Take your shot.
As important as it is to act quickly, it is even more important to act. Period.
During the stalking (stealth and concealment) phase of the Navy SEAL sniper course, students are tasked with sneaking up unobserved to within meters of their instructors, experienced snipers who are looking for them with high-powered optics, and take a shot, either a blank or, in some cases, a live round fired at a steel target.
When I was the head instructor of the program, it amazed me how often I saw students make the stalk successfully, get within range, set up position for firing with time to spare, but never take the shot. They would be sitting there in their FFP (final firing position), checking and rechecking their camouflage. Going back over their mental checklist to make sure they hadn’t overlooked anything. And be as sure as they could be that they would not be detected when they actually took their shot… And they would still be doing that when their time allotment ran out.
There is no “close” or “almost” here, only pass or fail. In the course, “fail” meant they were sent home, never to become snipers. On the battlefield, “fail” means someone dies.
I see the same thing happen all the time in the business world. I see people trapped in bad jobs they hate, careers they’re unhappy with. They know what to do but fail to take action.
I have a friend I’ll call Dan, a software engineer, about 50 years old. Dan is always on the verge of doing this big thing. “I’m going to sell my rental property,” he says, “and get out and make a change.” He’s been saying this for three years. It hasn’t happened —and it never will, not unless and until he pulls the trigger. He’s a victim of his own paralysis by analysis.
Dan has been interviewing for a better job for a while, but so far nothing’s worked out.
I tell him, “Dan, you’re 50 years old. No one’s going to hire you. They’re going to hire someone younger for less. Why don’t you just buy a business and get out of this rut you’re in?”
He tells me he’s got some sort of tax thing going on with the IRS and he’s just waiting for it to get straightened out.
I say, “That’s just a bullshit excuse, man. Everything you’re saying is nothing but a smokescreen for the fact that you’re not taking action. You’ve got to pull the trigger.”
Dan is like a lot of people I see: making reasonably decent money — $150,000, maybe $200,000 a year — but in debt up to their asses and just getting painted farther into a corner. They know what they have to do. They just don’t do it.
I see this in entrepreneurs, too. I know a graphic design shopowner. She has a business partner whom she leans on a lot because she doesn’t really love the business herself. She wants out but feels stuck.
“Look,” I say, “it’s not a problem that this thing hasn’t worked out. I test things all the time that turn out not to work. I’ve stood up websites that have been complete flops. But you have to be able to say, ‘Okay, that didn’t work,’ and take action.”
Honestly, the best thing for her would be to just get out, right now. Walk away. But she won’t do it.
One of our Web developers, who lives in the Philippines, tells me how they trap monkeys in his country. They dig a hole and place a coconut in there. The monkey reaches into the hole and grabs the coconut. Once it has grabbed it, its fist is too big to pull back out. It’s trapped. All it has to do to escape is let go of the coconut. But it won’t unclench its fist.
Does it remind you of anyone you know?
What do you do at work when a hundred crises seem to be happening at the same time? Do you prioritize or try to put out every fire? How can you stay composed, figure out what really matters, and act decisively? Total Focus…
If you enjoyed this excerpt, considering reading the rest of “Total Focus” by former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb here.
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