As an instructor you’ve got to love those light bulb moments you see in your students. That moment when they get it, it’s like they have been unplugged from the matrix or something.

Steve’s World

Just finished up a great rifle class this past weekend and during our debrief one of the students commented on his experience. He was a solid shooter, did well the whole weekend, definitely at the top of the class. During one of the final graded evolutions he disqualified and I could tell he was pissed. He had that look that I have seen in several students who had similar experiences only this time it ended differently. It ended with one of the best comments I have heard from someone who failed a test, “I wasn’t worthy.”

It’s not my fault

As he went on to explain what he meant, he started out with the anger, which I feel is very common in many folks. Many times that anger is directed at their equipment, the weather, the moon and yes even me at times. As he had time to reflect he realized that his performance showed him that he was not worthy of receiving the award. That all those who have come before him who succeeded deserved it, had worked hard to earn it and were worthy.

Fire in the gut

It was a very lucid moment that impacted not just me, but everyone in the class. He couldn’t be more correct, we are all at times not worthy and we need to accept that no matter how much it might hurt our feelings. Towards the end of his comments he explained how he was shown areas he needed improvements and would work tirelessly to remedy them so the next time he would be worthy. That type of internal motivation is hard to find these days, even harder to inspire in others, but it is there and we all benefit from an understanding that at times we are not worthy.

Riki-Tiki-Tavi for life

The interesting part about his comments was how they reflected an unfortunate reality we see these days. This industry prides itself on being honorable and courageous yet I see many actions that are rather hypocritical. Not everyone does it mind you, but at times I see folks within in our own industry who fail to live up to the code worthy of the words honor and courage. The training we put on is not easy, if it was then everyone would be passing, we’d have rainbows at graduation presented by unicorns. The reality is what we provide is a difficult task, one that takes years to master, but what I believe to be one of the most important traits we teach is mental toughness. Being mentally tough is not about chest thumping or false bravado, I’m so over that these days. It’s about persistence, tenacity and never quitting. It’s about getting knocked down and getting back up over and over.

That defines being worthy, when the effort to reach the top is commensurate with being on top. You have then officially arrived.

"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves." Sir Edmund Hillary, Mountaineer and Explorer

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