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Making A One In A Million Shot

July 28, 2014

Great shot kid, that was one in a million.

It’s one of the most famous lines from one of the most famous movies of all time. But, do things like that happen in real life? (Well, not flying an X-Wing fighter against a Death Star, I’m pretty sure we aren’t to that stage of real life.) But, the idea of making that one in a million shot?

There have been plenty of last second game winning shots. Even shots against incredible odds.

But, what about you. Have you ever made a one in a million shot?

I did once. And not only did I make it, my friend Dean made the same shot at the same time. To this day, I still cannot believe we made it.

Many offices I’ve worked in reward bad behavior. I’ve known people who intentionally created a crisis so that they could be the hero and fix it. (How To Screw Up. . .Badly) In the software business the worst example of this hero concept is the programmer who holds back his most critical code. Then, at the 11th hour, he miraculously creates a solution that saves the day.

The problem in this case is that it was his job all along. He was supposed to be good at his job. That’s presumably why he got hired. I tend to heap as much praise on my team as I can reasonably get away with. (Tell Them It’s All About You, Make It All About Them.) But, I try not to reward people for doing their job poorly and then “fixing” it.

I’m suspicious when people work late. Once or twice to meet a deadline? Sure. Everyone does that. But, week after week? Deadline after deadline? I think “Either you’re sandbagging, or you’re just pretty terrible at forecasting how long something will take you to complete.

I hold myself to this same standard. If I can’t get my work done in a normal week (i.e. 50 hour per week, let’s be honest here), I start to look at my job and my skills. One of them doesn’t match the other. And it’s MY job to let my management know.

Still, if you attempt to do your job well, there are occasions where you end up being the hero. Where you make that one in a million shot that wins the contract, or saves the account, or solves a technical issue that no one except you could have solved. (And Sometimes You Just Get Lucky.)

My friend Dean and I had spent the day being observers for a yacht race. The captains had to steer a particular course through Puget Sound and hit each maker at an exact time. Dean and I were there as a group of observers to make sure no one on the boat consulted a watch or a clock. How a couple of high school kids got picked for this duty is still a mystery to me.

After we were done, we called our friend Danny to come and pick us up at the dock in Olympia, WA and give us a ride home. Danny drove a 1965 Ford Mustang.

(Not Danny’s actual car. Photo Credit:

While we were waiting, We headed to the grocery store next door for something to eat. Have you ever tried raw sugar cane? Neither had we.

(Photo Credit:

We each bought a six inch stalk. I’m not sure what we expected, but it was pretty much like chewing on a piece of NorthWest timber. We couldn’t get any taste at all from it. We were still working on it when Danny showed up. Dean got into the passenger seat and I took the seat directly behind him.

Getting anything, Dean?

Nah, you?

Splinters. Hey, Danny drive past a garbage can so we an throw these away.

We were driving through downtown Olympia on a typical busy Saturday. Up ahead on the right we spotted a city garbage can on the corner.

(Photo Credit: Future Kits)

It had openings on all sides. But they weren’t very big openings. Danny made a right turn and Dean and I let fly from 20 feet away at this garbage can. We assumed that even if we missed the can, the chances of us hitting any of the pedestrians waiting for the light to change was minimal.

Both shots flew true to form. We each neatly targeted the roughly 8″ opening. Two direct hits that landed with a loud CHUNK inside the plastic can. The woman standing next to the can nearly jumped out of her skin.

I don’t know if any of us had the presence of mind to quote Han Solo. The movie had come out a couple years earlier. But, we knew that we had hit a one in a million shot, and then we went home.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children and one grandchild.

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