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Dan Mall Teaches

Shoot Your Shot

Published 2 months ago • 3 min read

Reading time: around 2 minutes

When you’re faced with a challenge that seems unlikely to lean in your favor, the common wisdom is to “shoot your shot.” I was unable to track the origin of the phrase, but I’ve always heard it in relation to sports—basketball in particular. The most common translation is that, between the choices of doing something and not doing something, you might as well do anything to give yourself a chance. It’s related to the quote most famously attributed to both Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky that “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” so the implication is that you might as well take a shot… any shot, because it’s better than no shot at all.

But I think that’s the least useful interpretation of the phrase.

Steph Curry is regarded as the greatest basketball shooter of all time. He’s also dang fun to watch, because he’s like a video game. He can seemingly launch the ball from anywhere on the court and it has a high chance of going in:

video preview

Is this because he’s always “shooting his shot?” Yes, but in a very different way than I mentioned above. Curry isn’t just throwing up the ball randomly because any shot is better than no shot. That’s the kind of thinking that gets players benched.

Curry is so fun to watch because he’s shooting his shot. Not just any shot, but shots he routinely practices. These are shots he has confidence to make because he’s made them before, and he continues to practice making them. What might be wild shots for any other player are high-percentage shots for Curry. That’s what makes them his shots.

Here’s Curry from an interview talking about those unconventional shots:

All of them that you see on the floor aren’t the first time I’ve taken them. I practice kind of unorthodox, one-footers, unbalanced shots, hand-in-your-face, all of that stuff, I’ve done it before.

Here’s Curry’s coach Steve Kerr talking about how he learned that what is a terrible shot for other players is a great shot for Steph Curry:

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Kerr says:

The numbers don’t lie. That’s a shot [Curry] makes 40% of the time.

When you’re going for something that feels like it might be unreachable—whether that’s applying for a dream job or putting your name in for a promotion or pitching a top-tier client or thinking about a big life change—don’t settle for shooting any shot. Shoot your shot, the one you’ve practiced hundreds of times before, the ones that are ridiculous for anyone else to take but the ones you’ve seen work for you plenty in your past.

Making a brand new portfolio? Don’t build it on a fancy new tech platform when you’ve seen that your YouTube channel has been steadily growing for years… make a video! That’s your shot, because you’ve been practicing it and you’ve seen it work.

Applying for a new position? Don’t just turn in a resume when you know you connect well with people in person. Show up at the office and politely insist to sit down with the hiring manager. That’s your shot.

Don’t settle for a “well I’ll just try anything” attitude. Look for your highest percentage opportunities. That’s what it really means to shoot your shot.

—Dan

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Dan Mall Teaches

by Dan Mall

I teach designers how to get the respect they deserve. I share tips, tricks, and tools about design systems, process, and leadership.

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