This week’s Mag Life Podcast brings on a man who needs no introduction (but we’ll give one anyway). Kyle Lamb is a former decorated US Army Delta Force operator, Sig Sauer Academy firearms instructor, writer, and the founder of Viking Tactics. He was made famous by his incredible firearms accessories, training classes, and his military service not just in Somalia during the events of that inspired the adaptation Black Hawk Down, but in many years of service thereafter.
Kyle and Daniel discuss the value of having a disciplined mindset, teaching others, staying true to yourself, and writing your own stories.
Host: Daniel Shaw
Guest (usual Co-Host!): Kyle Lamb
Introduction/Timeline: Eric Huh
07:36 The Value of a Positive Mindset
Daniel expresses to Kyle that after having spent many years in the gun industry, he no longer finds real value in just material objects like the hottest new firearm or the best aftermarket accessory. Rather, Daniel finds lasting value in being able to retain skills, mastering one’s self, and spreading this knowledge to others. Acquiring life skills and then spreading this to others is gradually becoming a lost practice in today’s gun culture due to divisiveness, elitist attitudes, and a general attack on self-reliance.
Kyle agrees with the notion of positive reinforcement and fostering a culture of support to help individuals get better at their craft. He brings up the example of the hit TV series, Forged in Fire, a reality competition show that involves blacksmiths competing in creating the best historical weapons. He describes that unlike the vast majority of competitive series, every contestant and cast member is friendly and actively cheers each other on. Too many instances of negativity more often than not turns Kyle off completely from certain activities or people. Kyle recalls his time in the Army, during a time in which he felt he was responsible for the actions of others, especially their negative ones. He makes the point that while your friends are certainly people you should care for, it does not necessarily mean you are obligated to bear the burden of their actions and mistakes.
Daniel builds off that, recalling that in his experience, those who actively seek out positivity attract more positive interactions and vice versa for those who seek negativity. In his experience, if Daniel had brought negative energy into his house, it would grow within his family, then he would bring that same negativity to work and make his co-workers feel the same miserable energy. This cycle becomes infectious to others and soon entire spaces feel unwelcome.
16:57 Warrior Mentality and Meeting Special People
Having a positive mindset often develops a stronger sense of worth and willpower or a warrior mentality. In Daniel’s firearms classes, often students will find themselves near a breaking point, hearing a voice in the back of their heads telling them it’s ok to give up. Those who persevere past that exhibit a true warrior’s mindset. Kyle agrees and that as instructors they’re both able to meet truly unique and strong individuals that surpass their expectations.
“I just did a video with Leupold, they were asking me like ‘What’s it mean to be a hero?’ And I’m like, first of all, it’s not me, it’s those folks [around me]… Look at law enforcement, they get up every day and they go out and they’re getting ridiculed and they’re trying to do the right thing… So that to me is much more heroic than you know at midnight, I load up into a vehicle and we do a mission in Iraq or wherever. That’s expected cuz that’s what we do and we have all the tools to do it. These poor people, they get up every morning and they make it happen.”
20:05 Belonging to a Tribe
Kyle asks Daniel what he believes the concept of a tribe is. Daniel defines a tribe as a group of like-minded people trying to achieve the same goal and bringing others along with them.
Kyle inquires if Daniel believes everyone should be in the same tribe. Daniel does not believe so and that it would be impossible to force everyone to be in one kind of group. Kyle agrees, further adding that people should in fact be different and diverse. Individuality matters just as much as wanting to find somewhere to belong.
On the other hand, despite being in the same “American tribe” so to speak, there are quite a few groups that, politically and ideologically speaking, Kyle would never wish to be associated with. Additionally, Daniel points out how peer pressure tends to take hold in how tribes grow their numbers and strengthen their voices. In many instances, individuals fall into a tribe’s practices and behaviors solely not to be socially ostracized or wish to feel important.
26:24 Personal Accountability
Daniel highlights a Coffee or Die interview that Kyle had participated in, namely an instance when Kyle had said “I tried not to be a coward”. This was in reference to when Kyle was in Delta Force in the US Army during their operations in Mogadishu, Somalia, that inspired the book and film, Black Hawk Down. Daniel very much relates to Kyle’s internal struggle, as his one true fear in life is being a coward or not being able to act during a time when he is needed the most. Kyle elaborates during that infamous mission that he truly cared not for his own life but rather the lives of his comrades.
“I really thought I was gonna die. It was a bad day and dudes were getting shot all around… Jamie Smith was a young Ranger that had been shot high in the femoral artery and it also broke his pelvis, so we were working on him. And when I had a second to say a prayer, I didn’t pray that I would survive but I prayed I wouldn’t be a coward. Because I figured I’m done, I just don’t want to go down like [that].”
Kyle goes on to discuss how this sense of accountability has permeated his life, mainly through his wife keeping him in check and honest to himself. Whenever he faces instances of uncertainty or dilemmas, his wife simply reminds him to do the right thing and to lead by example. He emphasizes that if someone is not facing some kind of hardship on their journey in life, then they truly are not living. If someone is not used to making the right decision during the worst of times, then they’re probably really good at making bad decisions all the time. It’s very easy to go with the crowd or do what everyone else is doing, it’s harder to be your own person.
33:17 Training and Building a Foundation for Success
Daniel recounts a time when GunMag first started a leadership training program for their managers. While sitting in on the class, Daniel realized that a good portion of people did not truly have a strong foundational understanding of leading others. It became a realization that our society less and less emphasizes creating leaders that will guide others into a successful future. It was through going through the Marine Corps at an early age that Daniel had quickly grasped what constitutes good and bad leadership.
Kyle Lamb expands upon the idea of a strong training foundation through the lens of the firearms classes he instructs. If his students have a strong foundation in their skillsets, then making improvements is very easy to do. But having a “crack” in that foundation, such as pinning the trigger to the rear during follow-up shots, is much more difficult to overcome.
41:15 Influential Authors, Writing Style
Daniel and Kyle discuss their favorite influential authors and how their works have influenced their own writing. Kyle appreciates the attention to detail seen in novels by Frederick Forysth, Jason Kasper, and Jack Carr because they are able to capture the realism in how weapons are handled or how combative actions are handled. This adds to the believability and suspense, especially for readers who are former military. Daniel discusses how Stephen King’s writing style has been especially helpful in creating stories of his own.
46:29 Finding the Time to Read
Daniel inquires how Kyle even finds the time to read given how busy he is. Kyle responds that he finds the time to read in all the little gaps of time and breaks he has. This often includes waiting at the dental office, on the bus, before he goes to bed, in the bathroom, or any other time that does not involve giving his full attention to something.
Daniel often enjoys listening to podcasts and audiobooks as it allows him to get through long trips or even monotonous tasks. For Kyle Lamb, he only truly spends his time on books or podcasts if he’s getting something of value out of it. If the first episode of a podcast does not impart something useful in some way, he will not listen to the rest of it.
53:58 Writing Your Own Story
Kyle Lamb is often asked how does one start writing their own book or story. Like any successful task, it requires a plan. In this case, that plan is a solid outline of what is being told. Kyle emphasizes above all else “just do it”. All great projects seem intimidating at first but once a plan is established, it gets easier. Writing, like all crafts, requires discipline. Kyle would spend around 40 minutes every night writing his book, little by little, while also constantly reading other books to perfect his craft. In a relatively short time, he was able to finish his book.
Daniel agrees and finds this applies to all aspects of life, whether it be working out to get fit or starting a new project. People often find excuses and allow something to stop them from even starting. The first step to anything is always the hardest.
“Write what you want to read. All the successful authors said that… Just write the book you want to read… That’s gonna give you the outlet that you want… If you’re going into writing to make a million dollars, it ain’t gonna happen. That’s the wrong reason… If you truly love writing and you write that book that you’re gonna read, well then other people are gonna see that passion.”
Kyle and Daniel both emphasize that a good writer should not compromise the integrity of their voice and style. If a publisher is wanting you to completely rewrite the tone or the attention to detail in a section, then they’re probably not the right people to represent your work.
On the other side of that, a writer should have thick skin when it comes to having an editor critique and revise their writing. A good editor will not censor you but they will tear your work to shreds in the name of making you a better writer. This is the crucial step in the writing process — a writer needs to let go of their own ego and seek improvement.
01:17:08 Seeking Knowledge and Teaching Others
Despite being one of the biggest names in the firearms industry, Kyle Lamb admits he is not a “gun guy” or rather someone who obsesses over the technicality of firearms or the accessories. He certainly enjoys shooting, hunting, and training but as far as keeping up with every latest firearm add-on goes, he is not interested in that. Daniel feels the same, as he doesn’t care much for guns themselves so much as he cares for the actual training aspect and teaching others.
Daniel recalls his time in the Marine Corps when he had the opportunity to train with a Force Recon unit. It was a humbling experience, one in which he was eventually allowed to instruct other highly trained Marines in a skillset he deeply understood. It was then that Daniel found the value in being able to retain skills and to be able to spread this to others. Equipment and gear are temporary things in life, skillsets can last a lifetime.
Upon reflecting on his past training experiences, Kyle found value in learning under both good and bad instructors. The good instructors taught him how to be a better shooter and leader while the bad ones taught him what to avoid. Kyle chooses to avoid a common pitfall of firearms trainers — remaining static and stuck in outdated training methods. He constantly looks for the best sources of knowledge.
Kyle also applies this to his bladesmithing. He learned specialized blade crafting techniques from experts, which he was later able to teach to others. Kyle found great inspiration from fellow veteran bladesmith who essentially channeled his past disciplined military mindset in instructing individuals into the blacksmithing world. The ability to teach often stems directly from not only being competent in your field but also from the ability to be persistent and stand by your students.
“It was day three of a three-day class, and it was the very last drill… I walked up to the guy after he had to be told [by the instructor] to do this correctly. And he goes, ‘Hey bro, if he ain’t got it on the third day, he ain’t getting it.’ And I was upset because you don’t know when they’re gonna get it. So I might have this guy in five classes and on the fifth class he finally understands. Well, guess what, as an instructor, I’ve got to be in it until the very last round of the very last day. Because I have got to be responsible for… learning. And you have no idea when that learning is going to take place.”
01:29:46 Respecting Women in the Firearms Industry
Kyle Lamb brings up the question, how do we get men to truly respect women in the firearms industry? From his experience, Kyle has seen the passive dismissal of female leaders in both trainers and in business owners. His wife is the one who truly runs Viking Tactics, and not just at some front-facing capacity. She truly is the CEO and makes the overarching business decisions. Kyle often receives business inquiries and when he tells them to speak to his wife, they often brush this aside as if he was not being serious. When Kyle brings up a product idea, his wife makes the decision if that product goes into production based on pricing, demand, and market conditions. The same can be said about fantastic competitive shooters such as Lena Miculek.
Even if a woman’s sole job is to raise a child, Kyle argues that’s the most important job on the planet and should be respected as such. Daniel agrees completely and adds that he’s noticed how “Gun Bunnies” are treated to a strange double standard. On one hand, they’re treated like they’re naïve children who don’t understand firearms, but on the other hand, guys always try to cozy up to them. Daniel finds value in what they do because they’re able to make firearms accessible to their audiences.