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Things I Learned About Life and Entrepreneurship While Learning How to Shoot with a Bow

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Bow Training I’ve just begun practicing, and did some classes to learn proper bow handling, form, aiming and shooting. It may seem easy to shoot with a bow – after all, it is just a bow and an arrow! anyone could shoot with it – but it turns out that handling it properly isn’t as easy as it seems.

The Dominant Eye

A dominant eye is the eye which is preferred by your brain for seeing things, in a similar way that you have a preferred arm and hand for dealing with things.

The fact that your best hand is the right one, doesn’t mean that your best eye will be the right one as well, although that can happen, and the cross eyed archer is faced with a dilema: If you are left handed, but your dominant eye is the right one, then you’ll have to pull the string with your weakest arm! Same if you’re right handed but left eye is dominant.

If your dominant eye is opposed to your best hand, you need to respect the eye dominance even though by doing that you’ll be using your weakest arm. This is in order to allow bringing the tail of the arrow and the string closer to your dominant eye without twisting the limbs or the bow by dragging the string from the wrong side to the right side for aiming – considering that you’re respecting the eye dominance and hand dominance at the same time, provided that they’re opposite.

Before learning about bow shooting I’ve never heard about eye dominance before, and how that can affect your life. There is a book (I still need to review it) I read a while ago – Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass – that teaches you of the fact that nobody can walk an imaginary straight line without aid. Everyone is got a small deviation pattern that is only noticeable if you walk for several meters without visual aid. A person will tend to walk to his right, or his left, and that is the reason why when people are lost they tend to walk in circles.Eye dominance explains some of that deviation, and is definitely something you need to be aware off as much as you need to be aware of which of your arms is your strongest.

Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass

Form is key

Anyone who have never shot a bow think that it is just a matter of putting the arrow in position, pulling the string, putting the tip of the arrow where you want it to hit and let go off the string!

Well, at least that’s what I thought. There are dozens of variables involved in proper bow form that can influence your shooting in several different ways. After a while shooting, I asked the instructor why some of my arrows entered the target with some inclination (angle between target and arrow different than 90˚, like the illustration below).

Inclined Arrow

It turns out that there are several reasons, that range from position of my pinky finger from the hand that hold the string to slightly twisting the string while pulling. These are mostly very tiny details that you hardly notice while shooting and can drastically affect the quality of your results.

Most things in life are just like that – small details can easily change the inclination of your arrow for the worse. For the things we can train, like bow shooting, it is easy to detect, correct and maintain good practice with all these details, but for those we can’t train or test as often, like sending men to Mars, we must pay extra attention, simulate, check and re-check before prime time. The most important thing is to learn to see the details, understand that it can affect your performance and be prompt to correct them for achieving a better and more consistent result.

Don’t forget to breath

Breathing is, IMHO, one of the most underestimated, most performed and poorly executed tasks we all do throughout our entire lives. When you first go shooting, you’ll certainly not even remember you breath. Some times you’ll breath twice, some times six and some times you’ll hold your breath throughout the process. After all, breathing is mostly an involuntary act and most of us only realize that we are breathing once in a while. This is total caos and no shooting consistency. You can improve all your activities through breathing, but that requires practice as well. Try to walk or jog keeping a consistent abdominal breath for no more than 100 yards and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

We take several other things for granted in life that affect our decision making process. We should become more aware of those things and learn how to control them for better while making decisions.

Don’t hold the string for too long

One thing you’ll definitely do is hold your string for several seconds, trying to place that tip of the arrow in the exact spot before letting go of the string. Oh, poor little fingers. Depending on the bow you’re using to shoot, you’ll be holding up to 60 pounds with only 3 fingers! Not only you’ll get your fingers hurt, but the muscles in your arms and back will begin to tremble and your arrow will twist or most likely loose the target completely.

Some times we try to do that in life – hold on to that arrow trying to put the tip at the perfect spot, but it turns out that you try and try, and it is never good enough. Then you begin to get weary, you can’t aim the tip as well as you could at the beginning because now you began to tremble, and then you just let go off it to then learn that you should have shot a long while ago and now you’ve missed the target. Professional shooters don’t hold the string any longer than a few seconds. During competition, an archer is got only 40 seconds to position himself, place the arrow in the bow, pull the string and shoot, and most of them do that in way less than that limit, to hit the bullseye every single time. For all the other things in life, specially for entrepreneurship, don’t hold on too long to your strings.

The tip of the arrow is not always pointing at the right place

Aiming
Without any instruction, if you’re asked to shoot with a bow at the bullseye, you’re probably going to try to put the arrow in perspective with the target, with its tip in the middle of the bullseye. Then you release the arrow to find that it hit a totally different location in the target (if you hit the target at all).

Various elements affect your aiming, and you need to take it all into account if you’re to hit the bullseye. If you’re standing 3 feet away from the target, you’ll certainly hit it using this technique. But if you’re standing 18m away, you’ll be lucky if you hit the target at all. Although you added to the distance between the tip of the arrow and the target, the distance between your eye and the tip of the arrow is always going to be the same, and that changes the perspective of the tip projected on the target. The more distance you add, the greater the change. This is only one of the factors that may affect your aiming - we’re not even talking about wind (if shooting outdoors), bow poundage, arrow weight and composition, etc.

Entrepreneurs often disregard the distance between the tip of their arrows and the target, and shoot as if they were standing just 3 feet away, only to figure that their arrow completely missed the target. Fits this description all those products and services that are developed and brought to the market without being tailored to their users’ needs, failure to identify targeted users’ interest, pricing out of users’ range of perceived value, wrong timing of product release – too early, like Newton, or too late, like Windows Phone 8 -, etc.

We could certainly add a fith thing to the Chinese proverb that says “Four things come not back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity”, and that thing is a product release. If you don’t carefully examine what you’re shooting at and the surrounding variables, you must consider yourself lucky if you actually hit the target.

Practice

Do not underestimate practice. You could read dozens of archery books, watch hours of videos and all that won’t replace actual practice. No book or video will make you feel the weight of the string or simulate the vision you have while aiming in real life. Practice makes perfect, and that is true for everything we do.

I recently reviewed a book that cites the conclusion of several studies that the average time a human being needs to practice before mastering a subject is about 10.000 hours, and the author examines the lives of several well known modern geniuses (like Bill Gates, The Beetles and Bill Joy) and the time they spent mastering what they do before their first breakthrough. Practicing for so long isn’t cheap neither it is easy, but not all things we do in life need to be mastered to that level and those who do and you take the time to master will return outstanding results.

You must pull your own arrows from the target

Archery is not like soccer, where for all balls you kick out of bounds there will be a ball boy to catch it and throw it back for you.

You are in charge of pulling all the arrows you shot at the target – or somewhere else if you missed it. The excitement of shooting and learning will make this act feel boring, and pulling becomes a constant repetition where you need to place your bow in a stand, walk several meters, pull every arrow from the target, walk several meters back to where you’re shooting and then start all over again.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had an arrow boy? It turns out that pulling the arrows is a great opportunity to get really close to the target and see for how much you missed the bullseye and in which direction, count your points precisely and learn how you improved you aim from previous shots which marks are still present in the target. This is where the archer have a chance to learn and improve.

In business, you have to get closer to your targeted public and learn how you’re performing with each product, and keep adapting your aim until you get it right. It doesn’t matter if you miss the bullseye or even the target at the beginning, as long as you’re willing to walk those meters to pull those arrows by yourself, walk back to your shooting place, fix the aim with what you learned and shoot again. Get in touch with your customers, use your own products and services as much as you can and be open to receive suggestions and critics. Ponder it all, fix that aim and shoot again!

Now, thinking about soccer… Maybe they should go get their balls themselves too!

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