“Surround yourself with those smarter than you.”
I’ve heard variants of this saying many times in various venues. Sometimes it was narrowly focused – “you are a new boot and don’t know anything so listen to senior officers” – and other times it was more focused on learning as much as possible from others.
A post a few years back on another forum got me to rethink events like tradeshows – NTOA, SHOT, etc. The poster (Moose) summarized how the show wasn’t about what new stuff was out, but about the contacts and informal learning opportunities.
Finding Subject Matter Experts – SME, is important. When someone is qualified to talk about a subject, they are worth learning from. However, just because they are qualified to talk about X, doesn’t mean their opinions on Y and Z are valid. Neither does it mean that their opinions on Y and Z are not valid. This is where you have to find more than one SME to look at for information.
How do you determine if a prominent figure in the industry is a SME? By comparing their claims to evidence, facts, openness about who/what they are, and if there statements match others from that same background. Also looking at whom they have taken training through or worked as an Assistant Instructor for, can help you make those decisions.
Some recent topics I’ve seen around social media have caused some discussion. One was an instructor who was pounding the drums about his background in darn near every sentence on his bio and equipment suggestions. Besides this being an indicator of caution, I noticed his recommendations were not on par with other SME’s on the subject. With that I don’t consider this individual a SME. Of course, that can lead one to assume that when 9 out of 10 local “NRA Certified CCW Instructors” suggest the Taurus Judge as a concealed carry piece, and only 1 suggests a Glock 19, that the nine are correct and the one, incorrect. That is a false assumption. One must look at the totality of the situation and advice.
A great line I was told in a training class by a National Guard SF and full time LEO was this, “Never say never or always.” This was something that was helpful in analyzing answers given by instructors, advice givers, self-proclaimed SME’s around the industry. If that advice is so restrictive that its “Always or Never” you should suspect the info as valid. Times change, equipment is bettered, TTP’s are bettered, new threats emerge; etc.
Now how do we use that information in finding a Mentor?
- a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter.”
Finding a mentor, means we have found someone who will help us be better. Does a mentor need to be a SME? No, but they must be finding some of their info from SME’s. Why? This guarantees the info is sourced well.
What do I expect of a mentor? Someone who will guide me, give me the cold hard truth when I need it, teach me, point me the right direction, let me bounce ideas off of, etc. They will influence your career. From my LE background, many officers will have this happen during their initial training faze, called Field Training or “FTO” and “PSTO.” An officer who has been working for a few years will train the new officers in how to do their job. Generally the new officers will look to these more senior officers to mentor them in how they do their job, career goals, etc.
When it comes to shooting related topics, finding a good mentor is essential. This allows you to have someone to challenge your reasons for doing something, push you when you are afraid to, push you toward training in a topic you may not want to, and many others.
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