The other day I went to the local grocery store deli for lunch. Once there, I decided on the three-piece chicken meal with potato wedges and macaroni & cheese as sides. As the lady behind the counter was placing my food in the styrofoam to-go container, she asked me if I’d like a cookie or a roll to go with my meal. I chose a roll, because it seemed like the healthier choice.

As I started to make my way to the cashier to pay for my food, I suddenly remembered that rolls are much better with butter. So, I went to the salad bar and picked up a pat of cold, hard butter wrapped in gold foil, placed it on top of my styrofoam container, and then proceeded to the cashier. After paying for my lunch, I began to walk out of the store toward my truck, balancing the butter precariously on the lid of my container.

Any enjoyment I anticipated, due to the delicious meal I was about to eat, was soon overshadowed by an incident I will not soon forget.

At a very young age, I developed a habit that finally caught up with me as an adult. I have a habit of quickly and deliberately stepping on paper that escapes my grip in order to prevent it from blowing away. I also have a habit of quickly and deliberately stomping on coins that I drop in order to stop them from rolling away.

OK, back to my story…

As I walked out of the grocery store toward the parking lot, the lid to my styrofoam container flew open, launching my butter through the air and onto the ground in front of me. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time, as two vehicles were rapidly converging on my position from both sides.

Without skipping a beat, I instinctively brought my foot down on the offending butter, in an attempt to prevent it from blowing or rolling away.

Of course, it only took a moment to realize the dire consequences of my actions.

I quickly closed the lid on the container, removed my foot from the butter, and bent down to pick it up… or what was left of it. Although the butter was still mostly cold and rigid, the integrity of the butter had been severely compromised. In other words, the butter was as flat as a pancake and was oozing out of the foil wrapper.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I had just learned an extremely valuable lesson. This experience reinforced a cardinal principle shared not only by the military, law enforcement, and the martial arts, but also life in general: “You will fight as you train, therefore you must train to fight.” The notion that “practice makes perfect” is an erroneous concept. A more accurate statement would be “practice makes permanent,” or even “perfect practice makes perfect.”

Simply put, the manner in which you train is the way you will perform on the battlefield, on the street, or in any real-life situation.