Becoming as well as remaining a student of the art is probably the most important attribute we can cultivate. I’ve been guilty, (many times), of thinking I’ve arrived at the ultimate understanding of all the things we do. In my experience this unfounded belief at worst precedes catastrophic, humiliating failure and at best simply keeps me from improving.  My ego has been a hell of a drug.  

In most professions continuing education is incentivized. Folks get tuition reimbursement, or are otherwise given incentives to attend classes that keep them abreast of the state of the art in their chosen profession. In our world the incentive is a little different. If we don’t stay on top of trends we might be missing vital, life saving information. Information that might save us or a loved one. If that doesn’t motivate us to stay on top of this endeavor nothing else will.

Think about the emergency medical side of the house, it wasn’t that long ago that some folks believed, and even taught that a tampon was something one should use to treat a wound. I’m not afraid to raise my hand and admit I attended a few courses where this information was taught. As a result I believed this was a valid response. Fortunately I’ve continued my training, and have learned newer, better, ways to do things. The same can be said for driving, shooting, jiujitsu, hiking/camping, and anything else we do under this umbrella of being self sufficient.

In a recent conversation with a friend on the subject of this lifestyle I said it amazes me that folks will go years without taking a course on any of the topics we need to be up to date on. My friend said, “If you think that’s bad… there are instructors teaching this material that haven’t taken a class in years, maybe decades. What other profession would that lack of continuing ed be acceptable except this one?” I think he has a legitimate point. If all of my continuing education came from myself, and my co-horts how delusional would I be? It’s absolutely necessary for me to regularly take classes. Taking, on average, one class every two months for years now has helped me stay current on equipment, and technique development, teaching methods, and a host of other relevant interests.

Our prime directive should be to be inquisitive. Always be curious. Never allow our quest for a deeper understanding to wane. 

I’ve found one of the biggest motivators to keep learning is my peer group. If we surround ourselves with people that are on a constant quest to learn we will be motivated to learn. The saying; “you are the sum of your five closest friends” is more truth than we might care to admit. We all would like to think we are the sole source of all the motivation we will ever need. This might be a big piece of the puzzle yet surrounding ourselves with equally motivated folks is also a big piece of the puzzle. I’ve been fortunate to find myself in the company of folks like the Shivworks Collective, the Straight Blast Gym International, The Site, and RangeMaster, as well as others that have remained inquisitive. Every one of my friends in these organizations, (and there is quite a bit of overlap), are continually taking classes, attending seminars, and working to improve themselves by staying current with the state of the art.

When Jim Kauber, SEAL team Master Chief, talks to me about a pistol class he wants to take to work on his pistol skills, or while attending Rangemasters Instructor Development Course I hear Tom Givens talk of his recent experience taking a class, or Coach Chris Haueter, one of the BJJ Dirty Dozen talk about training with the Mendes brothers? That’s inspiring. It’s also a clue. If three men as accomplished at Jim, Tom, and Chris are, with 40+ years each in the training and application of this art, talk about taking courses to improve themselves, it motivates me to find ways to continue my education, and deepen my understanding. 

So how does one find themselves surrounded by folks like this? Find classes in your area and sign up. Even something as simple as a Red Cross first aid class will bring us up to speed on recent changes in protocol for CPR, as well as introduce us to other like minded folks. Those classes are happening almost daily all over the world. We can also join or start a training group. Shawn Lupka has written quite a bit about how to start, maintain, and grow a training group.  Go to seminars, classes or courses and network. Link up with the folks you meet at these events and review the material. Share insights you’ve learned from the material and tweaks you’ve made that improved or made it more applicable to you. Fortunately we live in a time where folks can network with the click of a button via the internet. Reach out and link with like minded people. We might be surprised at how simple it is to get ourselves into the company of those that are actively looking to deepen our understanding of this art.

Above all my friends, remain inquisitive. Keep your curiosity alive, always searching for a deeper understanding of the art and ultimately ourselves. More on that next time.