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While teaching a firearms class today, I used the term “Baby Steps” referring to the ‘Crawl, Walk, Run’ mentality. While driving home listening to the same Rammstein, Metallica, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line and Shinedown playlist I always listen to, something occurred to me that I have never considered.

Baby steps are not short consecutive steps that get you to your destination in a prolonged time, baby steps are awkward, staggered and clumsy. Baby steps have no prescribed gait as they often lose balance and fall. Even a baby falling has no predicted course. A baby’s brain is firing multiple neural impulses trying to build a specific pathway to learn behavior. Essentially the caveman, or cave-baby in this case, is growing based upon multiple trial and errors. More specific, and less popular in today’s terms, a baby learns kinesiology by repeated failure.

Some may say, in a modern society it’s not politically correct to fail. I disagree. Sometimes you have to lose. Failure is not a bad thing, how you fail makes it constructive or destructive. Just like when teaching a baby to walk, the parents will help with words of encouragement and certain safety protocols in place. Just like on the range or on the mat. While learning, it’s ok to fail. As long as it is done safely, in a controlled environment, and with the proper protocols.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” -Japanese Proverb

Obviously we do not want to see our students fail, but it is an incredible learning tool and motivator. When I started competitive shooting, I sucked. However, I used these failures as motivation. My dry fire sessions increased. They were scheduled, video recorded and documented. My live fire sessions were placed into my outlook calendar as appointments, with the same attention to detail. A weird thing started to happen, I started to improve. I was able to think, shoot and assess faster. Failure makes you better.

So now what? Find ways to fail. In a safe, controlled manner, attempt to out drive your headlights until the wheels fall. Take your mind and body faster and farther than even before. Get mad and leave everything at the range in the form of brass and smoke. Get angry and leave everything on the mat in the form of sweat and exhaustion.

As one of those songs in my playlist pontificate, “I say goodbye to my weakness, so long to regret and now I see the world through diamond eyes.” Learn and build valuable experiences and skills from those failures, from those first awkward baby steps. These failures will take you farther and faster than any success will.

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