Why We Fail to Achieve Our Goals


In the Army, soldiers have to zero and qualify with their weapon every six months.

This is a requirement for everyone, regardless of rank or position.

From cooks to pilots, Privates to Captains – everyone qualifies.

Qualifying with a weapon means hitting a certain number of targets from set distances with a certain number of rounds.

The point of qualifying is to validate that you know how to use your weapon and you can use it effectively.

To qualify with the M4, the Army’s standard issue rifle, soldiers are required to hit a minimum of 23 targets (with only 40 rounds of ammo), from 50 to 300 meters out.

To be honest, this isn’t a very difficult number to hit; even the weakest marksman can usually hit in the high 20’s…

If their weapon is zeroed…


Zeroing is the process of confirming your weapon will hit what you aim at.

The general practice for zeroing an M4 involves a process of shooting 3 rounds at a time to judge accuracy (rounds hit where you aim) and “shot group” (i.e. all the rounds hit close to the same area consistently).

A good zero means you’ve got an accurate site picture and a tight shot group.

Sometimes, zeroing a new rifle with a new shooter can take upwards of 50 or 60 rounds.  But once the weapon is zeroed to the shooter, it’s possible to zero in six rounds (two tight shot groups of three to confirm your site picture).

You’d think a weapon would come zeroed – that it would automatically hit what you aim at - but that’s not the case.  Every weapon is a bit different and you almost always have to adjust the sites if you want to hit your target (when you’re aiming at a target from 300 meters away, the room for error decreases significantly).

There are a multitude of reasons for this, but it ultimately comes down to your build, how you line up the shot, and how you’ve set your sites.

Since every person is slightly different, every person needs to zero their weapon before they qualify.

Qualifying an Idea

I’m guessing you can see where I’m going with this analogy…

Zeroing and qualifying applies to more than just rifles.

In the business world, if we hope to qualify an idea, we’d better have our sites adjusted and zeroed.  Just as it would be impossible to believe someone could qualify if they’ve never zeroed, it’s impossible to think someone could hit the bull’s-eye with their business plan in one attempt.

Yet people try to make this happen, over, and over, and over again.

Instead of taking the time to zero, people go for bull’s-eye on their first attempt.

Inevitably, they fail.

More often than not, they quit.

These aren’t talentless people.  They aren’t passionless or ignorant or unqualified.  On the contrary, many of them have years of experience in their sector, some have advanced degrees, and others have even started successful companies before.

But when they get a new idea, they skip the time consuming process of zeroing their idea – who is this product for, what will they pay for it, how do I know they want this, where has this worked before, what are my sales channels, can I do this without going bankrupt, etc. – and they jump right into qualifying – building the product, leasing the space, creating scalable channels, etc.

Their desire is the same desire we all have - we want the win, we want the bull’s-eye, and we want it now.

And therein lies the problem – without taking the time to get a good zero, you’ll never qualify – you’ll never hit the mark.

Missing the Mark

Even the best marksmen in the world zero their weapons before they qualify or compete.

And they do this each and every time.

If you want to be a great entrepreneur (or author, or anything else for that matter), you need to get used to zeroing before you qualify.

This means progressively getting a better site picture and tighter shot group – understanding who you’re writing to, understanding what they want to hear and how they want to hear it, knowing the best way to deliver the most powerful message, etc.

But of course – and here’s the catch - zeroing means failing.

Every round that doesn’t hit its mark is a small failure.  But it’s all for a purpose: with enough failures you can correct your shot group and qualify.

No one brings a single round to zero – that’s foolish.  Even if you hit your mark, you can’t validate your site picture or shot group with one round – it could have been pure luck.  And just because you miss the mark with one round doesn’t mean you’re completely lost or ruined – you could be a small adjustment away from hitting bulls-eye.

The point is this: you don’t know unless you shoot multiple rounds; you don’t know unless you’re willing to fail more than once.

Business and art are the same way.

You can’t expect to zero in one try.  Your ideas need to be progressively validated.  You need to take your time and adjust your sites.  And if something is off, you need to meticulously correct and adjust until it’s on target again.

Sometimes, this requires many, many rounds.

Hitting Your Target

In the conventional business world, your job is to take and execute orders.  Eventually, you’ll be responsible for disseminating orders from above, but at the end of the day, you’ll never have to do too much creative thinking, nor flex your creative brain too much.

Your job is to not fail at taking and executing orders.

On the other hand, if you want to live a life dictated by you and you alone, you need to get used to failing.

Entrepreneurship, art, writing…these things require the creator to fail before he succeeds.  It takes time to adjust a site picture and tighten a shot group.  It takes a lot of failure to finally find success.

Connecting the dots is never easy.  Putting something together from scratch is difficult.  Succeeding is, well, rare.

But if you’re the kind of person who gets restless building someone else’s empire, or living on someone else’s terms, then you’ve got to get comfortable missing the mark.

Remember, trying to hit bull’s-eye on your first try is insane without a good zero.

Focus on your shot group and site picture.  Focus on consistent, small improvement.  Focus on failing closer and closer to your mark.

Failure is inevitable during this process, but stick with it long enough and you’ll discover something incredible:

Winning is also inevitable.

Because at the end of the day, you'll get your good zero.

And if you can get your good zero, you will hit your target.

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4 comments on “Why We Fail to Achieve Our Goals”

  1. Great Metaphor Tom.

    As a former soldier I know how important this process can be. Also when you takes steps further away from your target (i,e. 50m vs 300m) the more you pay for an improperly zeroed weapon. More factors have time to affect your shot - Wind Speed, trajectory, elevation, "lead of target" etc.

    Great post today.

    I so appreciate your writing style, form and readability. I'm GLAD to be part of The Resistance.

    1. Alan - thanks so much for the comment. Great point too - there is a lot more depth to the analogy than I tried to dig into...like you mentioned, there are so many factors that can throw you off (just like our project/business goals). May be worth revisiting for a future post (definitely have my brain gears moving right now...).

      Glad to have you be a part of it brother!

  2. Amazing analogy! Love it. I truly believe that it takes failure to eventually succeed. I don't mean you have to fail so bad that you go bankrupt and lose your house, but maybe launch a product that is a complete flop, or build a website that rarely gets traffic. From these we can learn how to improve and "ZERO IN" on what actually works.


    1. Chris - exactly. You nailed it on the head. How else can we hit bulls-eye w/out a good zero...and how do we get a good zero without failing to hit the mark a few times?

      The problem is getting wrapped up in the small failures when they're so insignificant.

      Thanks so much for commenting and your thoughts Chris!