Reka, my wife, slowly let out a breath. I heard the click of the safety on her 308 rifle snap off. As she took another slow breath and let it out I could see the muscles in her hand begin to tighten. I knew she was going to take the shot.
As I have often written in the past, I used to think I was good at multi-tasking and having my fingers in many pies at the same time. I have changed my view and truly believe that it is better to slow down, focus, practice, study, and then practice some more—to become truly great at what one thing at a time. I believe this is the meaning behind the old Chinese proverb that suggests “You must first go slow to go fast.”
Just as is in business, certain moments can be the culmination of a lot of preparation, focus, and practice. Often, these moments are experienced in a time of crisis or opportunity and are typically at the peak of stress. It is during these times that all the experience, understanding, industry knowledge, conversations, and listening meld into a reaction (good or bad) and can have a pivotal impact on the success or failure of the organization and the individuals within.
Theses moments may be monumental or minor to the organization or a specific individual. Either way, they will have an impact and it is critical for leaders to know that how these moments are addressed is the true measure of a leader.
In Reka’s case, the shot she was about to take was a long 286 yard shot. It was well within her go/no-go range. The problem being that she was sitting in a blind and we had practiced dozens of times at the range in the prone position (lying down). In addition, we were in the Pine Ridge area of Western Nebraska where it was cold and she was wearing more clothes than she was used to; this interfered with the rifle scope eye relief. Finally, there was the stress of the moment. I may talk very cavalier about hunting, but this is a big deal. Shooting a deer is is taking a life, no bones about it. We cherish the venison we will put in the freezer and have strong opinions on the ethics and quality of the process, but make no mistake, there is a lot to pulling the trigger. It is paramount to be sure it will be one shot and no suffering for the animal harvested.
Reka was experiencing the intense emotion and adrenaline dump that culminates right as you are about to pull the trigger; a wave of emotion overtook her, and she looked at me. As our eyes locked, I smiled and reminded her she did not have to take the shot. In the next breath, I reminded her how much she had practiced, including even doing exercises at the range before a shot to simulate what she was now feeling. Even though this was not exactly as we had practiced, much of it was, and all that preparation allowed her to compensate and still focus. She could make the shot.
She turned her head back and put her cheek back on the rifle stock and looked through the scope. She took a slow, deep breath and snapped the safety off.
Several years worth of practice and preparation came down to several seconds. Reka killed that beautiful deer with one shot on a cold, sunny morning. I am very proud of her. I also know that this experience will be added to all the experiences, knowledge, and work that she has done so far. These combined experiences will make the next adventure/obstacle/opportunity, that much easier to handle.
Being a bit prideful, here is a link to a newspaper article about Reka’s hunt.
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