It was dawn.
I was hunting in a block of mixed woodlands. In the south of England
From a tree-stand, I had a narrow view down a forest track.
I didn't know it, but as I sat there looking for deer, a hunting eureka moment was heading my way through the trees.
Sometimes hard work isn't enough
At first glance, hunting is simple.
How hard can it be to shoot an animal?
Just buy the right gear and get out there.
As much as I have harvested plenty of wild meat. And taken many trophies. I also have a back catalog of errors that have taught me hunting isn't always that simple.
Success requires careful planning. And implementation without hesitation.
Starting RedKettle made me reflect on hunting.
To make sure we built the best gear possible.
That ended up in a journey of self-realization. And a new approach to hunting. I'll link to that story after this post.
In short, I realized my approach to hunting wasn't working as well as I thought it was.
To fix that problem, I started exploring different questions.
One of the big questions was this:
Why is hard work not enough to guarantee success when hunting?
That's an important question to me.
Because I want to make the most of my hunting time and budget.
And I want to play my role in making hunting a force of good in nature.
I see hunting as a force of good in nature because I ultimately see hunters as stewards of nature. It's my summary of the many roles hunting encompasses. More on that below.
Hunting irony, the root cause problem, and the first step towards a solution
Think about it.
Isn't it ironic?
That trying out best means getting in our own way.
Not just ironic, counterintuitive.
But we read books like "Grit" by Anglea Duckworth. And about 10,000 hours of work to get to mastery.
And we're fired up. Dedicated hunters.
So, of course, it's a logical conclusion that the key to success is to work harder.
But, unfortunately, working harder often leads to the root cause of the problem I wanted to solve.
The root cause is "over-trying".
I recently took up pistol shooting again.
Which has made me revisit the entire toolbox.
And that toolbox includes mental management concepts. Including a book by a chap called Lanny Bassham.
He's an Olympic gold medalist rifle shooter.
And high performers all over the world use his mental management system (https://mentalmanagement.com/).
That program is built on a principle relevant to my question about hard work and success.
It is the idea that hard work will often lead to failure.
Hard work might work when you're sprinting or lifting weights. But it will work against you when thinking or skills are involved.
I couldn't wrap my head around that idea, to begin with. But Lanny Bassham helped me understand the "mechanics" of the issue.
Trying too hard makes you focus on the outcome.
For hunting, that means you think about the big buck you're after.
And here's the critical point.
You can only keep one thought in your head at a time.
That's why meditation practice often uses a mantra or other point of focus. To keep your mind calm.
So if you focus on the outcome. On how bad you want to shoot that buck. Because you've missed a few opportunities, and your hunting buddies are starting to tease you. With that on your mind, you won't focus on the task at hand.
You are no longer in control of your hunting trip.
And yes, it is that bad.
Fortunately for you and me, Mr. Bassham has a solution.
And it's simple (even better).
The solution to over-trying and outcome-based focus is to focus on the process.
Define the steps you need to take to find and shoot a deer. And focus on executing them well.
That will lead you to the outcome.
Process focus will help you stay in control of your hunting trip.
The obvious place to start if you want to avoid over-trying is the actual hunting process.
It's one of the key components of my efficient hunting framework. And it outlines the exact steps you need to take to find and kill a deer. Or any other animal that you hunt.
I've also added a set of principles.
That way, I cover the "how-to" and "what to do" of hunting.
But I wanted more than that.
Charlie Munger to the rescue
Not because I'm greedy, but because Charlie Munger says it will help me become a better hunter.
Well, maybe he doesn't say it directly. But it's in line with his thinking.
Charlie, by the way, is Warren Buffet's investment partner. And one of the great minds of our time.
Multidisciplinary is probably one of the better labels for the way he thinks.
He's given me two specific reasons for wanting to add more to my toolbox to help me overcome over-trying.
You can find them both in his talk at USC Business School in 1994. By the way, it's labeled "Lesson on Elementary Worldly Wisdom As It Relates To Investment Management & Business". And you can find it here: https://fs.blog/great-talks/a-lesson-on-worldly-wisdom/.
The first reason is the latticework of models.
Charlie, together with Warren, has generated a return of roughly 20,000 to 1 on Berkshire Hathaway's initial value.
And he contributes a great deal of their success to using a latticework of models to help understand problems and acquire new knowledge.
To me, that's a pretty good reason for adding another model to the mix. In addition to the process and the principles.
On top of that, I find great value in the concept I will discuss below.
The second reason is the value of "why".
By answering "why" we do something, we understand the reason for each activity we do.
And that can often be as valuable as knowing what to do or how to do it.
But what is the "why" for hunting? The one that bridges the gap between the process/principles and the outcome?
One concept to rule them all
Ok, maybe not quite.
But it's important and helpful.
Let's go back to that morning in the high seat.
As I sat there, scouting for deer, something occurred to me.
The narrow track, with walls of trees on each side, was a window into the woods.
And my only opportunity to shoot would be if a deer stepped onto the track.
So, in other words, the track was my window of opportunity.
As I reflected on that idea, I realized that hunting revolves around that window of opportunity.
- You work to create the window.
- And you act to use the window.
At that moment, the Window of Opportunity became my hunting North star.
- Overturning leads to outcome-based focus.
- And when you focus on the outcome, you lose your capacity to execute.
- In turn, means you lose control of your hunting trip.
The solution is to focus on the process.
And let the outcome happen.
At the most granular level, you use the hunting process.
At the top level, you can use the window of opportunity to guide you.
Create the window.
Use the window.
The window and that day in the woods
For my type of hunting, it means being careful and methodical when creating the window.
And it means acting fast and smooth to use the window.
Before the animal disappears.
By the way, I've defined three steps to help me act fast.
Through organization and optimization.
More on that below.
On that morning in the woods, a group of deer ran through the woods towards the track.
They didn't stop but crossed the track at full speed. And I didn't get an opportunity to shoot.
But I did get that familiar jolt of excitement.
Sweet and encouraging, but disappointing at the same time.
Luckily, a second group followed later in the day.
And one of them stopped to orient itself...behind a tree on the edge of the track.
Talk about frustration.
Fortunately (for me), it took a step forward, and I could harvest it with a clean shot.
Putting the high-seat in the right spot was key to creating the window of opportunity.
Being ready and acting fast helped me to use the window.
What it means for you as a hunter
Next time you're out, consider the window of opportunity
Ask yourself what you have to do well to create the window?
And what do you have to do well to use the window?
Those two things are all that matters in the moment
Forget about the outcome
Forget about the big buck
Use the window of opportunity to stay focussed and in control
So you can harvest wild meat or put a trophy on your wall.
The window of opportunity is a simple but effective concept.
It helps me.
I hope it will help you too.
When hunting, when you pick your gear or as general food for thought.
The steward of nature and steps to help you get organized
I mentioned the Steward of Nature and how RedKettle made me look hard at myself as a hunter. And set me off on a journey for a new approach to hunting.
I also talked about organizing and optimizing your gear. To help you act fast to use the Window of Opportunity.
If you're after specific, practical input, you might find this post on gear list optimization helpful: https://www.redkettle.co/blogs/blog/3-steps-to-optimize-your-hunting-gear-list