Don’t Always Go for the Long Shot


One of the best lessons I learned in life, I learned from foosball.  During a competitive match, I kept going for the long pull.  The long pull is a beautiful shot.  It’s like poetry in motion.  The problem was, I kept missing all my shots.  Finally, my partner pulled me aside and said, “Hey, don’t always go for the long shot.  You’ll miss all the beautiful short and middle along the way.”

Take the short and Middle Along the Way
It was a great point.  After all, it was a competitive match and we needed results.  For the rest of the night, I focused on short and middle.  This instantly changed my game.   I now had more options and my opponents had more holes to worry about.  It felt like cheating as I made shot after shot.

It Works for Life
Outside of foosball, I realized this was really an effective metaphor.  I started to apply it to all areas of my life.  I found ways to flow value.  For example, rather than try to write the ultimate blog post, I freed myself up to write shorter, simpler posts.  On my large projects at work, I found ways to chunk them up and ship smaller value along the way.  I found that success builds momentum and that it’s actually what sets you up for the long shot.  When I feel I have a long shot in me, I go for it.  When things don’t work out, I go back to the “short” and “middle.”  This really helped me improve my overall portfolio of results.

How about you, is there some short and middle you can start taking?

Photo by foxxyz.


  1. “…success builds momentum…”

    So true JD. Chunking things up so you have a series of success builds up political capital as well – it helps folks believe in you.

  2. Cool comparison. Its all about building towards that big picture. You cant and wont make leaps though. It takes foundation and supports along the way. And the great thing is that once those supports are in place 1 day that huge leap will seem to come out of no where!

  3. I presume the long shots are harder to make. This in a way relates to Bloom’s Taxonomy whereby you have to progress from a lower level to a higher one upon mastery of the former. This gives you confidence as well as lots of practice/repetition along the way which makes the harder undertaking not as daunting.
    Congrats on your willingness to take helpful advice from your team mate.

  4. Nice post. This reminds me of the saying (I originally heard it from Gretchen Rubin): Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

  5. AWESOME post!

    I am just terrible at foosball, at least I was the few times I tried it.

    But so true about the smaller steps that lead to the goal. Totally! You know the French expression “petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.” Little by little the bird makes his nest.

  6. Oh thank you J.D, This is exactly what I needed to read this morning! I have no value to add — today I’m just a taker. And grateful to be one. 🙂

    (That ultimate blog post thing slows me down sometimes. Thank you Thank you!)

  7. @ Daphne

    Thinking back, a lot of my coaches gave me skills for life.

    @ Writer Dad

    That’s a great way to get results.

    @ Positively Present

    I agree. Luck’s when skill and oppoortunity comes together. Take those windows of opporunity.

    @ Fred

    Right on. When you’ve got a track record for results, folks trust you and are willing to join the band.

    @ Jared

    The little successes definitely add up, and most importantly, as you say, they create a strong foundation.

    @ Steve

    The long shots are harder to make, especially when they aren’t there 😉

    Because I kept going for the long shot, the goalie only had to protect the one hole. I wasn’t a threat to the short or middle, until I started taking those at will.

    @ Vi

    That’s one of my favorite sayings and it’s one of those things I remind myself. I think I use … “what’s good enough for now?” … “a stitch in time saves 9” … “don’t always go for the long shot” … “version your perfection” … “what’s the best you can do right now” … and “don’t let the perfect be th enemy of the good.” This little rule set helps me balance things, take action, and avoid perfectionism.

    @ Jannie

    Thank you. I like that!

    @ Barb

    Great to hear. I think flexibility is the key. When one approach isn’t working, you can just test another approach. I fell into the habit of locking on to an approach that wasn’t working.

  8. Good points. Resonate with me a lot!
    When I was doing judo as a teenager – everyone wanted to learn cool moves and win by Ipon. It rarely worked but the investment was enormous. I took a more modest path – learning little tricks that brought me less glorious but sure win. works in life and work too. The end result what matters. When you bring a short gig time after time is much more appreciated than telling the world I almost sold a half million gig…

  9. @ Dror

    Thank you.

    @ Alik

    Your story reminds me of going for bunts, singles, and doubles over the triple or home run. It’s tempting to go for the fence, but, it’s really about maximizing your effectiveness for the scenario.

  10. Hi JD

    I’ve found that lack of belief in myself in certain areas has meant that I have cautiously stepped out with the the (ultra) short shots. I think that in some cases it is that focus on the long shot that actually holds us back.

    Great way of illustrating your point 😉


  11. I think I should start taking the short or middle shot when writing a blog post, like you said. I’m a writer so I tend to write long posts and therefore I don’t write enough of them. Thanks for the advice!

  12. @ Juliet

    I agree – little steps can go a long way. It’s about “right sizing” and chunking down our success to build momentum.

  13. JD:
    So many goals in the hockey playoffs are scored by the guy standing in front of the net. Of course it helps to have another guy take the long shot.

  14. @ MJ

    It’s a good feeling when you start flowing your value.

    At the end of the day you have to right-size your posts, but if you experiment more, you might find you light some smaller and mid-size, and yes, you’ll improve your throughput (but the ultimate measure is always value). This is where the secret kicks in. You hit more home runs when you get up to bat more often, and you can grab a bunch of singles and doubles along the way.

    @ David

    I like the hockey parallel and so true!

  15. The long shot contains so many unforeseen obstacles that someone can hardly draw a plan that to prevent all of them. Maybe somebody is able to do it, the one with lots of experience, as well as the real deep thoughts.

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