is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t decide.”
A while back, in different articles, I shared these true stories in Sporting Clays magazine.
4 gentlemen in the shoot-off at the 5-Stand, I had a great view. Now hall-of-fame, Jon Kruger looked calm. Confident. Because he was. The other 3? They looked the opposite…unsure of themselves. Glancing at Jon, all 3 had half their attention on not wanting to lose, the other half on Jon. Drawing his number from the hat, Jon would shoot last. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being tough, the show pairs were a 7. Barely. To their credit, the 3 shooters tried hard. They really did. To not miss. All 3 swung cautiously and shouldn’t have. Because they were good. They had a chance. Had, as in they gave their best game away before the first shot was fired. Unintentionally now, they caved. 5 true pairs, John went 10 for 10. Easily. All 3 could have done the same. Easily. A truth. But didn’t. A shame. Opportunity lost. Not fun to watch by any definition, but educational all the same. The mind is powerful. Friend or foe? Where was their attention?
Years ago, my friend taught me a very valuable lesson. A month before the PA State archery tournament, morning practice underway…arrow after arrow missing the 10 ring…he asked me, “Dan…what are you trying to do?” Seriously? Out of respect, I said, “I’m trying to put the arrow in the 10 ring.” He replied, “Thought so. There’s your problem.” Say what? That’s my problem??? I thought that’s what I was supposed to be doing. He then said, “Take this one arrow and put ALL your attention on your set-up steps, behind the arrow tip. At full draw, when you know your steps are right, then and only then, release your arrow.” I did. Very deliberately, I set it all up correctly. I made sure. Then, and only then, did I release that arrow. 10 ring. Dead center. Why? I focused on the “process,” what I was doing…what I could control where I was standing…not on the outcome which was downrange where I had no control. Good lesson learned. Want this target to break? Focus on what we can control, not what we can’t. Guide our gun.
None of which remotely suggests we micro-manage our swing. I am saying, a) create a plan before the gun closes, b) put ALL your attention on that plan and, c) call for the target and execute THAT plan. Deliberately. One time. Now…focus on executing your plan on the second target.
One week before the PA tournament, reading my favorite archery magazine, an Olympic archery Coach asked this question: “How many arrows are in a F.I.T.A. round?” I paused a moment and looked up. She didn’t know? The correct answer was 30. Back to the page where she said, “The answer is one.” An AHA moment. Right back to what I’m recommending to you here. Task thinking. ONE target…the one you are watching over your gun…keep your attention on what you can control.
Using Task thinking, I won the PA State. How many arrows did I shoot in that match? One. How many targets are there in a round Sporting? 100? No. One. The one we’re looking at over our gun. What we can control.
We all know what “self-talk” is, that voice in our head, sometimes our friend, many times not. The indecision, confusion, the ebb and flow of our confidence in the shooting box…moving our attention like ray of light in a house of mirrors. Here, we’re thinking about what just happened on the last pair or last Station…what we hope will happen now…and, what we don’t want to happen now. There’s a truck full of thoughts. Which begs this question: which of those can you honestly control? None. They’re either in the past or in the future…along with our attention. We, however, are here, in the NOW…as in right now…the only place where we have any control.
“Outcome thinking” puts our attention on what we have no control over. Outcomes are either history or seconds, minutes, hours or days from now. All of which are outside of our control. This one X requires a correct, precise swing, which you have control over. Or maybe not…depending on where you have your attention.
Once the shot string leaves the muzzle, how much control do you have over the shot now? That’s right, none. If you want THIS target to break…consistently and dependably…someone must guide the gun. Correctly. There’s your Task. One shell, one target, one swing…that’s all you can control. By placing 100% of your attention on your Tasks…swing steps / precision…not on the outcome…every single time, that’s how long runs of X’s are built. 100% of our attention should be on guiding our gun…this shell…this target.
Be committed to executing this ONE swing correctly. 100% of your attention on what you can control. Because exceptions…even one…allowing our attention to move to distractions and outcomes…will be costly.
The prize goes to the shooter (golfer, archer, et al) who can complete the match with the fewest mental mistakes. Because mental mistakes cause physical mistakes. Remember the earlier shoot-off with Jon? Therefore, we have to be very deliberate about where we put our attention. Not on wanting, wishing, hoping this target will break…an outcome that is in the future…where we have no control after the shot string leaves the muzzle. And why our mission in the box is to guide the gun correctly…one shell…one target. NOT micro-manage the swing, but, deliberately keep precision in the swing.
Before I conclude, I can already hear the naysayers saying…he’s wrong, you have to trust your swing. My response? Trust WHAT? Specifically? They are telling you, just trust yourself and the bird will magically break. Consistently?? No such thing. Not going to happen. A consistent, successful X swing obeys the required, non-negotiable fundamentals of precision. Lose that precision…by blindly trusting something you don’t have or haven’t learned…looks like this: OX XO OO.
Seeing over the gun what must be seen, there’s your Task…what you can control. It’s also that elusive doorway into Flow, aka the Zone. All of your attention on this swing executed perfectly. X. Repeat, repeat, repeat….first target to last…there’s your best score.
From E to Master class, using Task thinking, my students not only advance their skill level right on schedule but increase their X counts. Fundamentals in place, when applied, this works…every time…all the time.
“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl
is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”
- Albert Einstein
Happy holidays and I look forward to seeing you out on the course.
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About Dan Schindler
Dan Schindler is one of only 60 worldwide members of the Guild of Shooting Instructors (UK) and is one of the most highly respected Sporting Clays and Wingshooting Instructors in the US. Dan is an NSCA Level III Instructor (since 1995) and founded the Paragon School of Sporting with one goal in mind. Whether it be for the advanced competitor or providing the basics to the entry-level shooter, Paragon provides the simplest, most practical and most effective Instruction, Coaching and Mental Training for the Sporting Clays & Wingshooting enthusiast. Dan Schindler helps shooters alleviate a lot of their frustration by taking the mystery out of breaking targets, calling their own misses, and make their own corrections. Lessons are fun, enlightening and our clients learn to shoot better in minutes!
Mike Mickels is President of CochranMickels Retirement Specialists and an avid sporting clay competitor. CochranMickels Retirement Specialists provides personalized planning and investment services to individuals approaching and in retirement. They also provide retirement and benefits training to Federal employees. Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc, a Registered Investment Advisor. CochranMickels and Cambridge are not affiliated.