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What REALLY makes you good?

Subject: What REALLY makes you good?
From: Trey Garlough <GARLOUGH@TGV.COM> (Trey Garlough)
> If I were in your class, what would I appreciate about your
> ability or technique?  Or in other words, what would another
> highly accomplished contester know about your skills that I
> miss because I'm just an awed "apprentice"?
> (If you're too modest to talk about yourself, apply the question
> to the your personal contesting "hero", the guy you vow to beat
> this year.)

In my view, this is one of the true dilemmas of radio contesting.
You, as the hypothetical "apprentice," do not have the knowledge or
experience to be able to appreciate the skills I have developed that
make me the hypothetical "major league contester."  And similarly, I
take for granted many of the fundamental skills that are necessary for
you to advance to the next level.

I like to offer up two quotations that sum up my general beliefs on
the topic.  The first is from someone in my peer group, and second is
from someone who I would categorize as a personal contesting hero from
my formative years in contesting, although I doubt he actually knows
this :-) ).

"With experience comes knowledge and cunning.  I can't stand here 
and tell you the secrets, as many of them are second nature to me
now." -- KR0Y/5 

"The best of the best gained their winning edge practicing the basics
over and over in numerous forgettable events, often using inadequte
radios and second-rate antennas.  Discovering how to overcome such
obstacles are lessons never forgotten." -- NCJ Profile of N6RO

And now for a bit of a digression:

I have observed many "second tier" (and others down through the
neophyte ranks of) contesters think that there is some set of winning
"tricks" that the "first tier" contesters use to beat them, and if
only someone would let them in on these terrific secrets, they would
be first rate contesters themselves.  These people are setting
themselves up for disappointment, because I'm going to let them in on
the biggest secret of all:

                "There are no secrets!"

It turns out, as with most things is life, that skill and hard work
pay the most reliable dividends in the long run.

Now for some specific advice.  None of these things are mandatory to
win, but collectively they really add up:

o Know the code.  50 WPM conversational is a nice milestone --
  note:  don't try this at home with pencil and paper.

o Know the bands.  Nothing like knowing the right band to be on
  to improve your score.

o Know your station.  Knowing whether or not your station has the
  gusto to run people or crack pileups under given conditions 
  on a given band is a real time saver.

o Stay in the chair.  You can't be the loudest station on the air
  if you are not on the air.

And now for some general advice:

o Operate a lot.  Experience is king.  I learn something every time I

o Solicit advice from a variety of experienced people.  Some of the
  "experts" will be more compatible with you on a personal level than
  others, so shop around and get a variety of points of view.  

To wit, after I post this message, I will get a few notes from various
folks, about half of which will say "I really identified with what
you wrote.  You're a genius!"  and the other half of which will say
"You're a moron.  Get stuffed!"

--Trey, HC8N (QSL via AA5BT), WN4KKN/6

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