Thursday, February 13, 2014

Just the Basics - The Grind


Topics for posts come at unusual times for me and in sometimes in odd places. It’s late at night and I’m taking a shower so I can get an early start the next day. I’m lucky I can shower at all because the -22*F has frozen the pipes to a good part of our two bathrooms, yet the shower works – my customers that I will visit the following day will be grateful. I’m also chewing on the 5:00AM alarm and the prospect of about a 200 miles drive, in projected snow with wind chills pushing -30*F . . . it’s been a long winter. It’s been “grind-ey”. I’ve about had enough . . .

It’s something to think about when you think about personal survival, maintaining your awareness level, determining how you mix the comfort of a heavy coat, gloves, watch cap and possibly a hood with your need to be aware of your surroundings and how such dress increases your risks . . .

It all comes down to the “grind” of . . . whatever. This year, right now, for me the WINTER is getting a bit grind-ey. For the 5th or 6th time this winter my friend has come with his bobcat and dug us out . . . Twice this winter our water pipes have frozen . . . Our last LP fill was over $900 . . . We have only had a handful of days above freezing since the beginning of December . . . -22*F it COLD . . . grind’ey.

Not really complaining, if it bothered me that much I’d simply move to someplace warmer. But it does affect the way a person lives their life. More clothes can mean warmth . . . but also a reduced ability to maintain awareness. You may find increased comfort in the warmth . . . but have your ability to draw your weapon greatly reduced. When life becomes a bit of a grind, it’s very seductive to let things slip just a bit.

Some examples. For those of you who enjoy canoe trips, I suspect some of this will sound familiar. Most of the trips I’ve been on push a week or so. Of course there is all the prep work – planning the route, menu planning, refreshing gear lists and checking it 2-3-4 times to make sure everything functions. Short day trips are planned for new folks. A couple weekend campouts at local parks to firm up gear lists and as a final check for gear. Excitement, expectations are high and everyone has their head in the game!

The first days of the trip are “crisp” – packs “waterproofed”, food barrels balanced, gear secured against rapids and capsizing. Portages are handled easily with gear off-loaded and then re-secured at the end of the portage. Camp goes up easily, consistently – with tents and gear weatherized against the unexpected storm . . . “the livin’ is easy” as the saying goes.

By mid-paddle, things can begin to feel a bit “grind-ey” . . . especially if the weather has presented you with heavy wind, or heavy rain, or maybe both. Or perhaps portages are filled with mosquitoes the size of a B-17. But the allure of the planning/talking stages have given way to the realization that you are 30-50 miles from your takeout point and your only option is to get on with it.

A couple more days and it is easy to give in to frustration and to simply skip steps that you saw as “basic” the first couple days. Packs are not quite as “tight” as they were, perhaps no longer secured into the canoe. Camp becomes a bit sloppier and perhaps you give into temptation to clean cook gear in camp rather than a couple hundred feet down the shoreline (bears love scraps). And while weather may threaten – perhaps you just skip the extra tie-downs for the tent and tarp . . . because you’ve “about had it”.

This is the moment Murphy lives for . . . and where you have allowed the “grind” to become an excuse to become sloppy . . . Given the right circumstances, things could end badly for you or those traveling with you.

The similar mindset can easily creep up on you when it comes to your defensive habits.

Training can become “grind-ey” . . . it’s too cold, not gonna train today. It’s too stinkin’ hot, not gonna train today. Too much on my plate this month, not gonna train this month. Life, weather, time, money – all can be allowed to become excuses that the grind is too great and sacrifices need to be made . . . not gonna train right now. And, as has been said by virtually every trainer I’ve had over the past 40+ years – shooting is a perishable skill . . . because it is. If you allow the grind to keep you from maintaining and improving your skills as a defensive shooter . . . you reduce your ability to respond to that one moment in your life when you need to defend yourself, your family or a friend.

The daily commitment to carry a weapon can become “grind-ey”. Does it print my shirt? How do I carry with this suit/dress/outfit on? I didn’t think it would weigh this much or feel this heavy or be so uncomfortable. I don’t think I really need to carry today . . . And again, Murphy lies in wait.

Carrying daily is truly a commitment. It requires changes in clothing, belts, shoes, your general demeanor. If this is allowed to move you towards NOT carrying . . . your ability to defend yourself, your family or a friend is diminished. Much can be done to make carry easier through your selection of clothing, a good holster and belt . . . but, under it all, it rests on your commitment to do so.

Training can feel “grind-ey”. What?? I need ANOTHER course?? Really??? But I sat through my carry class, I took a basic pistol class, I spent 50 bucks on a couple boxes of ammo for the range . . . what more is there to learn?? Yep, I get it. When you dial in an annual training course – especially the more advanced ones costing in the neighborhood of $1,000+ counting course fees, ammunition, travel and lodging – many times much more, it gets “grind’ey”. And yet, how else do you grow? How else do your learn and push yourself?

I’m taking a lot of words to say that the daily grind of life – daily circumstances, time, money – can easily nudge you into “taking it easy”, to letting things slide just this once.

And that can lead to some very hard lessons in deed . . .

As the military is fond of saying “embrace the suck!”


  1. It would be great if my tight budget allowed for even one really good class. Just not happening in the foreseeable future. I will continue to read & hopefully learn from your posts, thanks for putting them out.

  2. Embrace the suck is right, and it just 'might' save your life... And remember, Murphy was an OPTIMIST!!!

  3. Ms. B . . . yep, I understand tight budgets . . . Thank you for stopping by and the kind words. Always looking for topics if you have any ideas. And, just a thought, shameless plug . . . if you have a group that would be interested in a 2-day defensive pistol class, would be glad to head your way and comp you for the course if you can line up students and a range. If that has interest for you, think about it and let me know.

    Jim - in those instances that come to mind for me there wasn't much of a choice . . . :)