How to pump it up

 muscles, weight lifting, venice beach

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Self, I wish I were better at (insert at will)?” I certainly do. The things I’d like to be better at are many and varied, but I think it’s fair to say that most of the time my little wish, usually said quietly in the back of my head, is as far as I go to actually do anything about it.  

I’m thinking I’m probably not alone in this.

My friend Tim, who might be steadily becoming absolutely wearyof being mentioned here, has talked with me about this a number of times; generally about this blog. But first, as a few people (to include my mother) have requested I do so, I present you with a Boot Camp story:

Before I joined the Corps I’d discharged a firearm only twice in my life. Once, and even now I shudder at the stupidity, I and a handful of other knuckleheads fired shotguns into the air on New Year’s Eve. The second time occurred when my father and I went on our (only) duck hunting trip. That time I fired another shotgun into the air (hitting nothing except perhaps one of the eight million mosquitoes in the area) and shortly after we called it quits. As I didn’t enjoy hunting, or (at that time) spending time with my father, I was more than ready to get back to the safety of my room and sink into the melodies of a Yaz or Depeche Mode album through my headphones. 

And yet it’s generally the guys exactly like me, those with little or no experience with firearms, who perform the best on the firing range once trained. Instructors say it’s because we don’t have a mass of bad habits that we need to break. There’s probably a post about that idea (Tim, Russ – the gauntlet is thrown) but that’s for another day.

And while I’m certain the lack of bad habits had something to do with it, I’m more than convinced “Snap-in” was actually the key to my success with an M-16.

You see, Boot Camp provided two weeks of rifle training – one week of position training (Snap-in), and another week of live-fire practice and testing. While going through it, Snap-in was horrible: five days, eight hours a day, of sitting or lying on the ground, holding a rifle and staring off into the distance, imagining your target floating between the sights.

What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was building muscle-memory in those five days. That because of standing up, sitting down, kneeling, or lying in a the prone position, over and over, I was teaching my body the correct way to get my trunk, arms, and legs out of the equation when it came to tracking, targeting, and eliminating a target.   

When week two finally began I was a “natural.”

Okay, so how does that apply here?

Tim told me a story a few months ago about a Comic Book artist who, when asked by an aspiring artist how to get into the business, suggested that the inquiring individual draw 10,000 sketches. Yup, not a typo – that’s four zeroes. 10,000 sketches and you’re going to know your way around a drawing, was the idea. “Chops,” you could say.

So I wonder – out of all those things, those wishes that we’d like to be better at, just how awesome would we be after a week of Snap-in or 10,000 practice swings? Want to get in shape? Start tracking the miles you walk or run. Or the number of push-ups you do. Seriously – imagine how your arms or chest would look after ten thousandpush-ups. What will this blog look like after 10,000 posts?

Of course, it’s far, far easier to look into the air and wish we knew how to do this or had more talent at that and chalk it up to genetics or talent. Which will you choose?

Image by RightIndex

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4 comments

  1. Nice post, Michael — and thanks for the props.

    Re overcoming bad reps. Dr. Suzuki, who pioneered the Suzuki method of music training, talks about this in one of his books. He would often get children in his classes, even very young ones, who “couldn’t carry a tune.” Invariably he found that the deficit could be tracked to a mother, grandmother, or nanny who sang to the child out of tune from infancy.

    His prescription was enough pure / sweet repetitions of music to counterbalance (or, we could say, overinscribe) the bad repetitions. So if the child had heard a thousand off-key lullabys over the years, Dr. Suzuki figured he or she would need a thousand exposures to, say, Mozart or Beethoven to bring them back up to zero. *Then* the process of building their positive skill in music could begin.

    1. Tim,
      Thanks for the comment. See, folks? This kind of constant, random, interesting information is why I’m more often than not home late. Always a dangerous proposition getting into a conversation with Tim after 5PM…

  2. Dad and I talked about that very duck hunting trip yesterday, the day you posted this. I can remember vividly how young and miserable you look in that one photo we have floating around somewhere in the family, and how out of place you seem with a gun in your hands. I simply felt the need to note the coincidence of this story coming up for both of us on the same day and hundreds of miles apart.

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