Tuesday, January 16, 2007

January 16, 2007 – Lessons from a Shotgun

I grew up in rural western New York State. By rural I mean there were more cows than people in most of the towns. The street my parents live on to this day intersects with Pondunque Road. The college I graduated from, Houghton College, boasts that it has at least two trees for every student. Because of this forest filled environment it seems that everyone owns guns. My brothers were out back one afternoon practicing their shooting skills. They hung a can from a tree by a string. One of them would swing the can, get out of the way and the other would try to hit it.

My dad was a chef at the college and would cook breakfast and lunch, come home to take a nap and then return to cook dinner. Needless to say, gunfire doesn’t allow for much napping, so out he comes. When he arrives he takes the gun and says, “Let me try.” The can swings, my dad fires, the rope snaps and the can flies to the ground. “That, boys, is how you do it.” He handed the gun back, turned and went back to work.

I learned three things from that unspoken lesson.

1. It is better to be lucky than good. A good shot would have hit the can, making it jump and bob. Hitting the string would require a marksman or a lot of luck.

2. Never admit it wasn’t planned. Planning well and working hard will set you up for success, but sometimes you accidentally hit a home run. Don’t stand around looking dumbfounded; act like you meant to do it. Let others try to determine if you are a marksman or just lucky.

3. Know when to walk away. My dad could have shot for the rest of the day and never hit that string again. He knew it and quite while he was ahead, leaving us standing around with our mouths open.

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