Predicting the Future, Part II

January 13, 2010

I love statistics.  I love gathering information, making it understandable, examining how one bit of data relates to another.  I love how it helps me understand where I’ve been, how it illuminates a way forward.

I’ve recently participated in two shooting matches, and my overall score in each of them was pretty similar and it seemed like not much had changed.  But when I looked at the data (my scores on each of the stages, and the order I shot the stages in) I learned two key things:

  • I’m consistently shooting better in the first half of the competition.  Likely, I get tired after that.
  • My scores in 7 of the 8 stages where significantly better the second time – it was one not so good stage that increased my second score significantly so that the overall score was similar to the first time.

Data in hand, I’m now predicting that I’ll continue to improve in the next competition.

But data is not the only basis for prediction.  The first competition was pretty overwhelming; the second one a lot less so.  I talked more with people who knew what they were doing, and I’m learning to recognize where the significant challenges are in each of the stages.  Gaining familiarity and resources makes it easier to be in the feeling of the experience, to align with it.  Even if the second experience had brought no change in performance, I’d be predicting improvement from here just on the basis of establishing relationship to the people and the environment.

But wait!  There’s more!  Getting my gun out of the holster more smoothly, gaining speed in my trigger pull, developing more autonomic body memory of proper position – these are things I’ll be practicing between now and the next match.  And bringing a good lunch to the match (since forgetting to eat may have contributed to poorer scores in the second half).  My intent is to shoot better, and I’m committing actions to making that happen – and therein lies a third basis for prediction.

Data, relationship, action.  Each of these tells us about the past and the present in a manner that helps us prepare for the future.  The mystery is still there, but now we’re dancing with it.