Being "good enough" isn't good enough
That phrase is the highest form of complacency, and too often it reflects a mindset that gets cops injured or killed
“It’s not the will to win that matters... everyone has that. It is the will to prepare to win that matters.” — Paul “Bear” Bryant
I believe the phrase “good enough” to be the highest form of complacency. How many times in the course of your life or career have you either said or heard that phrase? Over the years, I’ve heard this phrase uttered by countless people in regard to their skill level, knowledge, and level of preparation. Yet, when I test them in meaningful ways, they can’t perform to their own expectations.
The phrase “good enough” implies that you are well trained and are truly prepared to win and that you are ready to perform at your peak. It implies that you have been smashed with a test hammer against the anvil of reality and have tested yourself against a broad pool of individuals, who have similar levels of training and experience, and have proven to be as good as or better than they are.
When you say you are “good enough” you’re really saying (and self-certifying) that:
• You are prepared to win and have the tools at your IMMEDIATE disposal to use against one or more criminals who break into your home aiming to commit heinous crimes against you or your family
• You are prepared to win in a physical conflict against an opponent who is bigger and stronger than you because of your superior skill, knowledge, preparation, and tools
• You are prepared to win against the active shooter, the nutcase, the psychopath, the hardened career criminal, or gangbangers who may come at you in fours and five at a time
• You know how to fight from your home, your vehicle, on your feet, on your back, on the move in crowded urban or remote rural settings, day or night, with or without a light
• You able to use a range of force options expertly, seamlessly moving back and forth between them — this includes hands and feet, knives, chemical sprays, handguns, backup guns, and long guns
• Through your training and preparation, you are prepared to win — armed only with the tools on your belt or within immediate reach — against one or more terrorists who have trained for many years, and who eat, sleep, live, and dream of eradicating you and your family from the face of the earth
Without being extremely well trained, tested, and having your true performance validated on a regular basis, you cannot know that you really are “good enough.” Unless you have an incredibly strong sense of what you can do under real-world gunfight or use-of-force conditions, you really don’t know where you are in terms of skill and ability.
This is why there is no such thing as “good enough.”
Most law enforcement agencies and personnel — with a few notable exceptions — have a tendency to stay in their own world and measure skill and training levels within their own organization or against a few outside organizations of similar mission type. They generally set their own standards; many of which reflect convenience rather than true real-world performance.
They hide what they do from the general public and won’t test themselves against (or in front of) others — not when they might have a chance of looking bad or performing poorly. They perceive themselves to be highly trained and fail to allow for objective testing and validation.
I call this mindset “institutionalization.” It happens when people live within a particular framework of thinking and operating, and exclude or disregard others who are not from their organization or occupation.
The danger of this mindset is that you start to think of yourself as being superior to others, without the benefit of a reality check in the form of meaningful standards and testing procedures and without testing against a far larger sample population from different backgrounds or occupations.
The reality is that there is a large number of individuals out in the real world that are as good as or way better than you when it comes to skills and abilities. Many are better prepared to win and practice far more than most cops. They simply don’t choose to be cops or military personnel as an occupation.
When I ask a law enforcement officer or SWAT team member what percentage of the best in the world he believes himself to be in terms of shooting skill what I generally hear is “Oh, probably about top 75 – 85 percent or so.”
When asked if they feel they are well trained and prepared they almost always respond in the affirmative.
The average police officer, with notable exceptions, is far closer to a 40 – 55 percent performance level, based on actual testing I’ve conducted over the years. This is with similar equipment, not competition weapons.
When tested in FOF and tactical shooting environments, hit probability is poor to mediocre, response time lags, and performance is way below where they think of themselves as being.
Yet, many officers think of themselves as being “advanced” in terms of training and experience.
Cops need must be testing and validating performance in real-world conditions with performance indicators that truly show what the potential of the operator to actually be under stress conditions. For shooting skills, we must base testing and training standards off what the best in the world can do with similar equipment and in similar conditions, not arbitrarily drawn law enforcement-only standards, or what is convenient, or “what time you have to do” in training.
We need to measure skill independent of agency, hype, or mythology. From there, we can measure against age group and gender and other categories as an interesting comparison and to help motivate you to be the best you can be.
Time and time again, this standard has proven to be superior to all others in terms of measurement as represented by performance in actual use of force encounters.
“Feel Good” Training
Training that has no stringent testing procedures or validation process against a high enough standard of performance is designed as an information only course of instruction. It may make you feel good but it doesn’t really test your skills and let you see where you actually are in terms of skill level.
Unless you’ve been measured against a meaningful standard, under duress, with meaningful consequences, in conditions that represent what you might actually face, you really don’t know where your skills and capabilities lie. And that, sadly, is how cops get killed. They think that since they have several years of experience, serve on a SWAT team, or have been to a few schools, they’re going to “out tactical” the other guy.
If that operator doesn’t regularly practice their training and live by the training they’ve received... if they don’t set meaningful standards and commit to them... if they don’t make the time to prepare mentally and physically... if they don’t make a commitment to being the best they can be, each and every day... Well, then they’re just coasting. And typically, they continue to utter those fateful words: “Good enough.”
Ways You Can Prepare to Win
• The cure for “good enough” is meaningful testing and validation to determine your actual skill level when compared against a larger sample population — when you can perform as good as or better than those around you, it is time to get out of the pond, find a bigger body of water with bigger fish to test yourself against
• Join a group that does training outside of your department
• Make training fun — find ways to enjoy yourself while challenging yourself
• Competitive shooting or competitive martial arts such as MMA are an excellent way to train yourself to perform under pressure — there are many parallels between competitive performance and real world performance
• Stop rationalizing and making excuses when you don’t do as well as you would like — we are all human and make mistakes — the key when you fail is to be objective and learn from that experience
• Start looking for creative, meaningful ways to both challenge and test yourself
• Keep a journal of your actual skill levels and training that you have done, and make a habit of keeping it well updated
• Set performance goals that have distinct objectives that are measurable, either directly or indirectly
• Make training a daily and weekly habit — both physical and mental training benefit the most from everyday application, not monthly or quarterly or yearly intervals
• Stop looking for something for nothing. Get off the Internet forums and start going out and attending real training — reading about something is good but going out and actually getting training in it is priceless
• Go to training outside your agency and outside your law enforcement academy or area — go out of state and immerse yourself for a week in a training environment and get away from home and job
• The best shooters in the world — from the top military and law enforcement teams all the way through Delta and the Navy SEALS — go to the best trainers in the world to get better, and you should too
• Go to training that is both in-depth and has truly advanced standards and a skills validation process — 40-hour programs of instruction are clearly superior to two-day programs in terms of meaningful skill development and retention
• Pay for your own training, ammunition, and travel costs associated with training because if you wait for your department to send you all you will have learned is helplessness and a victim mentality — besides, you can take it off of your taxes
Cops are being killed and injured out there in alarming numbers. More and more, the bad guys are willing to take on cops and the myth of officer superiority has been shattered.
It is time to change the mindset of “good enough” into “be the best I can be”.
Don’t accept less than your best effort, each and every time you train. Live your training on the street, carry your tools with you and respect your opponents without being overawed by them.
Those who prepare the most, win most of the time.