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February 9, 2015

Preparedness | Sharpen Your Ax



The first communication we had with a barricaded subject allegedly armed with a gun came through his mother.  She came to a scene recently, where our police officers had a tight perimeter on the house into which her son ran after allegedly shooting someone.

The son called his mom from inside the house and told her, “I love you and goodbye.”  This was profound insight into the mental state of our 19 year old suspect and meant that we would prepare ourselves for the worst.

Police officers always prepare ourselves for the worst.  When we are told there is one suspect in the house, we assume there are two.  We are always prepared to find a weapon even if we are told there are none.

We never believe what we hear until it is confirmed with unwavering certainty.  Most of the time that doesn’t happen until we can verify information with our own eyes or the eyes of one of our fellow officers.  We sift through information given to us by various witnesses and we separate the grain from the chaff by meticulously following every lead.

It’s not distrust, per se.  It’s just that humans get it wrong.  A lot.  And it is the job of the front line police officers to isolate the person who is a danger, contain them and stop them from hurting themselves or others.  To do that, we must gather and verify intelligence, then act upon it.

So we prepare for the worst.

This takes both mental and physical preparation.  Physical training ensures that the officers have the strength of body to persevere should they be faced with a confrontation and the mental toughness to stay in the fight without surrender.

We prepare not only for the world we live in but for the world we may find ourselves in.  Police officers train for the worst because it would be a tragedy should we find ourselves unprepared.

It’s not unlike anything else in life.  Preparation is what separates the successes from the failures. At those times we have fallen short, we can most likely look back and concede that we were not fully prepared because we didn’t put in the time.

Abraham Lincoln put this notion into context when he said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax”.

Unfortunately, the human condition can sometimes settle for the path of least resistance and we procrastinate when we know we should be preparing.  We put off the hard work because it’s easier to do the things we want to do instead of doing the things we have to do.

Those who are successful know that there is no such thing as being over-prepared.  They understand the sacrifice that is necessary to achieve the end in mind and they are the ones who work harder and smarter after everyone else has quit.  The times in my life where I have fallen short have been because I lacked the will or because someone out-performed me.  Either way, I was ill-prepared.

Discipline is the very thing that determines success.  When you have the self-regulation to push yourself far past the point where you want to quit, you will find that you have achieved self-mastery.

This is why our officers train when they would rather be engaging in less demanding activities.  This is why those who have fitness goals make the time to exercise their bodies and push them to the extreme.  This is why those who are seeking an education (formally or informally) opt to pick up a book instead of turning on the television.

The choices one makes either brings them closer to their goals or they push them further away.  When one makes choices that that are centered on self-discipline, they soon find themselves closer to mastering their craft.

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