Shoot First, Then Aim

Everyone has problems. Some people have to worry about their in-laws coming to town, and others are getting hassled by their boss. Some people only need to worry about what scotch they buy next ;). A common problem among writers is writer’s block.

You sit and think about what to write, but nothing comes up. You start doubting yourself and then it gets worse. Soon, you’re stuck in a loop where nothing gets done and you start thinking about what a terrible writer you are.

I have some good news. You’re not a terrible writer. You’re a terrible gatekeeper. You are limiting yourself and falling into a classic trap of writers. As stupid as it sounds, the best way to get over writer’s block is to start writing.

In fact, this works for any issue you may have. To solve a problem, start a solution.

Machine Guns and Sniper Rifles

According to David Perell, also known as “The Writing Guy”, there are two kinds of writers out there: sniper rifles and machine guns. Sniper rifles will only publish a small amount of articles, but they all resonate well. A machine gun writes a lot of articles, and only a few of them land.

To be a sniper rifle, you have to be very skilled. There’s a lot of pressure to perform when you only publish a handful of times a year. If one of your articles flops, you may end up losing a lot of readers.

Being a machine gun is much easier. You don’t have to rely on skill as much as the sniper and the competition is more sparse. No one wants to compete with the person who writes more than the rest. And because you publish so much, you give yourself more chances to succeed.

They say that 1 in 10 businesses fails. If that’s the case, you should start 10 businesses. The odds are that one of them will succeed.

I know that’s not exactly how it works, but its not far from the truth. In order to succeed, you have to give yourself the most chances to succeed. If your goal is to win the lottery, the best thing you could do is buy thousands of tickets. Buying one and hoping that it works out only sets you up for failure.

This can be applied to your side hustle. You could try flipping stuff from Craigslist first. If that doesn’t pan out, try taking surveys online. If you don’t like that, start a cooking blog. Don’t like cooking? Try building websites instead.

There are thousands of ways to succeed and make money. Why not try as many as you can?

Think of this as your gen-ed classes. You have to take them, and it’s kind of a pain, but you expose yourself to a lot of different things. Hopefully, one of those things really resonates with you. Then you can focus on that.

Practice (and Experimentation) Makes Perfect

James Clear writes about this in Why Trying to Be Perfect Won’t Help You Achieve Your Goals (And What Will). A photography teacher splits the class in two on the first day. Half would be the “quantity” group and the other would be the “quality” group. The quantity group would be graded solely on the amount of work they presented. The quality group would be graded solely on the artistic excellence of their work.

At the end of the semester, this professor found something interesting while grading the students’ work. He found that the students in the “quantity” group presented photographs at a better quality than the quality group. He was astounded.

Photo by Ailbhe Flynn on Unsplash

The amount of work done directly correlated with the quality of the work. Now, this may seem obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to the quality group. The students in the quality group spent their time thinking and theorizing while the quantity group was out experimenting.

In this case, the machine guns were closer to the bullseye than the sniper rifles. Your aim gets better when you take a lot of shots.

If there’s a problem that you’re facing, don’t just sit and think about possible solutions. Try different things including some answers you’ve never considered before. You may actually come across a solution you like.

By experimenting, you give yourself a better chance to succeed. You get to see what works for you and what doesn’t. You can play around with this and make a game out of it. As long as you get started, you will find a way that works.

Explore and Execute

Improving your skills and solving problems comes down to two steps: explore and then execute.

There are many possible solutions to your problem. If you don’t have enough money, you could try for a promotion, start a side hustle, or invest in the stock market. If you want to lose weight, you can exercise more, go on a diet, or get liposuction (if that’s your thing). When you’ve found a way that works, double down. Forget the others and focus on this one solution.

Jack Canfield in The Success Principles calls this the ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ mentality. When you’re ready to go, just go. The perfect solution doesn’t exist. Keep trying new things and find one that works for you.

If you want to hit the target, take a lot of shots.

Thanks for reading!

Featured photo source: Rod Long on Unsplash

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2 thoughts on “Shoot First, Then Aim”

    1. Very true. And I’d be willing to bet that most well-known and well-followed snipers started as machine guns. Once you’re good enough to hit the target every time, you don’t need as many shots.

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