5 More Quotes for Trainers: Maxims and Mantras to Hammer Home Instruction

Smart, strategic, subtle placement of appropriate quotations can help instructors cement into students' minds important lessons that—in the context of police training—could one day save a life.

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Last month in this space, we explored five well-known quotes utilized by five law enforcement instructors. Trainers quoted individuals as diverse as Colonel "Coach" Bob Lindsey, Napoleon Bonaparte, Sun Tzu, Dave Spaulding, and Jim Collins. Topics included intention, leadership, focus, preparedness, and effort. Lessons included leadership traits, self-discipline, mental toughness, and physical preparedness.

Here, we examine five more quotes utilized by five more trainers.

Mastering the Basics

"Football is two things. It's blocking and tackling. I don't care about formations or new offenses or tricks on defense. You block and tackle better than the team you're playing, you win."
—Vince Lombardi

"As a former football player, I learned and attempted to master the basics," says Kevin Davis, a noted police trainer and author of the book "Use of Force Investigations: A Manual for Law Enforcement."

"The same message holds true for law enforcement skills—the basics win," Davis says. "Don't over complicate it, learn the basics of how to hit, shoot, and drive and practice them until you can execute without conscious thought."

Davis concludes, "Skill mastery allows the officer to concentrate on the suspect and decision making, not on how to execute a draw stroke, throw a punch, swing a baton, fire a TASER, or other suspect control skills."

Stretching the Mind

"The mind once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original shape"
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

"I'm fortunate that much of the work I do is for the development of trainers and leaders," says Joe Willis, chief learning officer for First H.E.L.P. "I'm a big fan of The US Army's Experiential Learning Model (ELM) and Rich Carr's Brain Centric Instructional Design (BCID). Every experience is a Learning Event."

Willis adds, "Leaders and trainers who are intentional about facilitating the learning process take the time to explore experiences with learners to co-create intentional learning outcomes even if the learning event was unplanned. This quote embodies the developmental value of an after action review."

Reading the Texts

"If you haven't read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren't broad enough to sustain you."
—General Jim Mattis (USMC ret.)

"I wasn't much of a reader in the past, but as I grew into a leadership role, I realized General Mattis is one hundred pecent right," says John Bostain, a 23-year law enforcement veteran who now leads Command Presence Training. "Our personal experiences alone are not broad enough to sustain us.

Bostain says that reading the work of others broadens a person's perspectives and allows them to regularly challenge their personal beliefs.

"Growth cannot occur if we don't challenge our personal beliefs regularly to reaffirm or change them based upon new information," Bostain says. "Not a reader? That's ok. Most of us have the ability to listen—books on audio are almost as good as reading. The bottom line is, great leaders are readers."

Knowing the Purpose

"You haven't taught until they have learned."
—John Wooden

This is a quote I've used for years when training new instructors," says Brian Hill, owner and lead instructor with Mental Ammo. "I encourage all trainers to post this quote where they can see it before, during and after all their presentations and to reflect on it frequently.

Hill explains that Wooden is reminding every coach, educator, and trainer that what they do isn't about them—their purpose is in imparting wisdom, skills, and confidence to the athletes, students, and trainees in their charge.

"Anyone can stand in front of a class and read from a PowerPoint," Hill says. "No one learns that way. The trainer must engage with the students and be intentional about ensuring learning is taking place."

Hill concludes, "As a passionate instructor, it is your responsibility to keep up with your skills and knowledge. Continuous learning must be intentional.  You will need to invest your own time and money into your professional development so you can guide others onto a journey to success."

Doing the Training

"We don't rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training."

"Lack of preparation has led to the death and defeat of so many people," says Tim Barfield, chief of the Wellington (OH) Police Department. "This quote by Archilochus cuts to the heart of the difference between success and failure. Most people overestimate their preparedness in most situations and believe that because they have thought about or studied a topic that they will be prepared to act when necessary."

Barfield says that there is incredible value in training in a discipline or action and that the repeated motions, speech, manipulation of devices, or parts of your tools will help build officers' skills for when the brain is operating in the "executive" state. He contends that the above quote from Archilochus quote is most important is when the brain is operating in the "survival"—amygdala, caveman—state.

"The amygdala is the part of the brain where we operate under stress," Barfield says. "Training will build good skills that will cause you to react a certain way when you operate under stress thus falling to your level of training. Whether the reaction is self-defense or a certain behavior, in the words of Kenneth Murray we don't think our way into a new way of behaving, we behave our way into a new way of thinking."

Writing on the Wall

Back in the 1970s and 80s it was fashionable for business managers to place framed quotations on the walls of their office—usually in plain paper mimicking old parchment. These short, one-sentence statements from the likes of Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and other "captains of industry" were meant more to inspire the office-holder than their guests.

By the early 1990s those were supplanted by large wall posters in a standard format featuring a breathtaking landscape or a stock image of people in pairs or groups. In the oversized margin beneath the picture of a lighthouse on a coast or a soaring bald eagle or a group of athletes rowing a boat would appear a single word like "Attitude" or "Focus" or "Teamwork" and an obligatory platitude.

These "motivational" posters were plastered everywhere—including hallways of law enforcement agency headquarters buildings—and quickly and deservedly became targets of ridicule and mockery.

But smart, strategic, subtle placement of appropriate quotations can help instructors cement into students' minds important lessons that—in the context of police training—could one day save a life.

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