Written by Greg Ellifritz
Ever since I started training people in the fighting arts for a living, I have kept very meticulous records. Not only is it important for potential future legal action, it’s a great marker for tracking progress and improvement.
Each year at this time, I do a review of what I did in the previous 12 months and how I want the next year to look. It’s a very useful exercise that I would encourage everyone to try. No one will make continued, structured improvement unless he has a plan of action. Here’s what I did last year and how I need to improve upon it in the future…
I’m going to be honest. 2018 tried its best to kick my ass. Some of the goals I had wanted to accomplish didn’t happen. Life was throwing me too many curve balls.
It started out when my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and then passed away three months later.
Soon after mom’s death, my father fell off a ladder and landed on his head. He had multiple skull fractures, a traumatic brain injury, and serious cognitive impairment. Coordinating his care and rehab through four different hospitals and rehabilitation facilities has been quite a challenge. Dad’s home now, but still suffering from a seriously diminished memory and some mental perception distortions.
To top it all off, I was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago. I went to the dermatologist to have a couple of strange moles checked. The dermatologist biopsied three of them and all three are cancerous. Two are relatively simple basal cell carcinomas. One was a malignant melanoma. The doctor doesn’t think it has spread, but won’t we be sure until I have surgery to remove it next week. If it hasn’t spread, I should be OK. I’ll have to get quarterly tests and checkups for the next three years, but I should be good to go.
Needless to say, I’ve been pretty busy with the health related issues this year. It has delayed a lot of my planned training and work.
Personal Firearms Training
Last year I shot exactly 6,269 rounds in training, just a little bit less than the year before. I spread those rounds over 44 different shooting sessions. It’s less than previous years, but that is to be expected. When my police department got rid of my training position and moved me to the street, I lost a lot of practice opportunities that I would usually get while demonstrating drills for students.
It’s interesting to note that only 620 of those 6269 rounds came from police “training” provided by my department. That includes shots fired from rifle, shotgun, duty handgun, and all my off duty/backup handguns. I know a lot of you cops reading this would kill to have a department that provided almost 600 rounds a year for training. Many departments only provide enough ammo for the 25-round annual state qualification test. 620 rounds may seem like a lot, but it is less than 1/4 of the amount that officers fired when I was the full time training officer. When budgets are cut, training suffers the most. I can see a steady decline in my fellow officers’ shooting skills after training was cut. I barely made improvements myself after shooting 6,000 additional personally-purchased rounds.
Officers who don’t supplement their department provided training with their own efforts will not be adequately prepared for a lethal force confrontation. Shooting one to four times a year just isn’t enough to sustain a high level of competency. All you police officers out there need to be doing some more shooting, even if the ammo costs have to come out of your own pocket.
I exceeded my goal of shooting at least 500 rounds per month. My skill levels with the pistol have remained high and are continually improving. For the last few years, I’ve attempted to shoot once a week every week when I am in the USA. Last year, because of the health and family issues I mentioned above, I wasn’t able to keep that frequency. Practice sessions were more like every two weeks, but I made the sessions longer. At least for me, that doesn’t seem to make a difference. Five hundred rounds a month is about the same whether I fire them in four sessions or only two.
In 2019, I’ll be keeping my live fire shooting to around 500 bullets a month. I have to admit that I absolutely hate dryfiring and there hasn’t been anything that can motivate me to do it regularly. Efficient live fire practice is my personal plan for improving shooting performance.
Professional Training and Education
In 2018, I took 132 hours of professional training from other instructors. I met my goal of getting at least two weeks (80 hours) of training in the books. I took the following classes:
- Rangemaster Tactical Conference.
- FSI/Lexipro- De-escalation:When and How to Make it Work
- Spirit Quest Sanctuary Andean Plant Medicine class
- Point-Driven Training- Saps and Jacks Class
- TMACS- TAPS 3-day Pistol/Carbine
- OPOTA- Update training videos on “Ethics and Professionalism” “OARRS,” and “Civil Liability for Police Officers”
- Lexipol- “Responding to Suicidal Subjects”
- And 39 hours of in-service training provided by my agency on a variety of topics
I know many of you think that 80 hours a year isn’t enough training for a professional. It really depends. Earlier in my training career, I averaged more than 300 hours a year of professional instruction. As I progress, I see less and less benefit obtained for each hour of training conducted.
After completing nearly 5,000 hours of professional training in my career, I’ve already seen a lot of the good stuff out there. Taking a week-long class to get just one new technique isn’t a productive use of my time. I’m going to maintain my 80-hour training commitment in 2018 and focus my efforts on attending classes that are outside my skill set and will help me grow as an instructor.
I will continue to share what I learn in my training classes with all of my readers on this site. Even if you can’t attend some of the cool classes I go to, you can still get some quality knowledge by reading regularly.
I believe self study is even more important than taking classes. I learn A LOT from reading books. It seems to be a losing battle getting Americans to read more, but I don’t think there’s a better way to get smarter about any chosen topic. In 2018 I read exactly 120 books. All but 17 of them were non-fiction. That met my goal of reading at least 120 more books. Reading ten books a month gives me a significant amount of new knowledge. I hope to read more in 2019.
If you want to read more, get rid of your television! I got rid of TV in my house almost seven years ago. It was a great move, giving me much more free time to read, write, and live.
In 2018, I taught a total of 23 days of classes. I had a total of 408 students in my classes. I made an effort to book slightly fewer classes in 2018 as compared to 2017. I ended up teaching three fewer days than I did in the previous year.
I also taught at the annual Rangemaster Tactical Conference. This met my goal of teaching 20 classes and presenting at one major training conference.
I’m happy with that level of activity. Teaching 30 weekends a year combined with writing all the articles for this site, working on writing several books, and having a full time cop job is more work that I really want to do. I’m cutting back a bit even more for 2019.
I will no longer be teaching at the Tactical Defense Institute. I taught there for 17 years. Over the last few years, the numbers of students signing up for my classes has diminished to the point that it is no longer profitable for TDI to host me. It’s strange, since almost all of my other classes were sold out in 2018. I’ll certainly miss my friends at TDI, but I have to focus my teaching efforts on where I can reach the most number of students.
My goal is to keep my teaching schedule to under 20 total days of classes. With my health and family issues, I haven’t gotten my 2019 calendar completed. I’m working on it and you should see my full schedule in a couple weeks. I’m hoping that by cutting back a couple classes, I will not have to fight as hard to keep my sanity. I hope to see you in one of my upcoming training classes.
Expert Witness Work
For the last few years, I’ve also been doing expert witness courtroom testimony in use of force cases. In 2018, I testified in two different cases, one for a police officer and one for a security guard. Each of those folks used physical force against an aggressor and were either fired or criminally charged for it.
I’m happy to state that in both cases, my testimony helped to exonerate my clients. I like doing expert witness work and hope to do more of it in the future.
Those of you who read this site regularly are familiar with the challenges I face in my police job. I’m honestly just trying to hang on for 17 more months until I can retire. I am, however, somewhat more optimistic about 2019.
Last year one of our lieutenants “retired” after getting arrested while hiring a prostitute. Our chief also retired. With both of those job vacancies filled by candidates who are a little more dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, I am hopeful the morale at our department will improve.
One more job related upside is that the $150 million wrongful arrest lawsuit that I’ve been fighting for more than a year was dismissed outright by the first judge who reviewed the case. I’m glad to be done with that mess.
I put up this website in March of 2012. In less than eight years’ time it has far exceeded my expectations. I’m averaging close to 100,000 unique viewers and 300,000 page views a month.
For the second year in a row, my total number of unique users and pageviews decreased. My total annual page views decreased by 16% last year to 3.2 million. I had 893,000 unique viewers, a decrease of about 9% when compared to 2018 levels. It’s puzzling to me that I am seeing fewer visitors as my business seems to be wildly successful by all other measures.
I attempted to remedy my decreased number of pageviews by writing more articles. In 2018, I wrote 230 articles. That was 22 more than I wrote in 2017. It didn’t help.
Eighteen of those 22 more articles were from a new series documenting my exact weekly practice sessions. That series of articles was an abject failure.
None of the 18 articles got over 1000 pageviews. The very best performing of the 18 articles was ranked 237th in popularity among all my posts this year.
I realize I’m not Rob Leatham. With that said, I shoot better than 98% of you reading this website. If someone who shot a whole lot better than me posted the EXACT practice routine that he used to make improvements, I would be extremely interested in reading it. I guess most folks aren’t like me.
If I post a #DON’TDIGTHERIG article, it is guaranteed to reach 10,000 readers. My practice session posts average about 800 readers. Everybody wants to read about gear. No one wants to read about hard work. Message received. No more practice session posts for 2019.
When I mentioned that I was discontinuing my practice session posts, I received emails from more than 40 readers asking me to reconsider. What I’ve decided to do is to write up any fun new shooting drills I try instead of documenting every single practice session. The new drills will help some of you dedicated readers, but I won’t waste time documenting practice sessions that only a tiny number of you will read.
The blog seems to be a dying institution. With people getting all their news off of social media, fewer and fewer people read blogs like mine these days. Long form articles like I write are not valued in the “hit and run” culture of snarky twitter comments. That fact is going to influence my writing in the future. I may reduce the content on my blog and release more books instead. Blogging doesn’t look like it’s going to be a profitable enterprise in the future.
Another factor contributing to my loss of readers is that 57% of people accessing my site are doing so on their mobile phone. My site is mobile optimized, but I write some really long articles. I would honestly hate to read some of my stuff on my phone.
I originally started writing the blog to publicize my training classes. Now it’s a money-generating project unto itself. I doubt I can control the worldwide future of blog reading. I will just continue to do what I do, provide quality content for my readers. If that doesn’t bring in the audience, I’ll just have to start teaching some more classes or writing more books. We all either adapt or perish.
In May of 2017, I monetized the blog by adding in-content and sidebar ads through a media company. This has been a good strategy and has yielded surprisingly few reader complaints. Writing for this site is a second full time job for me. I’m glad to be finally making some money for my efforts.
I’m happy to report that my ad and affiliate sales revenues provide a monthly income that would allow me to live a comfortable middle class lifestyle in a third-world country. I’m not getting rich from the site, but it’s nice to know I have a backup plan if this whole police/teaching gig doesn’t work out.
In 2018, I posted 230 different articles containing 214,832 total words. For what it’s worth, the average novel is somewhere around 100,000 words. The articles on my website are the equivalent of two full novels’ worth of writing last year. I wrote most of the articles myself, but I had six articles written by guest writers. I had planned on publishing about three articles a week. I was an overachiever and averaged 4.4 articles per week in 2018. Goal accomplished.
With a steady drop in readers, I’ll probably write fewer articles on the website in 2019. Three articles a week seems to be a productive goal.
Special thanks to all my website referrers. Web traffic would not be nearly as high without you spreading the good word. You’ll be interested to note that almost 51% of my web traffic comes from social media. Thanks to all of you who share my articles on your pages.
After social media sites and search engines, the following referrers generated the most traffic for me. Each were responsible for more than 500 new unique viewers. Go check out their sites. They have lots of great information!
Magazine and Print Writing
In 2018, I did not publish a single article in print gun magazines. Overall, I think print gun writing is a dying vocation. I won’t be focusing my efforts there in the future. The return on investment just isn’t as high as with my writing on this site, especially considering my advertisement revenue.
I had nine articles reprinted on various websites including Buckeye Firearms’ site and Breach Bang Clear.
I finished my third-world travel safety book. It’s almost 300 pages long and is in the final editing and formatting stages right now. It should be published in both print and e-book form in the next couple months. I’ll let you know here when it’s available to purchase.
I will be following up that book in the near future with two more support e-books. I will be writing a book on travel scams and another book on essential travel apps I use on my phone in third world countries. I hope to get those out in 2019 as well, but realistically it may be 2020 before I get both of them completed.
With regards to my writing, another side project has been taking up a lot of my time. Growing ever frustrated with my police career, I’ve decided to write an non-fiction expose on the police and governmental corruption I’ve witnessed in my career. It will also describe the endlessly frustrating bureaucratic inefficiencies that good cops have to deal with on a daily basis.
I’ve been spending quite a lot of time writing this one. I’m over 72,000 words into it. I plan on releasing it as a free e-book on my police retirement date (May of 2020). A lot of folks are going to be very unhappy when all this information gets out. I can’t wait.
I also have three other books that are in their infancy. They should be finished in the next few years as well.
Although it isn’t directly related to training, I think travel is extremely important. I’ve learned far more about dealing with people (aggressive or otherwise) in my world travels than I ever have at a formal training class. Travel also teaches adaptability, which is a critically useful survival skill.
My long term goal is to spend about six weeks a year outside the USA. Last year I didn’t achieve that goal, spending only 29 days outside the country. In my 2018 travels, I made it to four foreign countries or territories: Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru, and Costa Rica.
In 2019, I already have trips to Greece and Thailand planned, with two more vacation locations yet to be determined.
If you don’t currently travel, I would highly recommend taking a trip someplace fun. There’s a huge world out there to see. What good is developing your ninja-like tactical skills if you don’t ever go anywhere to put them to use?
How did you do in 2018? What are your goals in 2019? Think about it for yourself and WRITE IT DOWN!
I wish you all the best in the new year.