26 Dec 14

“Only the mediocre are ‘always at their best.’”

Jean Giraudoux

Professional golfers, NFL head coaches, criminal defense attorneys, and seasoned Operators all unite in this advice:

“It’s never the ‘great shots’ that save you. It’s always the ‘little mistakes’ that kill you!”

“Hail-Mary” passes, the smashingly clever comeback during cross-examination, and the occasional hole-in-one during the golf tournament unfailingly garner the attention of the media, as they talk endlessly about the “play of the day, “ et al.

Yet, those glamorous high-profile events, spectacular as they may be, rarely make any difference in the final outcome!

The reason is that they cannot be produced on demand! Professional golfers probably have more holes-in-one than the rest of us, but even they cannot produce them on demand. Not even close! The vast majority of hail-Mary passes are incomplete. And, ingeniously cunning dialogue during cross-examination is largely confined to movies!

The world, made up mostly of the shallow and self-centered, will always be attracted to replays of the “play-of-the-day,” but, in practical terms, as noted, they are largely irrelevant!

What does drastically affect final outcomes is “little mistakes.’ When they aren’t made, you’ll have an insurmountable advantage over your opponent. When they are, all the episodic “great shots” in the would won’t save you!

What loses football games are turnovers, poor communication, and penalties. What loses golf tournaments is misjudging distances and wind, selecting the wrong club, lack of concentration. What loses cases in court is lack of preparation, misjudging your opponent, and asking one question too many!

And, in gun-fighting, it is not the spectacular feat of accuracy that wins the day, not the amazingly difficult shot you’re able to make.

Rather, it is the easy shot that you miss. That is what gets you killed!

Other “little mistakes:”

(1) Missing “danger signs” (pre-assaultive behavior)
(2) Mumbled, unpersuasive, and indecipherable verbal commands
(3) Inability to separate the significant from the insignificant
(4) Taking a bad position
(5) Paralytic indecision
(6) Panicking and shooting too fast
(7) Concentration-destroying unintentional discharges
(8) Failing to move
(9) Failing to take advantage of available cover
(10) Relaxing too soon

The foregoing list is, of course, not all-inclusive.

Nevertheless, the point here is the one I do my best to make with my students:

We’re going to spend our time on the shooting range and in the classroom working diligently to minimize all the “little mistakes.”

By contrast, we’re going to worry little about “great shots.” They will take care of themselves!

When, for the first and only time, Napoleon met Czar Alexander in the City of Tilsit in Russia in 1807, Napoleon pointed to a badly-scared member of his vaunted Imperial Guard and said to the Czar, “What do you think of a man who can endure such wounds?” The Czar cleverly responded, “And, what do you think men who can inflict them?”

The Guardsman himself, interrupting both heads of state, volunteered, “They’re all dead!”

Czar and Napoleon quickly changed the subject!