When I am frustrated over something I am having difficult, I am terrible at receiving advice. (no doubt, I am probably not the best at giving advice to people whom are frustrated either) I wouldn’t attribute it to pride (although stubbornness might fit) but part of it stems from the fact that I feel much better about accomplishments if I figured out all the necessary solutions myself.
I was recently reminded of a situation where someone tried to give me advice during such a time of self frustration. As an avid outdoorsperson, when I was younger I would often try to find new ways to get involved in such activities, especially in that hunting season(s) only make up 1/4 of the Michigan calendar per year. So, while I was going to college, I spent one summer shooting skeet at a local state run range.
My interest wasn’t so much in becoming good at skeet shooting as it was finding something to do that was similar to hunting and that would help me practice my shooting skills during the off season. Thus the gun that I used was the same one I had obtained for woodcock hunting, a shortened barrel (coach gun) 20 gauge shotgun. This was hardly the optimum gun to use for any sport involving shooting of clay pigeons. Thus it was not my expectation to shoot consistent 25 scores (perfect rounds) but I was glad to see that I quickly started regularly shooting around 17 or 18 out of 25.
One particular week, however, my scores suddenly started to slack off and I couldn’t seem to shoot any better than a 12 or 13 score. I was trying to figure out what had changed and wasn’t having any luck – i.e. getting quite frustrated.
At this particular range, there were a number of regular shooters and of course, a number of regular employees (pullers). One puller in particular, I did not like because he seemed to be a tad arrogant and conceited. He was, however, one of the more experienced pullers and thus many of the people I shot with preferred him over the other employees.
Again, my round started off sour as I missed the high houses at the first two stations.
In that I was looking to hone my hunting skills, it was regularly my practice to shoot with the gun held at waist level, much like it would be if I were walking through the brush after birds. After my frustration became obvious, the snooty puller decided to throw me some unwanted advice.
“You really should start with your gun at your shoulder.” he said in his typical ‘I know better‘ tone of voice. I was already upset at my misses, frustrated at my lack of knowing what I was doing differently than a few weeks before when my scores were still in the 17 range – I was none too happy to have Mr. know-it-all commenting on my style when he had no concept of my motivation for shooting that way. I didn’t say anything but shot him a dirty look before stepping back from the line to make way for the next shooter.
Alas, somewhere in the back of my brain – probably the same part that couldn’t figure out what I needed to change to get my consistency back – something told me; “he does this every day – his advice probably would work… even if it wouldn’t suit your needs.” In other words, I began to realize that he knew what he was talking about even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear or advice I thought I could use.
Without any to-do, I instead raised my gun only a few inches higher than my waste and instead of holding my arms completely relaxed, tensed them slightly in preparation of the launch of the clay target before taking my first shot at the next station. (I later learned this is actually referred to as ‘international style’) I don’t know if he was experienced enough to notice the slight change in my shooting style, but since I was still quite mad at the intrusion of unwelcome advice, I made quite an effort at making it as non-obvious as possible.
I shot the entire round mad, shot the entire round from that ‘international style’ starting position. I finished the round with 21 pigeons shot out of 25, the highest I had ever shot with that short gun. I even got compliments from the best shooter in our group (‘Grizz’ who had often shown off shooting stations with his eyes closed or stepping 3 to 4 steps into the grass on the last station) as he recognized that it was quite a good score for such a short gun.
Before going back into the clubhouse, I walked up, still acting miffed and handed $5 to the puller. All I said was “never hesitate to give me advice even if I don’t like it”. I didn’t follow his advice per se, but his experience gave me a new way to look at it and a new idea – an idea apparently that others followed since I later found out it was a popular skeet shooting style in international competition. And my shooting improved.