Failure Is The Preferred Option.

Training to fail is the only way to get better, but failure is not fun.

“Tactical” training that mimics “playing soldier” adds in an element of make believe and is therefore more fun than more effective training that lacks such elements. All of us guys* liked “playing soldier” when we were kids and the rush of “taking charge” and mimicking violence and/or rigid adherence to authority, so it only makes sense that doing such things again as an (alleged) adult triggers pleasant childhood memories.

No one ever grew up “playing USPSA” (at least not yet) so it will be a while until walking through a stage triggers pleasant childhood memories.

Good training requires failure, because unless you’re Rob Leatham and you popped out of your mother’s womb with a 1911 in your hand**, you have bad habits you need to break. Breaking bad habits without breaking the student’s spirit is tough, and the “suck it up, buttercup” approach used by ex-military types is uniquely unsuited to us free-spirited civilians.

I mentioned this to my wife, who has 20 years experience teaching middle schoolers, and she said she gets around the despair that failure often causes by reminding her students of how far they’ve come. Her students can do the scary stuff because she reminds them that they’ve already learned so much in her classes.

This is where standards come into play. If you can show a student how far they’ve come from the first hour of class while teaching them something more advanced later on in class, you can make them want to learn more. In order to measure progress and boost confidence, you need to, well, measure progress.

It works for eighth graders, and might just work for adults as well.

* Yes, I know. How cisgender, heteronormative of me. Piss off.
** Ow, that must hurt Mrs. Leatham somewhat…