“Aim for the front or right edge,” says the man standing next to me.
I am in the most unnatural of settings for me — a shooting clay club in western Houston. Or maybe not. All I know is I am so out of my sorts, I can barely remember how to stand.
“The right edge?” I say. “I can barely see the thing flying across in front of me.”
The man chuckles to himself and reaches for the shotgun.
“Here,” he says, “like this.”
“Pull,” he says. I push a small button on a box. An orange clay shoots up from the left side against a backdrop of green oak trees and quickly dissipates into tiny fragments.
Without a word, he hands the gun back to me.
For the next few moments, orange clays are set free in front of me — all flying safely to their destination. Front, back or middle of the clay are irrelevant terms when you’re unable to control time.
Contrary to common logic, you can control time — it just takes work.
Time can be our friend or enemy when completing a task. But to get there, you have to first invest an extensive amount of time building a deep well of knowledge. Standing on the shooting map reminded me of how uncomfortable I could be when out of my element. Exciting? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Humbling, you bet.
The best hitters in baseball claim to be able to see the rotation of the seams of an approaching pitch in order to decode what may come next. This not all about eyesight. Repeatedly experiencing the same task increases your ability to react to the surroundings or timeline you are managing.
While most may only hear a 100 mph fastball, a major league player’s library of experience of processing what is happening to him with the white object leaving a pitcher’s hand is as deep as a rock quarry pool. And after a certain point, your body defuses the pressure of time, magically slowing down the moment. Doing so allows you to focus on the smaller details, think differently and react accordingly. Or hit the right edge of a clay.
I learned this firsthand public speaking. While most find getting up to speak in front of 1,000 people unnerving, for those who’ve done so more times than memory allows, it is like stepping into an alternate universe where time slows down. You find yourself already forming the next sentence before the current one is out of your mouth. Adjusting on the fly is more akin to the baseball player reading the spinning seams of an approaching pitch than an interruption. After all, in these situations, time is moving in slow motion.
This applies to one person sitting in front of a keyboard or another facing a complicated mathematical equation — you simply evoke the ability to slow down time. It may sound crazy, but this is real.
If I could only slow down time with a shotgun in my hand.