Years ago, when I first started training police officers a police trainer shared a card with me at a tactical instructor course. To illicit a more serious effort from students who exhibited a less-than-stellar attitude during training, this grizzled and wise veteran said he would share the message on this card.
I read the words on the card and they deeply moved me. I found the words so personally meaningful that I laminated a copy and carried it with me throughout my career.
The card simply said, “Somewhere, someone out there right now is training seriously. If you are not, and by chance the two of you meet... YOU WILL LOSE!”
Using Words To Prepare To WIN
Instead of using the card for a few I put the words on handouts and urged on students with that mantra and added loudly, “Losing is not an option! There is no second place trophy on the street!”
Personally, just the thought of these words while training would push me to add ten more pounds to the bar, run another quarter mile, or squeeze out two more reps. It would inspire me to steady my grip and focus even more intensely on my sights while shooting. The thought of these words would convince me on a lazy day to go to the martial arts studio and work out. During street confrontations the thought of losing spurred me on to finish the fight and win even, when I was injured or thought myself to be exhausted.
Years later, while attending another class I shared the card with another instructor of great renown, telling him of the impact the words had on me. He shook his head and pointed out to me that I was creating a negative mindset in my trainees by using the word “lose.” He explained by using the word “lose” I was actually mentally creating the option for students and thereby training losers. He suggested the card should say, “Train hard and YOU WILL WIN!”
I so regarded the reputation of this trainer. In fact, his words caused me to remove the words from all of my handouts as well as cease and desist from using the words to motivate students to dig down deeper, during training.
I Never Stopped Using the Card
In spite of this change in training philosophy that I had adopted, I continued to be motivated by the words on my card. These words kept me training as if my life depended on it. I could never bring myself to throw that card away, even though a world-renowned police trainer had debunked these words. If the truth be told, the image of me winning never really inspired me to win. What kept me winning was the image of me losing to some street vermin who then rips the badge from my once-proud and now lifeless chest.
I am now a 58-year-old retired police officer, but my career as a trainer continues. I still have the card in my wallet and I have decided to share these words with you all once again. Although I have struggled for years in an effort to decide, which trainer was correct, using 20/20 hindsight with my career in the rear view mirror, I now think I understand. This is not a theoretical understanding achieved after much thought, study and discussion even though I have done those things.
It is a purely practical understanding derived after surviving a career, which involved grappling in urine-soaked alleys, avoiding gun fire, running through back yards after suspects, jumping fences, going through doors, and rolling over end tables in beer-can-littered apartments.
I realize now that both trainers had a valid point and individual trainees are motivated differently. There is a time to motivate others by the will and desire to win. Forming mental images of what victory would look like is a valuable learning tool.
There is another, deeper level of motivation that comes from a realistic vision of what it means for a police officer to lose. If officers feel indomitable — simply because they say they are — they may not maintain the conditioning, skills, and tactics to ensure that they are, in fact, indomitable.
Therefore I will end this piece by combining the words of wisdom of both trainers for you to contemplate, discard, or adopt. Here they are.
“Somewhere, someone out there right now is training seriously. If you are not and by chance the two of you meet... YOU WILL LOSE!” Therefore, “TRAIN HARD AND YOU WILL WIN!”
Remember, losing is not an option for a police officer. There is no second place trophy on the street.
By training hard, you prepare yourself to win!