Author's Note: Suppose I could write a letter to my younger self about my firearms journey as a soldier in combat arms and now a firearms instructor and competitive shooter. In that case, this is what I would say.
Dear "younger me,"
Growing up, you had minimal exposure to firearms. You weren't even allowed to play with G.I. Joes since your parents feared it would make you "violent," it may come as a surprise to learn just how central firearms will become in your life. I know you have always been one to learn your own lessons, and disregarding advice from your elders is kind of your jam, but let me impart some wisdom.
First and foremost, if you take nothing else away from this, never forget...focus on the process, not the results. Yes, the end result is the all-satisfying "ding" you get when the steel rings out, confirming you did everything right. However, it is simply the completion of the process and not the focus of your efforts. You could not have managed to hit your target had you not followed numerous steps or countless hours of preparation before pressing the trigger.
The class that started it all.
"Send it!" Don't let fear hold you back. It can be intimidating getting started in shooting. It can seem almost impossible to figure out where to begin and even more challenging to know how to accomplish your goals. Have confidence in yourself and understand that having a solid foundation of the fundamentals will continue to pay dividends throughout your journey.
Shooting is not a hobby or sport to "dabble" in if you want to be the best. This will require a significant investment in your time, money, and effort to get to where you want to be. That is not to say you need to live and breathe it. You do not need to bankrupt yourself financially or physically. Still, you cannot complain about the returns you didn't get for not working at it. As is the case with most things in life, you need to put in the time to get good at something. This is no different. Sure, there are some things you can learn on your own, and you will, but there is a limit. You didn't grow up around firearms, and you will need help.
This leads me to my next lesson...Never stop learning and seek out formal training. You don't know what you don't know. This is something that will smack you square in the face. There will come a time when you will put down your rifle early on and simply resign yourself to thinking you're no good at this and it just isn't for you.
An acquaintance will later become a great friend and convince you to take your first post-military training class. A seasoned precision rifle instructor will get behind your rifle because you are holding up a class full of professionals and tell you that your equipment was faulty after firing three shots. It will be here where you discover how bad equipment was impeding your growth as a shooter. Once it's all sorted out and your rifle is back up and running, you will quickly come to find out you are good at this. Scratch that...you are really, really good at this.
There is always something to be learned, don’t let your ego get in the way.
This will solidify the last few points for you. You have a great foundation of the fundamentals. Having the broken scope was a blessing in disguise. Not knowing it was broken forced you to focus on every little detail of your fundamentals, trying to diagnose and correct what you were doing wrong. Positioning behind the rifle, breathing, trigger prep/control, follow-through, etc. This realization of "you don't know what you don't know" will motivate you to learn and strive to better yourself every time you get behind your rifle.
Remove pride and ego. This lesson applies to pretty much every aspect of your life, but we'll stay squarely in the shooting realm of things. It is good to have pride in yourself, your skills, and your accomplishments. The ego is a necessary part of life. It is our sense of self-esteem, but it can also get in the way. There will always be someone more knowledgeable, more skilled, perhaps more capable than you, but that does not detract from your knowledge or ability. It does not serve you to be intimidated, stubborn, or prideful in your abilities. Do not shun better people than you but rather engage with them and learn all you can. Allow yourself to be mentored. It's ok to not know what you don't know, but do not miss the opportunity for growth because you feel like "you already know that" or "that way doesn't work for me ." There is always something to learn.
Find your Tribe.
In closing, your shooting journey will present opportunities that you never imagined possible. You will become a member of a community of amazingly diverse individuals who share your devotion to improvement. You will dedicate yourself to enabling new and experienced shooters alike to facilitate success and growth. You will make lifelong friends and colleagues. There will be times where you doubt yourself, where you question your efficacy and if you even belong. However, just like when you put your rifle down all those many years ago and thought you were no good at this, don't give up. Your will and dedication to the process will lead you to where you are today.
ABOUT MICAH NOE
Micah Noe, COTA/L (@jolly914), spent 11 years in the United States Air Force working in Combat Rescue and deployed to Afghanistan 5 times. Micah splits his time between the Healthcare and the Firearms industry. He teaches for Ghost Ring Tactical in San Antonio, NM, and is the CEO and Founder of High Desert Training Partners. He is also the COO for Berserker Creative, a Utah-based media production company specializing in the outdoor/firearms communities.