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The Life of a Sniper: Workplace Lessons We Can Draw From It

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A seed grows with no sound, but a tree falls with a huge noise. Destruction has noise, but creation is quiet. Click To Tweet

I’ll let you in on an intimate desire I have, though given where I’m at now in life, I may never get to achieve it. Okay, who knows? Maybe, maybe not. Here it is: In another life, I desire to be a professional sniper.

It’s an itch bracketed in awe and admiration that I have haboured for a long time now. Isn’t it cool to put a target down from miles away, unseen just like a ghost, with only a slight squeeze of the trigger? Now that’s power, me thinks.

Anyroad, for purposes of my feel-good hormones, I still consider myself a part-time sniper (winks). In the fictional stories I sculpt out, I can kill, and I do. Characters, though, and not real people. Please put that phone down; no need to dial the authorities. Thriller writers are important people in society — and allow me just this once to toot our horn — because we take out boredom and put an adrenaline bullet into your heads from miles away.

Workplace lessons to draw from the life of a sniper

Enough of my sniper dreams, I guess the table is set for breakfast and we can now gather and eat. Let’s look at the workplace lessons we can pick from the life of a sniper. Yes, there is a lot to learn and apply in our various work settings. And it will do you much good if — throughout this article —you have in mind that workplace doesn’t strictly mean a designated office space you get to and from on a daily. It’s a space that provides you with the right environment to do your thing, whatever your thing be. Could be home, in the field, or in that office that calls for your daily commute to get to.

Now let’s dive into the sniper lessons. One eye shut, the other scanning through the view-finder. Silence. Finger in the trigger guard, slightly on the trigger. Target acquired. Hold your breath. Squeeze the trigger. That PFT sound. No sweat, target down.

Work, work, work, to sharpen your skill

A sniper doesn’t just wake up on a lazy morning, glance at the mirror to catch their reflection, and yell in a eureka moment: I am now a sniper!

A sniper goes through tough and rigorous training. For weeks and months, they shoot rounds and rounds of bullets, practicing. Furnishing their skill, sharpening it further. Snipers go through an academy where they are trained in concealment and camouflage, discipline, and how to become deadly marksmen proficient with a rifle. Have you noticed how to make a successful kill they have to, with pinpoint precision, consider and calculate the direction and intensity of the wind, the range, and type of rifle, among other details?

Behind the glamour we see in films where sweatless, a sniper takes out a target from a distant sniper’s nest, lies a background of pain and determination in training which real snipers go through.

In your workplace, you must grind on the pedestal of training. What is your ‘sniper’s academy’? You must put in the effort to learn trends in your field, marketplace shifts, and systems. You must invest in furnishing your skill. Be it through mentors, or school, or online studies, observation, or practical tests/risks — build your capacity. Whatever it takes.

And here’s a generous tip, by the way. Future Learn is an amazing website for free short courses in your area of focus.

Understand the concept of timing, and recognize opportunities

If there’s a target to be put down, a sniper will patiently wait, and observe, and stalk. They do this because they want to identify the perfect timing. Who is the target? Where do they frequent? What patterns of their daily habits and places they frequent can be mapped out? Snipers put in one hell of a research.

This enables them to recognize opportunities, and be at the right place at the right time. For snipers who take buildings as their nests, they even go a stretch further to design an exit plan for use after pulling the trigger.

The lesson here is that in your work endeavours, you should have your research right. Know your field and its seasons; when your target is actively looking for your services and when it’s a low season. Learn how to not only recognize opportunities in your area of work but also how to pounce on them.

See but don’t be seen: you don’t have to make your moves known all the time

Invisibility remains one of the greatest strengths of a sniper. Snipers are deadly not because they know how to use a rifle, but because they are ghosts. Not to freak you out, but in the book Wisdom of Psychopaths (What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success), you’ll learn that there’s power in being invisible. That ability to move without people seeing you coming.

Okay, relax. I promise you, no more psychopathic stuff. Just thought it a great segue to reinforce my point that the unseen is powerful.

It’s nearly impossible to fight that which you cannot see.

In your workplace, learn to cloak yourself with the wisdom of Confucius: A seed grows with no sound, but a tree falls with a huge noise. Destruction has noise, but creation is quiet. This is the power of silence. Grow silently.

Unless you really have to make all your business/work plans known, don’t. Hold that ace up your sleeve until it’s time to act. Don’t let them see you coming.

Know your mission, know your target

Snipers don’t quit until the job is done. Because they are on a mission and they understand how important bringing it to fruition is.

What’s your mission, and why is the cause important? What targets do you want to hit, and what are the immediate and later actionable points you have to work on? Know your mission, have your goals and targets, and then stick to them. If you fail, take your lessons with you back to the drawing board. It’s eye-opening to see how snipers — when they sense danger — opt to run. They go back to the drawing board, plan again, but they never give up on their target. They always try again, in a different setting.

The one shot one kill concept

A professional sniper aims to cover all loopholes, leaving no space for mistakes. They don’t just go on a shooting spree, hoping one stray bullet will find their target. No. They calculate. At the point of squeezing the trigger, they hold their breath. Because the goal is to have a single shot for one kill.

This reminds me of advice I once came across on LinkedIn, pertaining to job search. That the mistake we make when job-hunting is that we send out a million applications, but none that has depth. We do this, rather than have one or a few applications, well researched and well done. In-depth. The advice went something like: We spread far and wide, but shallow. Instead, we should spread near; in spaces we have studied and grasped, but then go deeper.

It’s all about a wise allocation of time and resources. You are not going in blindly like a scared shooter who ends up emptying an entire magazine on everything and nothing in particular. You’re the grand chess master. You are the planner. Target, and allocate time and resources.

Prepare, as preparation ensures you have the right gear

Last but definitely not least, snipers prepare. They thoroughly go through the questions: Where will my target be? What’s the environment like? From where will I be shooting, and at what range? What sort of rifle do I need? With whom do I need to work? What do I need?

In your workplace, before taking on a project, you must prepare. Understand the technicalities of what you are going into, and the resources you will need.

For a long time now I’ve been reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. I read it a statement at a time, and then clap it shut — see you another day. Like popcorn, I dunk the wisdom in one by one, no rush at all. One of my favourite quotes in the book, about preparation, is: The key is being proactive and mental preparation. It’s better to make yourself fireproof than to see whether or not you can put fires out (sic).

I accentuate preparation.

Also read: The Shifting Workplace: How to Change Before Change Happens


Above all else, a sniper isn’t a sniper without a job to do. What job/work are you doing? What’s your purpose/calling. The good book says, whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might.

All the best at your workplace!


Lesalon Kasaine
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