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The Million Dollar Question

| September 02, 2019

As many of you know, Laura and I love sporting clay's and enjoy to shoot competitively whenever we can.  I have written a couple of times about the similarities of retirement planning and shooting sporting clay's.  I came across this article written by one of top instructors and competitors of the sport, Dan Schindler.  It really hit a nerve with me, not just from the competitive standpoint but about our life in general.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Thank you Dan Schindler for giving us permission to share!

The Million Dollar Question

Feb 24, 2018 | By: Daniel Schindler, Master Sporting Clays Instructor and Wingshooting Teacher

It was about 10 years ago, maybe more, and I remember the tournament very well. It was late morning and we were all early, standing on our designated Station, shaking hands. The usual air was heavy, almost palpable, and undeniably physical.

Greetings over, I stepped back a few steps to “gather my awareness,” letting go of all that wouldn’t matter over the next few hours. My good friend and shooting companion that day, Bryan Brueck, walked over. He silently handed me a folded piece of paper…and went back to our cart to sit down.

From Bryan’s expression, I opened the paper slowly. Already knowing the message had a purpose, a meaning…I was paying attention. The message read: “Why are you here?” That message was just the performance reminder I needed. My answer stayed with me all the way to my last target. It was that answer that placed my score high in my class…the same motivation that had carried me to previous performances and scores I’m still proud of.

I don’t think we can count up all the great performances…sports, music, etc…that were spurred to pinnacle heights by a deeply personal motivation. The quarterback who dedicated his record-setting performance to his father who he’d lost a few days before the Super Bowl. The 3-time Olympic athlete who’s about to make his/her last jump, throw or race…and walks away with a medal. Or, maybe it’s the musician’s dream finally coming true, walking proudly off the stage at Carnegie Hall? You can believe this…they all have 1 thing in common. Before the show starts…they know the answer to Bryan’s question.

You and I both can appreciate the endless universe of information available on the mental game. Trillions of words have been written and spoken. There are lengthy lists of what to do…what not…when…where… how…why. Many of these lists have step-by-step instructions…typically with merit…offering practical, useful advice when applied.

Should we decide to sit down and compare those various lists, we’ll discover a lot of common ground…logical parallels….repetition. Yet, in my humble opinion, there’s an underdog component that belongs on those lists…too often unknown, underestimated, forgotten or ignored altogether. In these cases, it ain’t on the list…and should be.

For brevity’s sake, can we agree that distractions can upset our shooting performances? Fears, expectations, traps that break down, noisy spectators, gun malfunctions…the whole enchilada. What’s a shooter to do? Studying one of those “lists” might help. Again, in my opinion, there’s something else…something substantial…something just as much if not more useful. It can help. It will help. Before you even arrive on the shooting grounds…consider asking yourself, “Why are you here?” Forget everyone else. Why will this event, your performance, be important to you? THE reason. Not sure? OK…but it’s a good question nonetheless. For those of us who compete, I believe the question deserves our attention.

Your answer should be prepared well before you step into the shooting box. If you can find the answer, you will be motivated. When you are motivated, distractions fade. When you are intensely, fiercely motivated, distractions disappear. When that happens, you are standing at the door to the Zone…the entryway to the performance you knew you were capable of.

Like other performance generating components on the “lists,” properly assembled and executed, pre-shot routines have proven to be useful and genuinely effective. They help “center our awareness” just when our focus and concentration should be maximized…right before we call for the target. From a performance and score-card perspective, they are a high priority. They can work, and do work. But, with all respect to its recognized value, a pre-shot routine is just one performance step…and one that stands well behind motivation in importance. “Why are you here?” What do you really want today? Now? What really matters to you? My answer will probably differ from yours. That’s OK…as long as we each know the answer.

Ask Vince Lombardi if it was just about football? Ask Herb Brooks (American, Olympic Gold coach) if it was just about hockey. Fasten your seatbelt and read this quote from Michael Jordan:


 “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”


If you truly do want to find the best in yourself…your very best performance… you might not want to leave Bryan’s question unanswered before stepping into competition. Are you just here to compete today? Is this about hoping to meet some personal expectations? Or, is there a deeper reason? A reason that will keep you securely focused…every shell…every target…first shot to last. A physical strength that empowers you…a mental force of determination that will occupy every thought, make the right decisions, guide every swing as planned. Don’t leave home without it. Find that answer…that reason…and you can raise your scores.


Thanks for visiting…we’re always glad you come by. Be safe and I hope to see you out on the course.






About Daniel Schindler

Dan Schindler has been a full-time, professional Sporting Clays and Wingshooting Instructor since 1990, and is a master instructor, competitor, and Coach. Dan has continuously refined his shooting program to competently help shooters of all levels - regardless of their shooting issues - accelerating their skill advancement. Steadily, by building solid fundamentals and properly executing the process, shooters learn how to implement the best shooting methods for each of the various target presentations. Then learn how to correct their own misses and how to repeat the successful swing. In simple, logical steps, Dan takes the mystery out of your shooting, thus, predictably raising your X count.


Dan Schindler's Books 

Take Your Best Shot (Book I) is all about the fundamentals, a requirement for good shooting.

To The Target (Book II) Builds on the steps outlined in Book I. Emphasises Gun Management skills when the trap fires, creating a consistent, reliable, trustworthy swing.

Beyond the Target (Book III) is for shooters of all levels, filled with valuable information, clay target truths. Entertaining and a culmination of 3 decades of Dan' life's work as a teacher, competitor, published writer and much more.

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 affiliate