As the warmer weather slowly approaches, spring fever lets our thoughts drift to a return outdoors. I recently recalled a time as a youngster on the verge of adolescence at a Wisconsin summer camp. I remember straining under the critical eye of a counselor on the archery range with my mind wildly pleading with the “archery gods” to just let the arrow hit the target and not end up in the dirt. It’s amazing how often we’re willing to settle for writing off the bull’s eye and just hitting the target. I was reminded of the incident while on a walking tour of New Haven’s fabulous, new Gateway Community College facility. On a wall they have inscribed a paraphrased quote from Benjamin E. Mays, a noted educator, minister, and civil rights advocate, reading: “It isn’t a tragedy to fail reaching a goal; it’s failing to have a goal to reach.” I looked up the full quote online and saw that the quote ends with, “Not failure, but low aim is sin.”
Whether you’re a child or a business professional, deciding to “aim for the bull’s eye” is a bold, transforming decision. It requires a vision and confidence that you can hit the mark and the courage to risk trying. For a business leader, it requires frank, market-based assessment of how well the organization is positioned to reach the goal. I recall a conversation with a COO of a highly-respected manufacturing company when I asked, “Where does your company have unrealized potential?” He gave me a quizzical look and replied, “No one’s ever asked me that question before. I’d have to think about it.” His company has hit plenty of “bull’s eyes”, but the exchange makes me wonder what the future holds. I continually run across small business owners who pour time and money into untargeted advertising and are content to service whoever walks through the door. So often, they do this without any thought of where they would like to steer the business.
Thought for the day: “Aim high!”