She was eight years old when she took her first shot with her father’s gun. He had died several years earlier and left her, her Mom, and six siblings all younger than her to fend for themselves in a life on the prairie. That first shot – a bullseye – changed everything. Annie Oakley was one of seven children. She used her shooting skills to kill game and sold that meat to the local general store, which allowed her to pay of her mother’s mortgage by the time Annie was fifteen. She tapped into what she could do and figured out a way to provide for her family. These words were her mantra – Aim for the high mark.. good advice.
I was in a conversation with people discussing their children and one parent spoke very eloquently about not wanting their child to fail, so they told them to aim low. “Aim low and you have a better chance of hitting things, not as likely to miss. No one wants to experience failure, so when they set low goals they have a better chance of meeting them”. I was stunned. I couldn’t imagine being a parent who believed that aiming low was the way to go. Lower expectations means less chance of failure. WOW! It also means less chance of reaching beyond mediocrity.
People who aim high usually find a way to hit the goal, even if the goal changes or moves, or ends up being a completely different goal. Aim for the high mark, you’re bound to hit something. Aim low and you will miss, and miss out on so much more than just that one target. Being afraid of failure means denying the opportunity to dig deep, try again, test our will power, and rethink to recover and succeed next time. Imagine being an eight year old who had a gun way too big for her, who keep shooting, kept aiming high and paid off her family mortgage in seven years. Now imagine if her mother had told her to aim low and not try too hard, to prevent her from failing.
What talent and skills have we squandered by encouraging people not to try? What growth have we stunted, and how have we made people feel when we let them know trying isn’t worth it? And what are we telling people about ourselves and our beliefs when we say just aim low? Well forget that, I encourage people to go for it. It you fail, reload and try again. You’ll get better, stronger, faster, wiser, and eventually you will be the person people want to ask, “How’d you do it?” Your answer will then be, “I aimed high!”