Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship

Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship

As a student of human performance I am always amazed at the way we pay lip service to the winning mindset. It seems we think that if we just say this or that to ourselves, or visualize ourselves doing this or that, we will become winners. Simple, right? Wrong.

Our brains are not what you would call optimizing organs; they don't try to find options that optimize our lives or our actions. They are in fact "satisficers;" they "satisfy and suffice" in their actions in order to deal with a situation that needs a response, and they do so in a way that fulfills our expectations.

Complicated, right? Not really. Simply put, our brains are little time machines projecting futures based on the present we are in right now. If you are in a situation that your brain recognizes as one you lose in, you will find a way to lose. If it is one you believe you win in, your brain will find a way to win. Self-fulfilling prophecies with no prophet.

The easiest way to say this is, "If you expect to lose, you will, and if you expect to win, you will." Wow, that simple, eh? Not that winning is simple, but the process is. The key is getting your time machine brain to believe you deserve to win and then have faith in your abilities to do it.

A lot of us are sabotaged by negative expectations about ourselves that we learn from others. In our academy we used to have our ladies buy grip strength developers after the first week of training, on the premise that we were helping them qualify with their firearms later. But what we were actually projecting to all of them was that we believed they were weak. If they bought into our beliefs they were made weaker.

All of us are filled with these kinds of expectations about our abilities or our futures, about what we deserve. Once we got rid of those grip gadgets and changed everyone's expectations at the academy from "shooting is hard" to "shooting is a fun, essential, easily trainable skill for those who try," we had tremendous success and had the first female cadet to shoot a perfect score. It's all about expectations.

What about you? What do you believe about your future, your abilities, your strengths, and your weaknesses? What do you believe you deserve and what do you expect to get in your life? The answers to these questions are vitally important, and yet very hard to answer.

First, look at your life, your history, your successes, and your failures, and decide today to make this a fresh start for your future. Each day is filled with thousands of actions in which you either recognize a way to succeed or find a way to fail. Today, start choosing success.

Second, look in the mirror, forgive yourself for your failings, and decide you deserve to win. Winning is about making yourself constantly recognize ways to succeed instead of ways to fail. Remember, doing nothing is a choice; so is becoming happy, or letting yourself follow a failing path. So why not choose a path of winning...habitually, in everything you do? If your first reflex is to say, "But that is too hard," then you are already showing you believe you deserve to fail. Henry Ford said, "Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right."

If you deserve to win, to be happy, to succeed, then move on to developing your warrior ethos, and train and prepare for all things in your mind and with your body. No money for departmental firearms training? Buy your own and train. Winning must become a habitual and basic way of life for you and, like a great athlete, training the mind and body are core beliefs-not just banquet talking points.

It seems we are coming to a time of great crisis and stress in our society and you, my friends, are the "tip of the spear" fighting for a civil nation. If we are to weather the crisis successfully I truly believe it must start with each of us looking in the mirror and seeing a winner.

Dave Smith is the creator of "Buck Savage" and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press' Street Survival seminar.