I’m no Annie Oakley. The one time my dad took me for practice shooting, I did OK, but it wasn’t something I was really into, which is why I think it surprised both him and me when I started following the History Channel’s “Top Shot.”
The shooting competition features some of the best marksmen from around the country and the world. In addition to the amazing talent of these men and women, I was also impressed by the show’s lack of politics.
Whether it was due to the competitors or History’s editors, they make it seem as if most of the people there are devoted to the idea that the best should push forward. Someone likable, who doesn’t demonstrate that they have the chops, will be sent to elimination. They choose, again and again, to preserve the value of the title one of them will receive at the end.
For the show’s fifth season, they have brought in a group of “All Stars”—high-place finishers from the show’s previous years—to once again get a chance to be the Top Shot. I was intrigued by the concept, but lately, found myself even more fascinated by the results. I saw some really great shooters have really bad days, and that didn’t mean that they weren’t really great shooters. I watched a person’s circumstances work against them, such as when the smoke from hitting one target obscured one competitor’s view of his next. I’ve also heard judges give an appraisal of who would win based on practice, only to have an underdog triumph. And it made me realize that, for once, a reality show might be revealing one of the hidden facets of reality.
Modern society is built on competition: who wins the soccer game; who gets the guy; who has the coolest shoes; who snags the last slice of pizza at a party. And when we come up short, it makes us sometimes think less of ourselves, in part because we think other people think less of us. I don’t.
And I’m not just talking about shooting here. What we have to realize is that among the comments scrawled on our homework papers by our teachers, the blue ribbons given out at fairs, the crinkled noses of people who don’t like our cooking, etc., etc., that our opinion of ourselves matters. Those who got eliminated the second time claimed that it was an honor to have lost to some of the best in the world, and I think they meant it; sometimes falling a little short of our goals is still a tribute to the fact that we tried.
It’s important that we don’t let life’s little competitions knock us down. Because, in the end, no one is counting points won or lost; they are just noticing the forward progress, which you can achieve by staying focused and confident. There might even be times when we suffer from what feels like a major setback only to be given a second chance at what was called a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.
I may not be an Annie Oakley, but I believe in what she said: “Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting. Soon, you’ll reach the bulls eye of success.”