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  • "I started shooting in March 2014 and was shooting registered English Skeet Comps by the end of 2014. Only local registered shoots to begin with, but competing none the less. My first registered competition was October 2014 and I scored 85. My technique was far from perfect and I was starting to battle with the increased pressure of competing. Although I could put in the occasional decent score (my personal best in November 2015 was 93), my performance was somewhat erratic and there were a scores down in the low to mid 80's.

    In 2016, I took part in the North of England selection shoots, but didn't make the cut. At the suggestion of my coach, I went to the Welsh selection shoots too. I didn't make the cut for that either! I had to admit defeat having shot 4 out of the 8 shoots in 2016 as my scores just weren't good enough. I was struggling to hit the minimum qualifying score of 92.

    Late 2015 to mid 2016 was a difficult time. I remember shooting 86 at one of the North of England selection shoots. I was hugely disappointed with the result. The fact that my coach was one of the referees didn't help. By the end, I was so demoralised that it was three days before I could bare to look at my gun to clean it!

    Looking back at it now it is pretty obvious that I was operating with a largely Fixed mindset. I didn't read Carol Dweck's book until mid 2017 otherwise I might have realised what was going on that much sooner. So much of my thinking was based on the Fixed mindset, it is a wonder now that I didn't give up at the stage. Although, I came close, I persevered. I managed to piece together my own thinking, bit by bit, but it was a long and painful process. Lots of soul searching about why I was doing this. Lots of "moodiness" after registering poor scores. How on earth my wife put up with me I don't know!

    This is one of the reason that I so strongly recommend Carol Dweck's book - it will make this journey a little bit shorter and smoother. And easier on those around you!"

    Does talent really exist?

    Personally, I am not convinced. I suspect what we really perceive as "natural talent" is the result of a lot of hard work and effort. Since we haven't necessarily seen the thousands of hours of practice that go into developing a skill, we (somewhat) naturally jump to the conclusion that it must be down to talent.

    But if we think about it, could "natural talent" really exist? For example, could someone really have a talent for ice skating or shooting a gun? Have they really got an innate talent for balancing on two metal blades attached to a pair of shoes while travelling across frozen water? Have they really got a natual talent for pointing two steel tubes at flying object while pulling on another bit of metal? What is "natural" about either of these skills?

    Answer, nothing. What we are seeing has to be the result of a learnt skill.

  • So we now have an understanding of the learning process as well as what we can do to make the learning process a little more efficient. However, our mindset can also have a major impact on the learning process.

    If you only read one book on the reading list, I urge you to read Carol Dweck's book on Mindset: Changing The Way You think To Fulfill Your Potential.

    In her book, Carol Dweck distinguishes between two very distinct mindsets when it comes to learning new skills. Which mindset you adopt can have a dramatic impact on your likelihood of success.

    • Growth mindset - puts emphasis on the fact that skills can be learnt and focuses on the learning process
    • Fixed mindset - reinforces the belief that our capabilities are defined and fixed - it is about unleashing our inherent talent

    Those who adopt a Growth mindset will view failure as an opportunity to learn. They are more likely to acquire new skills as well as enjoying the journey. Their mindset helps them overcome the inevitable bumps in the road and as a result they are more likely to persevere.

    Whereas those who adopt the fixed mindset will find it harder to learn from their mistakes. They will tend to see failure as an indication that they "don't have want it takes" to perform well. Their progress will inevitably be slower and they are likely to become disheartened and give up along the way.

    The diagram in the sidebar summarises the main differences between the two mindsets (click on it to see a bigger version). I keep a laminated copy of this diagram in the front on the folder that I use for record keeping. I find it a useful reminder. Take a minute to look at the diagram and see which side you associate most with - the blue (Fixed mindset) side or the green (Growth mindset) side. Now, this is a clearly a spectrum and I wouldn't expect you to be 100% on one side or there other. Indeed, I can definitely identify with both sides of this diagram - when I started out, I was definitely operating with largely Fixed mindset. However, over time, I adopted much more of a Growth mindset. As a consequence, I became a much happier and more confident competitor (I was also less frustrated and less moody after putting in a poor competition score!).

    The Growth mindset

    A number of times I have watched coaches at work and it is relatively easy to identify those of their students who have a Fixed mindset and those that have a Growth mindset. Ask any coach and I bet they will be able to identify their "blue" students and their "green" students!

  • Talent is overrated

    The Growth mindset is an incredibly powerful concept and it has formed the basis for a number of subsequent pieces of work. One very notable extension to the concept is the idea that talent is overrated. Geoff Colvin in his book Talent is overrated outlines the idea that our capabilities, rather than being well defined, can actually be developed and that this development is only limited by the amount of effort that we are willing to put in. This is an incredibly inspiring idea as it gives us all hope - if at first you don't succeed, try and try again. As someone else once put it "Practice trumps talent!" It isn't about natural talent, it is about how much effort you are willing to put in.

    Geoff Colvin talking about talent being over rated. Although the clip looks a little dated, the idea is very well presented.

  • Process vs Outcomes driven

    Now if we apply the different mindsets to learning sports, we can see that:

    • Growth mindset - puts emphasis on learning and fine tuning the process;
    • Fixed mindset - puts emphasis on achieving a fixed outcome.

    So by adopting a Growth mindset, we are likely to drive performance by learning and fine tuning a process - a feature that is key to learning a new sport. The fixed mindset, on the other hand, with it's emphasis on outcome - is likely to limit our learning and increase the likelihood that we will give up altogether.

    So distinguishing between process and outcome will come as no surprise, if you are a competitive shooter. The trick is to concentrate on process for shooting the NEXT target - everything else (including the final score) will sort itself out without you worrying about it. As soon as you start thinking about the outcome (e.g. I need to hit this to get a 96!), you mind is distracted from the task at hand and you are more likely to miss. Granted, this is easier said than done and when the pressure is on it is too easy to fall into the "outcome" trap. But the only thing that counts is the next target. As the competitions get bigger and the pressure becomes greater, this becomes even more true! Stop thinking about the outcome, keep concentrating and trusting your process.

    How many times have you gone onto a range thinking if I clear this round, then I am on for a 96? Only to go out and drop three targets to walk away with a 93! In competitions, I put a lot of effort into avoiding anything to do with scores during the competition - I don't look at the scoreboard (I actually will walk the long way around to get into the clubhouse and avoid seeing the scoreboard!), I avoid talking to other shooters about scores (theirs or mine) and I make no notes about my scores until after the competition.

Further information


There are a number of websites online that can provide more detailed information. I have included a list for you to use as a starting point.


You'll find an extensive list of books included on the Further Info pages. They are all readily available on Amazon.


There are some great TED talks available that cover many of the areas discussed on this website. I have included links to many of them on the Futher Info pages.