Learning Lessons from Clay Pigeon Shooting

One of my 49-4-49 activities that was on the list from its inception was what I call skeet shooting. I’ve always been interested in trying it as my father used to do it; I saw pictures of him as a young adult out with his mates with a gun in his hand. I gave him a gift certificate as a Christmas present one year for us to go together. Unfortunately we never got to do it.

So today, a drizzly, grey, cold day north of London has me out on a shooting range for clay pigeon shooting (skeet is a discipline of clay pigeon shooting, done around a semi-circle in a methodical manner). My hour long lesson with 50 cartridges was with Wayne on a clay pigeon shooting range.

I gained many personal and learning lessons from my experience: The first is don’t overthink things. This is something very appropriate for me. Wayne told me to just understand the trajectory of the target by watching one or two test pigeons and then figure out the approach needed and then line up the gun and shoot. If the clay pigeon is coming from over the top of you, you figure out you need to shoot ahead of it so gravity has it fall into your shot. If the pigeon is coming directly across you need to shoot it before it starts falling. Your brain will actually figure it out if you don’t try and analyse it too much. I hit a string of pigeons at one stand when I didn’t think; this was repeated over and over at the other stands.

Secondly, I learnt that waiting can mean you miss an opportunity. According to Wayne, waiting happens when you overthink, you don’t trust your instinct and instead try to insert your rationale brain. If you become ‘girlie’ and start worrying about other things (like the gun – it’s weight, the sound, the power). Apparently I didn’t turn ‘girlie’, instead Wayne says I have cajones (my word, not his).

The third lesson I learnt whilst clay pigeon shooting is that attitude is key. For some of the quicker stands I missed three pigeons and Wayne advised me that I needed to be ‘mean and moody.’ Initially I had no idea what difference that would make and then I hit three pigeon in a row when I’m manifesting that attitude. Because it was quicker I needed to see it, kill it, get aggressive and shot sooner.

(Just in case you were turned off by the notion of guns and shooting, we actually had a pause a few times on the range to allow geese and birds to fly by so we didn’t risk hitting them with the bullet, pigeon or exploding pigeon pieces so this was nothing about killing, far from it.)

Fourth, I learnt tha there is no better way to learn than by 'just doing it'. Another instructor was shooting a couple of pigeons to show the trajectory and demonstrate how to shoot to his students.  The instructor missed both shoots. The students then obviosuly wondered, if he couldn’t hit it how could they? He used up their cartridges for his own experience rather than theirs. You only learn, and improve, by doing it.

Lastly, encouragement is a great motivator. Wayne pointed out what I did wrong when I missed it (face off the wood, left eye open, leaning back) and he very often told me what I did right and celebrated when I hit the pigeon, focusing on what I did right rather than what I did wrong. 

I wish I had experienced that with my Dad, Wayne says he would have been proud, impressed by my ability (and Wayne doesn’t give out false compliments).

These are lessons I often use with my Executive Coaching clients at Directions Coaching in London – don’t overthink some things, trust your instinct especially when proven right, take the opportunity, attitude is key, encourage and practice, practice, practice.

If you would like to hear more about my life coaching courses, you can contact me on 02031516830.