What Concentration Really Is

This past week, for reasons too odd to go into, I read George Will's Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball. Published in 1990, it's a painstaking dissection of managing, pitching, hitting, and defense, and I'd have to re-read it at least three times to grasp everything that's in it. However, in the chapter on hitting, there was a sentence that stood out like a rattlesnake in a mailbox:

“Concentration is not the ability to think only of the job at hand; it’s the ability to think about nothing.”

Every shooter should have this tattooed someplace on their person, for truer words were never spoke.

Like hitting a baseball, hitting a target involves doing a dozen or so things correctly, and in a fraction of a second. The way you achieve this is by endless practice. A major-league hitter doesn’t have to think about where his feet are in the instant the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand because he’s spent thousands of hours in the batter’s cage and probably a dozen years of coaching and practice figuring out where they should be. A shooter who hopes to hit with any regularity does not have to think about his breathing, or whether his index finger is correctly positioned on the trigger, or whether the rifle is canted, because he’s already practiced enough that this stuff is automatic.

A friend of mine, who is a Distinguished Rifleman, says the best shooters he sees are service team members. These guys shoot on a scale that’s scarcely comprehensible to normal human beings. As a former Marine Corps Rifle Team member told me, “They’ll take the fun right out of it for you.”

That’s because it’s not supposed to be fun; it’s supposed to be automatic, so that you don’t have to think about anything. When you stop thinking, and start concentrating, you start hitting.