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Listening and doing

David Epps's picture

When I arrived at the rifle range at Parris Island, S.C., the home of the Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot, I had never fired a rifle for any kind of score or on any occasions that really mattered.

Oh, I plunked a few tin cans on my dad’s property, but that was just with a .22. The 11-pound 7.62 mm M-14 rifle was something altogether different. It was a warrior’s weapon and the nation was at war. At 19 years old, I knew I was in over my head and my only chance to qualify was to listen to the instructors and do whatever I was told.

Two weeks later, I fired well and earned an expert’s badge, which only 10 percent of Marines are able to do.

Over 20 years later, I was a cadet at the police academy in Fulton County and faced with the same situation. A trip to the pistol range was looming and, as decades before, I had never fired a pistol when it really mattered.

I sought out two firearms instructors at the local police department where I served as a chaplain and they spent some time with me giving instruction. I drank it up.

One advised, “Forget everything you thing you think you know about firearms and listen to what you are told and then do it.” No problem. I did the same when the academy firearms instructors began teaching.

When we fired for familiarization and grouping on the first day, I had the second tightest grouping of rounds aimed at the target. One cadet said, “That’s no fair! You were a Marine.”

I just kept quiet about the fact that it was my first time shooting a pistol for a score. Well, there was one exception but that’s another story.

At the end of the week I had fired well enough to earn an expert’s badge and in subsequent years of re-qualification, during which time I continued to listen and to do what I was told, I elevated my designation to “master.”

I have always been confounded by people who refuse to listen to people who know their subject. In my younger days when I taught karate, I would always have at least one brand new student who thought he could improve on what the instructor was teaching.

Most of them had watched Bruce Lee movies or had seen Chuck Norris on “Walker: Texas Ranger” and thought they knew something about martial arts. Some were “self-educated” by reading martial arts magazines and instruction books. These people, generally, did not do well in class.

The class stars, those who excelled, were often those students who knew that they knew nothing and were determined to listen to the instruction and to do what they were told. Many of these went on to earn black belts and were superior performers.

So, last year when I decided to take a motorcycle training course, I listened to the instructors and tried my best to do what they said to do. It was shaky at first, since I was approaching 60 and had never ridden a motorcycle, but, at the end of the training session I passed the course and earned my license.

In the 10 months since then I have put 10,000 miles on my Harley-Davidson. I plan to take another, more advanced, course soon and, once again, I will listen to the instructors and try to do what I am told.

I suspect a great many successful people have learned to do the same thing. That’s not to say that one cannot be innovative and creative — after learning the basics — but the basics must be learned and mastered.

The earlier we learn this lesson, the easier our lot in life will likely become: Listen to those who know and then do it they way they say to do it. How simple is that?

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese ( and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at]

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