The Guardian Broadcast
"Providing Concealed Carry & Armed Self-Defense Wisdom."
A podcast by Patrick Kilchermann, founder of the Concealed Carry University.
"Ever Elusive Excellence and The Magnificent Power of Discipline"
This week, as I return to the helm from paternity leave following the successful birth of a healthy baby girl, I want to launch the 2016-2017 season of Guardian Broadcast and Concealed Carry University production with... a challenge.
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Note: 100% accuracy on text transcription is not guaranteed.
This week, as I get back into the saddle here at Concealed Carry University, following the successful birth of a little baby girl her in the Kilchermann household, I want to challenge you Guardians… and I want to say a few words about excellence.
Let me tell you a story.
I grew up in a very small town in rural Michigan, and nothing ever really happened there. There was a post office, a small grocery store, a hardware store, and an abandoned gas station. There were some good people in the town, but I’m not going to lie that many of them lived on welfare and didn’t really care to change. I remember one woman was third-generation welfare, meaning nobody in her family had worked in 3 generations. One more thing, to paint the picture: long after I’d grown up and left that town, I ran into my old baseball coach. He was a good guy, and as a shingle roofer, he probably worked one of the lowest paid and hardest working jobs in the country. He had 3 nephews who were all on my baseball team, and they were phenomenal players. Utterly fearless at bat or on the bases, as poor kids usually are. Well, I asked this old guy when I bumped into him how those boys were doing. By this time, these boys would be in their mid 20s! How were they doing? Were they still playing baseball? “No,” he said. “I started a softball league downtown, but I told them, “you can’t join the team unless you have EITHER a high school diploma, OR a driver’s license, OR a job.” None of the three had either one of ‘em, so I didn’t let them play.” So, that’s the climate I grew up in. And beginning at age 12, I worked at the small grocery store in town, and I saw it first-hand. We sold more beer, cigarettes, lottery tickets and frozen pizzas than anything else.
In short, the town embodied one of the most repulsive and depressing forces on the planet: stagnation. Stagnation is the opposite of momentum; the opposite of victory; the opposite of excellence.
Stagnation can only exist if one of two “cancers of the mind”, as I call them, are present in someone: either laziness, as was the case with a lot of people where I came from, or despair. A lack of hope. A lack of realizing your true potential.
And I don’t mean in some cheesy “anyone can be the president” way. I mean hope and potential in real, specific, actionable, and achievable ways. Now I’m going to bring this back to what it means to you as an American who carries concealed, but let me tell you about one of the moments when the reality of human potential clicked for me.
Within days of turning 16, I spent whatever I had on a decrepit pickup truck. It was literally for sale for $300, because it needed a transmission. Well, no problem. With a vehicle, I got a better job in a nearby town 5 miles away at a hardware store. I was only 16, but it really was a ‘real’ job. And I remember this 18-year-old farm kid who always came in with his father… he was a fat kid who walked with a strange limp. Bashful, always had his hands in his pockets. So when I heard that he had graduated high school and joined the US Marines, I was a little surprised. Surprised they even took him, for one thing, but more surprised that he thought he could hack it.
Well, a little over 3 months later, this kid came walking in with father, fresh out of boot camp. Only he wasn’t a bashful, fat kid anymore! He came walking up shoulder to shoulder with his dad - who was as proud as you can imagine by the way – and there was not a trace of fat on him. His arms swung confidently at his sides. His tense shoulders were relaxed, and his posture was ramrod straight. And rather than staring at the floor, he was looking straight ahead. He seemed like an entirely different person! I said, “Tom??” I couldn’t believe it. I never believed a person could change so much in an entire lifetime; let alone in 3 months!
But: that’s reality. That’s the human body and the human mind at work, doing what they can, if we remove obstructions and get out of their way. If we stop pouring poison into our mouths and ears and eyes.
That was when it started to click with me: we’re all human beings. We’re the same machines, equal reflections of the image of God, and we’re all more or less equally capable. There are no super-humans; only people who have worked harder and studied harder and practiced harder than others.
Hard work, hard study, hard practice. These are at once both the tallest and most intimidating barriers of entrance into the realm of excellence that there could be – AND yet, they’re also ridiculously easy to overcome. They’re difficult for most people, because hard work, study and practice require sacrifice of time and comfort: two things most people are unwilling to give up. But for the willing, for the person willing to delay gratification and give up time and subject themselves to discomfort, the trajectory in any aspect of life is upward. It’s a law of physical certainty, IF this effort is applied to a virtuous discipline.
Now, I’m not talking to young people at the beginning of life – I know that, and yet I still say all this, because I know that it is precisely as we age that mental and physical stimulation become more and more critical. But, as we age, the number of virtuous disciplines that are accessible to us and our physical conditions grows fewer and fewer.
So, what do we do? Well, in the words of Thomas Jefferson "...I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks."
I’ve said this before, but the truth is that Jefferson was on to a whole lot more here than most people give him credit for when they cite this passage. He understood, as do I, that concealed carry in and of itself is a discipline like any sport or martial art or field of study. And when done properly, out of love for neighbor and human life rather than out of hate or fear for an enemy, it is a virtuous discipline.
That’s right: carrying a handgun, as an end in itself, rather than simply as a means to leading an uninterrupted life, is a discipline. Now that’s a big statement. Because even most of our pro-gun culture tends to fall back on crime as a justification for the existence of concealed carry; whereas I’m suggesting that even in the absence of crime, if we could somehow get there, carrying a handgun concealed for the right reasons sharpens and improves a person in ways that will benefit his or her employer, his or her neighbors, and his or her country. Now it’s equally clear to me that only about 10% of the population is cut out for the responsibilities associated with the practice of this discipline, but that seems to, over the last 30 years, have been a self-policed system. Those 10% tend to be drawn toward carrying concealed, while the remaining 90% would either never think about it, wouldn’t want to, or are actively aware that they aren’t cut out to handle it.
But for those who are drawn to the discipline, those Guardians, their minds are sharpened, their attention to detail is focused, their respect for and abidance to the law is magnified, and they set an incredible example for their younger generations. And as statistics and common sense heavily imply, the societal benefits of concealed carry as a deterrent to crime are enormous.
And, how convenient? Just as we age, as we naturally become a more likely target for criminals, here comes this perfect discipline for us to practice and execute.
And virtuous disciplines all point to and lead to the same direction: Excellence. And the more diligently you practice a discipline and adhere to its tenets, the more you grow… the more you are shaped and perfected and refined, like iron sharpening iron.
Now, every discipline offers its own specific points of growth, usually with some overlap, and some more than others. For example, the game of chess, which is another discipline, is going to mostly sharpen the mind’s ability to carry lots of interrelated information for an extended period of time, predict human behavior and reaction, and make snap decisions - whereas playing softball in a casual league is going to offer an entirely different set of mental and physical rewards. And that’s why we can’t let ourselves focus solely on one discipline; we must always seek to remain productive professionally and casually through hobbies, which are usually disciplines in themselves.
The question then becomes, HOW. How do we avoid stagnation, and “do” concealed carry properly so that we reap its maximum benefits?
Well, first, we have to remove the natural cap to just how effective we can be by getting in and staying in as good of a physical condition as we’re able to, according to our age. Now, I don’t mean to nag here. But the reality is that while we can’t all be Arnold Schwarzenegger, every single one of us has a best potential for flexibility, strength, and endurance. And personally, I believe we each have a duty to ourselves, our makers, our dependents and our descendants to achieve that.
Look at Tom, the US Marine that I mentioned earlier. That kid was overweight and weak, and in 3 months, the Marines turned him into a lumberjack. That’s 3 months of focused effort. Any of us should be able to get there in a year. It’s not hard, and you don’t need a personal trainer. Just make a realistic list of what physical activity you do right now and improve on that. Keep in mind the brilliant reality of change over time. If you do 10 push-ups per day for the next year, you’re going to literally look and feel different one year from now. If you walk 1 mile per day in addition to that, assuming you don’t walk at all right now, you won’t recognize yourself in a year.
If it’s hard, that’s all the more reason to do it, because persevering through difficulty is where most of the psychological value of a discipline comes from. So, just do it! Imagine if every 3rd day you jogged 2 miles, did 120 push-ups and 120 sit-ups per day? Doing these things would consume about 45 minutes of your day out of 3 days. That’s ONE percent of your time per 3 days. And yet, if you did this for a year, you would probably feel and look better than you have in a long time, and you’d probably end up adding a decade to your lifespan, if you began in your 50s or early 60s. Now if I’m talking FAR below your level of physical activity, that’s wonderful. Good for you. The bottom line is, to be an effective Guardian, to reach your own potential, you’re almost always going to be limited first by your physical condition. So, get to work.
After that foundation, comes diving in and progressing up the ranks through actual concealed carry related skills and abilities. This happens according to a 3-part system of: Education, Training, and Practice.
Education is learning the scope of the subject at hand, in this case, Concealed Carry. Training is learning HOW to connect the knowledge and physical ability to develop real skill. Real skill is then developed through Practice.
Always remember that: Skill is NOT made through education, and skill is NOT made through training. Skill is ONLY made through practice. But in order to learn HOW to practice and WHAT to practice, you need training from an expert who has already done or is doing the things you want to do. But you cannot begin with training, because unless you EDUCATE yourself on the scope of the subject, Concealed Carry, you’ll have no idea what makes training good or bad. You’ll have no idea how to find and select a trainer, and you’ll not be able to see your trainer’s own flaws and blind spots (and they all have them), so that you can get the most out of that training.
So, the first step is education. Hit the books, hit the videos, talk to experts and veterans. It is my hope that my 7 DVD set, The Armed American’s Complete Concealed Carry Guide to Effective Self-Defense, is the absolute best education source for concealed carry. I believe it is, or else I wouldn’t have made it, and I wouldn’t continue recommending it.
Second, comes training. Find an expert, and work with him or her in person. AT BEST, you’ll have gained such an intuitive grasp on the strategies and tactics associated with concealed carry during your education phase that your trainer will only confirm that you are ready to begin practicing the things that come natural to you. But most likely, your trainer will spot small or large errors in your thinking or movement, and he’ll correct you. You trainer is like your cookie cutter mold. The better your training, the stronger your mold, and the better your mold will look.
The final step is to fill that mold. And there’s only ONE way to do that: practice. You can have guided practice in front of a trainer, you can practice in a group such as with IDPA shooting, or you can practice on your own. It only matters that you do what’s best for you, and that you do it a lot.
Practice, practice, practice. Systemize it. Make a bi-weekly or monthly trip to the range a requirement. Tell your spouse that it’s essential to the practice of the discipline. In between, practice tactical movement around your house with a blue gun. Practice your dryfire. Practice your draw stroke. Practice your shouting, commanding voice. Envision and practice all the skills that you learned were necessary during your education phase, and which you learned or confirmed during the training phase.
For the one journeying through a discipline, which is what we’re doing, practicing never ends. Excellence only gets closer and closer. And in time, if it’s your goal, and if you are willing to sacrifice the time and a little bit of physical comfort, true excellence absolutely is where you’ll end up.