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Operating as usual
The Psychology of Previous Investment
Greg EllifritzMarch 15, 2021
Written by Greg Ellifritz
I was recently listening to a podcast where the host was interviewing noted author and speaker James Howard Kunstler. Mr. Kunstler is well known in the fields of permaculture, architecture, and sustainable living. He has written several excellent books, with The Long Emergency and World Made By Hand likely being of interest to many of my readers.
Kunstler was talking about the lack of long term sustainability in our resource demands and modern lifestyle. He blamed much of the problem on a concept he calls “The Psychology of Previous Investment.”
He explains the concept as:
“as a species we are reluctant to abandon any path we’ve set down, once we’ve made the commitment to set down the path.”
He’s essentially speaking of inertia. In any endeavor, we as a species seem reluctant to change course (even if it is in our best interests) if we have heavily invested (either emotionally or financially) in a certain technology or outcome. Some people might call this “throwing good money after bad”. Economists might refer to it as a “sunk cost.” It’s the idea that once we make up our minds and commit to a particular course of action, we become psychologically wedded to that decision, even when all indicators logically call for a change of course.
It’s what happens when we let our ego get involved in our decision making process. We convince ourselves that our decisions are optimal. It damages our ego to admit we were wrong, so we continue to work to support our initial poor decision.
Although Kunstler was speaking specifically of the problems involved with our modern-day energy expenditures, I see a similar thing happening every day in the firearms and training world.
The “psychology of previous investment” comes into play every day in at least three areas related to firearms and combatives training:
1) Firearm selection. I see this one most commonly. People will spend months researching firearms forums and reading gun magazines to find the “best” gun to have for any specific situation. They don’t realize that most gun magazine articles are nothing but paid advertisements and that most of the forum “experts” fire about 100 total rounds a year.
They take the advice of the “experts” and go out and buy a gun. The gun works ok. Maybe it doesn’t fit their hand well or maybe the recoil is really too intense for their skill level. Maybe he gun jams every 20 rounds. It could be a variety of factors, but it soon becomes obvious that they made a bad decision.
Rather than admit that they screwed up and bought a piece of sh*t, they make excuses. “The gun doesn’t like this kind of ammo.” “I must have a bad magazine.” “I’m just having a bad day on the range.” The excuses go on forever. They just want to avoid the pain of admitting that they made a bad decision.
So they invest more. They try 14 different kinds of ammunition. They put new grips on the gun. They buy a dozen different holsters to make carrying the gun more comfortable. They try different sights. They replace the magazines.
Then it gets really bad. They start seriously tinkering with it. They spend money to replace recoil springs or put match triggers in the guns. As a last resort, they send the gun to a gunsmith for custom stippling, a lightened trigger pull, or a “reliability package.” All the while they are continuing to carry a gun that doesn’t work for them because they took the advice of a keyboard commando and bought the wrong gun.
Folks, you can’t polish a turd. Cut your losses. A gun that doesn’t work for you (even if it is expensive or high quality) shouldn’t be carried. Get rid of it. I’ll pass on the advice a veteran SWAT trainer once gave me when I was suffering from the “psychology of previous investment” and struggling with a rifle that I originally thought was a great choice. After seeing me try everything possible to get the rifle running he looked at me and said:
“Dude, that thing’s a piece of sh*t. Ditch it. That’s why God made gun shows.”
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it was good advice. More people should take it.
2) Clothing Choices. This is another one I see, especially among cops and new CCW students. They have spent their lives (and often lots of money) developing their own sense of style. They wear tight clothes, tucked in shirts, or other clothing that doesn’t work well for concealing a gun.
When they start carrying, they realize their clothing choices don’t support their new armed lifestyle. So what do they do? They don’t buy new clothing to dress around the gun. They buy an inadequate gun, carry off body, or use a less-than-optimal holster design.
I see people who love shooting their Glock, but who carry a .380 auto instead because the Glock “can’t be concealed.” I see people carrying guns in virtually inaccessible ankle holsters because they don’t want to un-tuck their shirts. Even worse, people leave guns at home or in the glove compartment of their cars to avoid changing their clothing style so they could carry more often.
It’s that previous investment thing again. People invest money as well as their personal identities in their “style”. They don’t want to change. Inertia takes over and reality is ignored.
Being armed is a lifestyle decision. Sometimes you will have to change things up a little and learn to dress around your gun. It won’t kill you. But leaving your gun at home because you don’t want to un-tuck your shirt might.
3) Training. It doesn’t happen often in my classes, but I see it every now and then. A student will show up and perform poorly. They won’t accept any corrections from the instructor, even though the student’s techniques are clearly not working. The student says something like “I saw this technique on YouTube” or “The Navy Seals do it my way” or, even worse “My CCW instructor told me to do it this way, so clearly you are wrong.”
Every professional instructor has taught a student like this. The student pays good money, presumably to learn what the instructor is teaching. But the student won’t try any of the instructor’s techniques because the student already knows “a better way.”
The student is too stubborn to realize that he has previously spent time and money learning an ineffective technique or system. The previous investment of money, time, and ego provides too much inertia to allow the student to change course…even if the course he is on is sending him over a cliff.
Do you suffer from the psychology of previous investment? Take a hard look at your weapon selection, clothing choices, and training experiences. Recognize when its time to cut your losses.
activeresponsetraining.net Written by Greg Ellifritz I was recently listening to a podcast where the host was interviewing noted author and speaker James Howard Kunstler. Mr. Kunstler is well known in the fields of permaculture,
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALLISON ADAMS!
“Dry Fire Practice, Focusing on the front sight, and a smooth trigger press in ones cadence will improve your marksmanship and precision”.
How to Use Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication for Self Defense
by Sheriff Jim Wilson - Saturday, February 13, 2021
The military has long made use of verbal commands and hand signals in combat, and such means of communication can be equally useful for the armed citizen faced with a life-threatening emergency.
When considering a personal-defense plan, people rarely consider the need to communicate with others who may be on your side. Waiting until the bullets start flying to try to come up with signals that can be understood is probably not a very good idea. When dealing with a violent criminal attack, we need to be able to communicate with our partner, both verbally and with hand gestures, in order to present and utilize a united defense.
We may need to communicate the fact that we have to reload or clear a malfunction, in which case the partner will need to cover us. We also may need to communicate to a partner the number and/or the location of our attackers. Furthermore, we may want to let our partner know what our plan of defense entails, where one is going and where one’s partner needs to go. All of these things, and others, need to be worked out ahead of time so there are no misunderstandings in the midst of a life-threatening emergency.
The first rule of defensive communication is to keep it simple. In the midst of a gunfight might not be the time to say, “I’ve run out of ammo and am going to need to reload my pistol.” The more effective comment might be, “Loading!” To which your partner replies, “Covering!” With these two words, you have established what you are dealing with and your partner has indicated he/she understands and will cover you until you can get back into the fight.
A gunfight also might not be the best place to try to get too tricky with your communication. Hollering “Left” when you actually mean to go right in an attempt to fool your attackers may very well also confuse your partner. The most important thing is to come up with short, clear forms of communication that you’ve worked out ahead of time, so that your partner knows exactly what is going on and what needs to be done.
There may also be situations during a criminal attack, or any tense situation, where verbal communications are not the best idea.
There is also the matter of auditory exclusion that needs to be considered and dealt with. That is the phenomenon where, under certain stressful conditions, a person’s hearing is often impaired. Gunshots may sound like firecrackers being set off a few hundred yards away, and normal, conversational tones may not be heard at all. For that reason, defensive communications should be as loud as they are clear. Defenders should shout it out like they are making a speech to a crowd without the use of a microphone.
Communication is also important when a potential threat is spotted. For this, we often will use code words to alert our partner without alerting everyone else who might be around us. I might say to Mary, “Sadie, is it 3-o’clock yet?” By using a fake name, preferably one she hates, I have alerted her to a possible problem and told her that it is at 3-o’clock to her position.
Some years ago, an Arizona woman was taken at gunpoint during a robbery. She called to her husband, “Cowboy, there is a man here to see you.” The armed robber was neutralized because the couple had agreed on the word “cowboy” as an alert that an armed robbery was happening in their place of business.
We may also use code words when we need our partner to create a diversion that allows us to arm ourselves or draw our handgun. My partner, being held hostage, needs to hear a code word to know that I am ready to shoot and need the partner to kick her feet out and drop like a dead weight so that I can get a head shot.
When you think about it, code words can really be of value to us in our everyday lives, as well as in a defensive situation. Just about all of us have been to a social event that we can’t get away from fast enough, yet we don’t want to offend our hosts or those around us. The more we establish and work with code words in our everyday lives, the easier it is to implement them during a crisis.
There may also be instances during a criminal attack, or any tense situation, where verbal communications are not the best idea. In these scenarios, it is an excellent idea to have worked out some hand signals with your partner. I once examined several sheets of hand signal illustrations from the military and found them to be too many and too confusing. And, in a personal-defense situation, it doesn’t matter what the military does—it only matters what you and your partner have worked out and agreed upon. Again, keep it simple.
When we have a partner to back us during a criminal attack, our advantage isn’t added to, it is multiplied. But, this is the case only when we have previously discussed a personal-defense plan and worked out ways—both verbally and non-verbally—to communicate while dealing with a criminal attack. It is an excellent idea to take the time with your spouse, business partner or good buddy and work out the signals that will help you both survive.
shootingillustrated.com There’s more to preparing for personal defense than you may think.
PRACTICE MAKE PERFECT
BUT ONLY IF IT’S PERFECT PRACTICE
WRITTEN BY JOHN CONNOR
ODD ANGRY SHOT
After making three slow passes on his ATV, the Range Safety Officer couldn’t stand it anymore. Parking his rig outside the action-shooting bay, he waited until I was reloading, then hailed me and sauntered up with a quizzical look on his sun-creased face.
“Not ta yank yer chain or ’sturb ya, Mister,” he drawled, “But could I ask just what the heck you’re doin’? I’ve seen a lot of shootin’, but yours got my curiosity up.”
I guess it looked pretty goofy, beginning with me; a semi-sheared ape with a pistol on his hip and a carbine slung up front, staggering around on a cane. As the RSO observed, I had been doing trigger-finger-dances on my pistol, going from indexed position to the trigger, popping off single shots and doubles 1-handed, changing hands, and sometimes clearing the piece and repeating the drill dry-firing. In the process, I radically changed my orientation to the targets, set up at varying distances from 7 to about 20 yards at random angles. That left me presenting at targets directly to my front, off at sharp or shallow angles, even at 90 degrees away or directly across my body. I was in a deep, 3-sided shooting bay with high-impact berms, so it was safe to do so.
My primary goal during those particular drills was working on the transition from “ready to engage,” with trigger finger in the indexed position lying at the side of the triggerguard, to firing, getting my trigger finger swiftly and properly placed on the trigger and making a sure, straight press to the break. It’s a very small movement, but important and often overlooked. Earlier, I had caught myself blowin’ it. My secondary goal, when shooting doubles, was to concentrate on managing the trigger reset.
Since this is far more easily done when shooting 2-handed, my practice that day was 1-handed. And, since running that drill is more easily done when your body and feet are oriented squarely toward the target, I was presenting and firing at acute, random angles, checking for negative effects of working the involved joints and muscles on achieving that sure, straight trigger press. Every time I found a “problematic position” which made my trigger press unsatisfactory, I would stop, clear the weapon, do some dry-firing and then re-engage with live shots.
The RSO and I had a nice chat. He’s a well-trained shooter and IDPA competitor. As we talked, he realized he routinely trained on drawing and presenting, and he also trained on his trigger press, addressing the two as separate elements—but he had largely overlooked that all-important transition which brings the two together, and recognized that might explain some problems he’d experienced. He also mentioned some difficulty with managing trigger reset while shooting rapid doubles. It only took a couple of minutes and about 10 sets of doubles to see that frequently his finger was coming off the trigger after his first shot, and the rushed second shot was more of a jerk than a press.
Pieces Into Process
With sufficient training he can cure that “coming off the trigger” problem, but the immediate treatment was simply to slow down on that second shot by a fraction of a second and concentrate on finger placement and press. Initially, he might lose a half second on his doubles, but more than make it up in more accurate hits—and greater speed would follow in time.
The two “take-aways” from this were first, he needed to integrate his grip, draw, presentation, indexed-to-trigger finger movement, sighting and trigger press into a seamless process instead of just continuing to practice individual elements, and then trying to put them together in matches. Second, even though he was very experienced, he benefited from friendly critical observation. Sometimes you, the shooter, just can’t see what you might be fumbling, ’cause you’re too busy shootin’!
The best lessons I learn for myself, I learn by watching others, including people I’m training. The next-best lessons I learn, I get from self-analysis of screwing things up. In this post, I’d like to share some observations. They’re primarily intended for “defensive shooters,” both handgunners and riflemen, but competition shooters and even hunters might find a nugget or two.
Overwhelmingly, I see well-intended, conscientious, methodical shooters simply concentrating way too hard on the individual elements of the mechanics of shooting, and trying to get everything perfect; exactly the right stance, centering their weight, achieving textbook positions, and treating each element of breathing, trigger control and more as separate operations. Each step becomes sorta’ segmented and jerky, and rarely achieves the level of results the shooter desires.
Devil’s In The Digit
While each element of shooting can be trained individually, most could and should be practiced and well drilled at home, dry-firing. There, you’re under no pressure of time, distracting noise, movement of other shooters or the mechanical action of the weapon being fired. It’s also the best place to work on integrating all those individual elements into the smooth, seamless process they should be. Try to make your dry-firing drills no more than about 20 minutes long, but done as often as possible.
If you do your “homework” at home until you’re satisfied with your rhythm, your trips to the range can be far more productive and pleasant, more like “ballistic therapy” than “trial by torture.” This should also relieve you of a lot of self-generated pressure. Hey—you know what you’re doing, you’ve practiced it thoroughly, and if you’re not cutting groups as tight as you’d like, well heck, you can’t hit a homerun every time you step to the plate, can you? And, by relieving that pressure, you’re more likely to pick up on your weak points and rough spots, so you can address them calmly rather than just cursing a “bad shooting day.”
A friendly observer can spot things you’re doing unconsciously, like adjusting your grip or fluttering your support-hand fingers after that first shot. I’ve pointed this out to many shooters who were completely unaware they were doing it.
Sure, you should practice shooting on level ground in textbook positions, but I urge you to mix it up with shooting—carefully—from less favorable unconventional positions and at radical angles. Life is unlikely to allow you such luxuries in lethal-threat situations. The only two things you should never, ever vary are a sure, solid grip and a clean trigger press. Regardless of poor positions, bad angles and uncooperative targets, having those two elements nailed down can make the difference between winning and losing, living and dying. The devil’s in the digit, folks, and the gremlin’s in the grip.
gunsmagazine.com The best lessons I learn for myself, I learn by watching others, including people I’m training. The next-best lessons I learn, I get from self-analysis of screwing things up.
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