A colleague and mentor recommended a couple* of books last year, of which I took quite a liking to The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. Admittedly it’s not the sort of self-help literature that immediately comes to mind in the context of firearms (Saint Jeff’s Sacred Tome™ seems a more likely candidate), but I’ve found a personal resonance with it and my passion for responsible gun ownership.
* The other book being Extreme Ownership which is simply amazing, but that’s for another day.
Weapons are part of my religion. - Din Djarin
When I told my spouse that I was reading The Four Agreements, I was immediately asked, “Isn’t that kinda New Age-y for you?” Okay, yes, the whole Toltec shamanic thing hits the panpipes pretty hard, but I also believe that if these agreements were presented to the public in a Mandalorian gift wrap and bow, Disney would add yet another money printer to its arsenal.
Marvin’s unlicensed use of that Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator put a sizable bounty on his tiny head. Naturally Boba Fett was eager to collect.
The first agreement, “Always be impeccable with your word,” is universally applicable. To bring Jeff Cooper back to the conversation, this rule made me think of the following passage:
To ride, shoot straight, and speak the truth-
This was the ancient law of youth.
Old times are past, old days done;
But the law runs true,
O little son!
From which Cooper titled one of his books, and Ruger used the above poem in a 1968 advert. All this, in turn, taken from the historian Herodotus:
Persians educate their boys to ride well, shoot straight, and speak the truth.
Something something ancient wisdom, but still resonant today.
“Don’t take anything personally,” is the second agreement, and again this is applies everywhere, all the time. The goal of training and practice with firearms is improvement, and part of that process involves feedback whether from your trainer, coach, or fellow shooter.
Everyone has their own, unique worldview, and everyone’s opinions are rooted in that singular spot. Having a strong sense of self, acceptance, and even love, dammit, is fundamental to mitigate or even negate anger, jealousy, and all the Dark Side stuff that (non-baby) Yoda warned about.
Home is where the heart is AT-AT. Watch your step, or you may get all tripped up.
The agreement of “Don’t make assumptions” locks right into Cooper’s Commandments of Firearms Safety. In particular, the fourth rule of awareness around and behind the target puts assumptions off the table when deciding to make the shot.
Every bullet you fire in the “real world” has a lawyer attached to it, so be sure what you’re shooting at.
One of the lessons in the PST 102 course required the students to identify, and if appropriate, engage a target under low light conditions. The photo above shows the assorted targets with the lights on, and based on what’s on these targets (e.g., a knife, a police badge, empty hands, a wallet) one has to decide whether it merits a hole or two. What’s the second half of the adage, “When you assume…”?
“Always do your best.” Pretty much a no-brainer, right? Something I found interesting was the bit that buttresses this agreement - that one should do one’s best under the circumstances. Let’s face it, we have our good days and crap days, and “personal best” will vary accordingly. If one recognizes, acknowledges, and delivers to the best of one’s ability in those circumstances, one is doing one’s best.
See shells far from the sea shore.
A significant takeaway from PST 103 was knowing one’s limitations. One may not physically be able to crouch, bend, and contort to make use of all cover positions. One is better at a particular shooting style than others. While constraints may cap one’s performance, that doesn’t mean one can’t work with or around them.
I was introduced to the term “Peopleware” by my colleagues in the context of technology, specifically software development, and it was in one of these conversations that I was recommended The Four Agreements.
There’s a requisite, foundational layer in the “peopleware stack” of behavioral and psychological patterns that make or break the collaborative cogs and wheels of the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle). I believe that these agreements - all the woo-woo aside - lead to personal resilience that is absolutely critical in so many contexts, particularly in the safe and responsible management of firearms.
This is the way.