5 Oct

Firing at the target

Everyone desires success, everyone prays for success, everybody gets excited about success, but only few people really achieve success. Even if some people eventually succeed at least before their time is up, they will tell you that they’d have loved to achieve it earlier than they did. What’s the secret? Success never comes until your best shot hits the right target.

I remember when I was a Boy in the Nigerian Military School, Zaria. One of our dream exercises in the Military School is the Firing Range. Back then, all other tactical military training exercises—less the Firing Range and Inter-company Small Arms Competition—were performed using the blank ammo: a bullet without a warhead that only makes noise. Blank ammo doesn’t kill but can inflict injury at a close range.

What’s exciting about the Firing Range is that it’s always an opportunity to fire a ‘life round’ at a ‘Figure 11.’ A ‘life round’ has a warhead and can kill. While a ‘Figure 11’ is a wooden target with a picture of the top half of a soldier on it. It’s a kind of target specially designed for training shooters.

The Depot Nigerian Army owns the Range field. It’s a wide, grassy field of over 1 kilometre in length. Range fields are often far from human habitations. This is to prevent incidents from happening to somebody in a nearby town if a shooter misses a target. Oh, I remember, there’s a hill behind the target trenches, where ‘wash out’ bullets bury themselves.

There, on the Range field, we practice all sorts of shooting methods and adopt several shooting positions. One of the methods that’s so interesting for me is the ‘snap shooting,’ because it teaches the important role that preparation plays before we can achieve any success.

How snap shooting is done? Let me explain. The Figure 11—or target—appears when you least expect it. It stays up for about 4 seconds then disappears. Your goal is to release two shots on the target when it’s still visible.

The principle is simple. If you hit the target, you score your point. If you miss the target, you lose your point—and will be considered a poor marksman. You’ll repeat this process for about 4 other rounds.

One important lesson from snap shooting is, to hit the target (and score a point), it matters less when the target appears and more on how prepared you are to release the shots on the target when it finally shows up.

Success is a lot like that. You have to prepare for significant opportunities and be always willing to release your best shots anytime they show up. Success is a prepared reward for prepared people. No matter what age you are, you can start achieving something meaningful if you take these 6 steps I want to share with you.

1. Define what achievement means to you.

Last week I had a conversation with a youngster. In few minutes we started discussing about success, and one thing I mentioned that he found difficult to swallow was that age is neither a barrier nor qualification for achievement. If you know me well, that seems to be one of my strongest beliefs.

After a few considerations, I could figure out something was missing. He thought the only definition of achievement is to attain stardom. Even at that, age is still not a barrier. Then I asked him what achievement means to him. He couldn’t give a clear response. So he shot the question back at me.

I replied: Achievement means different things to different people. But in simple terms, it’s about setting a goal, going after the goal and getting the goal. It’s that simple!

I’m glad that changed his perception about achievement. He even started believing in his potential to achieve early success. In fact, he’s always been a very intelligent guy.

For some years of encouraging young people to start doing something amazingly significant, I’ve discovered that too many youngsters are placing their lives on hold. They are waiting for the huge target and the exotic opportunities before they pull the trigger. They’re holding back, stalling and waiting on graduation before they make any plan, start to learn about leadership, develop their communication skills and even grow the potential they possess.

Think about it: Wouldn’t you love to land your first job in an administrative position? I bet that’s your dream! Of course, nobody will hate himself for succeeding earlier than usual. (In fact, if care is not taken, early success will enlarge an individual’s ego). However, only few people are willing to pay the price to make that happen. And for you to know what price to pay, you must know exactly what you’re paying for.

2. Look inwards to see if you have what it takes.

I will keep this short. When I was in the Military School, I remember what my Economics instructors say. It goes something like this: Once you know what you want, check in your purse to see if you have the purchasing power.

You see, it’s one thing to know what you want to achieve and it’s another to have what it takes to achieve it. Fine, it’s good to know what way leads to Lagos from Abuja, but if you don’t have any means of transportation, I bet you can’t make the journey—except you choose to spend over 4 months on foot!

So what do you have to check inwards for?

  • Talent—The natural ability to excel
  • Passion—The drive for excellence
  • Skill—The knack for excellence

If you don’t have the first two—talent and passion—for what you figured out in step one, take this simple, hurting but helpful advice: quit it! Find something else you have a strong passion for and a natural ability to do.

But if you only lack the skills to accomplish what you consider to achieve, you can always learn and improve in the process. Just make sure you get up to speed with your personal development plan. (If you have no idea what a personal development plan is, and you like to have one, here is a helpful article by Bangol University, UK.)

3. Identify what keeps you where you are.

After you know exactly what you want to achieve and have realized that you have what it takes to achieve it, wake up and answer reality’s call! (We’ve been dreaming since you started reading this post. And that’s okay.) Look around you and ask yourself: What could have been holding me back from achieving success? Alternatively, what are the factors that can work against my success or stop me from achieving anything significant?

After this gentle introspection, wait for the answers to start rushing in: financial constraint, physical disability, poor environment, narrow-minded associates, etc. (Remember that age is not one of these factors. So if it comes, dispose it!)

You may decide to write a list of all the factors you feel can be a barrier to your success. You may even choose to paste them somewhere you can easily see them always. Whichever way, that’s left to you. Then anytime you see that list or remember those factors, say this to yourself repeatedly: These factors aren’t excuses for not succeeding; they’re simply conditions under which I must succeed!

Before we move on to the next step, I want to quickly point out something to you. In my country, Nigeria, some of the factors are beyond human control—they’re spiritual—take it or leave it. In that case, you have to offer prayers of help to God. In fact, the entire process demands prayer—either the factors are within human control or not.

4. Check around for people who are presently successful at what you want to achieve.

Now that you’ve made up your mind to never give up on your dream, it’s time to do some research about people who are already succeeding at the same thing you want to do. That means you have to look for models and learn from them. Read their books and listen to their tapes.

It’s also advisable to read your hero’s story—biography or autobiography. You may even find out that he has experienced a similar situation like the one you’re going through, perhaps a tougher one. Learn the actions he took to break through those barriers and see if you can do the same. Meanwhile, you have to be careful about the kind of influence you permit in your life. Make sure your model is someone…

  • You can trust
  • Who has values that are aligned with yours
  • Who’s open enough to inspire other people to achieve success

If the terms agree, then you’re save to learn more about your model.

Yes, I didn’t forget. It’s important you get a mentor—someone who can be a personal guide, who you can confide in and who can advice you.

Few months ago I fielded an interesting question after speaking at a Young Leaders’ Conference. The young lady asked that she has been told several times that it’s necessary to have a mentor if one intends to become a public speaker. “What if I can’t find someone to mentor me, what should I do?” she inquired.

My opinion? I told her that if she finds one, fine. But if she doesn’t find anybody who’s willing to become her mentor, she simply can turn to books and get some nice advice.

These days, things are even getting better. You can join communities like this blog and some fine Facebook groups and you’ll get all the direction you want. All you need to do is just drop a comment or make a post and you’ll get some valuable suggestions you need. What I mean in essence is you don’t have to bother much about finding a mentor; just find some successful people in your field and learn from them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get a chance to meet them personally. If you do, good luck.

5. Think about the small steps you can start with—and take them!

Don’t wait for something big to happen before you prepare yourself for success. Yes, it may be a good idea to wait for the big opportunity to come. Why? Because you’ll learn firsthand how important the experience you get from seizing small opportunities are in preparing you for the larger opportunities. The bad news is that you’ll get the experience and lose that opportunity. The good news is if you learn the lesson, it won’t happen to you next time.

Successful sportsmen can tell you how significantly mere participating in school sporting competitions have contributed to building their career. Bestselling authors would explain to you how they have developed their craft from a 30-minute daily commitment to scribble down something. Preachers would emphasize the importance of a daily Bible study and evangelism if you ask them one of the important factors that have contributed to their success in the ministry.

The point is that success is not what you see on the game pitch or on the bestsellers’ list or on the platform. Success is really a sum of the daily little steps—especially the ones you take behind the scenes where nobody sees you.

Start something significant today—no matter how little. Write a bit today. Sing today. Make a sketch today. Paint a picture today. Write a poem today. Write an article today. Write the plot of a short story today. Talk to someone today. Preach to someone today. Do it tomorrow, and next…and you’ll be amazed how closer you’ll be pushing towards success every single day.

6. Constantly stretch yourself to get better every day.

If there is one rule of thumb for personal development, then, it’s daily improvement. It doesn’t get better than that.

I have seen this rule at work both in my writing and my speaking. That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. In fact, I do, because my aim is not to become perfect. My goal is to add value to myself and improve my skills every day—so that I can be of better value to others. I just want to get better every day. Yes, I want to get better than I am today. I want my writing to get better. I want to be able to connect with people better than I can right now. And I believe that’s true of you, too.

If you take all the steps in this article, make excellence your minimum standard in what you do and give any significant opportunity your best shots, let me tell you a good news: The earlier you discover yourself and daily improve yourself, the earlier you’ll experience success.


Thanks for the time you’ve invested into reading this article. I’ll be glad to hear from you in the comments section. Just leave a reply and I’ll respond.



  1. Akolawole T October 6, 2013 at 09:30 #

    This article came just at the right time. I woke up this morning feeling so refreshed and looking forward to getting better than I was some 8 hours ago. After the morning devotion exercise, I put on the data connection, then a message came in via e-mail; it was this article.
    I couldn’t agree more with these steps; they are very helpful.Enjoyed your military experiences and most of all appreciate the fact you didn’t rule out the spiritual factor. For one to achieve success( a good one) one cannot displace the place of prayer. Whatever is good needs prayer to substain it, and the defected one also needs prayer to enhance it.

  2. Babawale O. Peter October 6, 2013 at 17:44 #

    This is a very inspiring article!! So many factors as hindered so many youngster from achieving their desires success. I do appreciate the fact that so many solutions has also been provided by the blogger. Time management do count also. One who is aiming at a greater success must learn to be time cautious. Daily, monthly and yearly goals needs to be set. This gives you more determination and dedication. Knowing the right time to sleep, wake, play(un-neccesary conversations, watching of films, playing games, etc) and work. Do you know that our Saviour Jesus christ knows when to give-up a conversation, even with His disciples. Remember the fact that you have nothing, but a limited time to fulfil your purpose. Jesus died at age 33 fulfilling His purpose. At age 33, will you fulfil yours?

    • David O. Lawal October 6, 2013 at 22:03 #

      @Peter —
      Yes, you’re right. Time management is important, especially in a fast-paced society like ours.

      It’s also good to have a sound plan. Honestly, planning isn’t as simple to practice as it sounds. However, with a personal development plan, one could set a system that will make the process easier.

      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate. 🙂

  3. David O. Lawal October 6, 2013 at 21:55 #

    @Akolawole —
    Thanks for the reply. I’m glad you find the post helpful. I love your opinion: “Whatever is good needs prayer to sustain it…”

    Thanks for your time.

    Have a great week 🙂

  4. Babawale O. Peter October 6, 2013 at 22:43 #

    Yes! That’s true, different factors such as procastination, environmental factors, etc can be an hinderance to a plan. You’re right a personal development plan is essential to execute a plan. By this you could set a stimulated time/date towards achieving your goal. You welcome leader! God bless.

  5. Olajide Bukola October 10, 2013 at 18:58 #

    Indeed,this is a wonderful writeup,more grease to your elbow

  6. Olajide Bukola October 10, 2013 at 18:58 #

    Indeed,this is a wonderful writeup,more grease to your elbow.

  7. David O. Lawal October 11, 2013 at 17:57 #

    @Bukola —

    I’m glad you enjoyed the article. My prayer and hope is that the article not only entertains you, but also help you prepare to experience early success.

    Thanks for stopping by to read the post. I’m grateful for your comment. 🙂

    I appreciate.

  8. Israel O. Peters October 17, 2013 at 20:37 #

    The author recently told me that experience is the leverage of success. Now he writes, “Success is a prepared reward for prepared people.” How true!
    I wish I could sink these words (the full write-up) in the heart of every youngster I meet. One day soon, I will.

    • David O. Lawal October 18, 2013 at 22:54 #

      @Israel —

      Thanks for your kind words. Sure, I believe, you can. And I trust you will.

      Remain blessed.

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