Jim Murray

3 years ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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What We Can Learn About Business From Watching Snipers At Work


4 a Ea 22

I have always been interested in killers.

I think it started back in the sixties when a lot of the great film noire detective and murder mystery movies started coming to television. Movies like Out Of The Past and Key Largo and The Big Sleep were among my favourites. Later on there would be great westerns like 3:10 to Yuma and High Noon. I would imagine that the movie stars of the day back then took a lot of delight in play guys that were so bad that they would kill you just as soon as look at you.

And even though the violence of all this killing was nowhere near as splattery as it is in today’s movies, there was still a real sense of wonder in my mind about how people could go about the act of killing other people, bad or not, without later being consumed with guilt for what they had done.

Later on in the sixties and seventies, when the killing became more stylized and dramatic, you could almost sense the remorse on the faces of the the killers. They weren’t crazy, they were just in a life and death struggle of one kind or another and doing what they had to do to survive.

There’s a great scene in the Clint Eastwood movie Unforgiven, where he sums it up beautifully. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zKCIf-vfbc

Clint Eastwood’s movie career has been a study in the killer mind in many of its shapes and forms. He played stoic gunslingers, hard boiled detectives, victims turned killers through weird circumstance, killer soldiers and outsiders of all kinds.

As his career advanced and he got into directing, he continued to explore the idea of killers and made one of the landmark movies on the entire experience of being a killer in American Sniper.

The Sniper As Business Mentor

I have personally always been fascinated with the idea of a military snipers, and the level of fear that is generated knowing that you could be being stalked by one and the level of shock that results, for that split second, which is all you get, knowing that you have been hit by one.

There is something very different about the type of creature that gets drawn into this line of work.

Novelist Stephen Hunter has spent a good deal of his writing career with a character named Bob Lee Swagger, who is a marine sniper, and actually following in the footsteps of his father., Earl. The depth to which he probes the psyche of Bob Lee is fascinating, and, believe it or not, there are a lot of useful business lessons that can be learned about from studying these type of characters.

The two main character traits that define military snipers are simple and universal. They are discipline and focus.

The Discipline derives from developing a deep understanding of your craft and the tools you use.

In the case of the sniper, it’s the weapons and what they are best for, the sighting devices and the bullets and how they perform.

You also need to understand a great deal about how weather conditions, relative humidity, wind and temperature will affect the trajectory of your bullet and be able to calculate, often in an instant, compensations for those factors.

This is acquired through practice, training, having an experienced mentor and a ton of research.

The Focus is a combination of character and training.

People who gravitate and love the sniper profession understand that anything that comes down to a split second in time that defines the difference between success and failure, needs to be completely and utterly focused on everything that makes that split second work to their advantage.

A huge part of this focus is learning to find and maintain the stillness within you for long periods of time. You need to keep all your senses tuned to the job at hand. Any distractions can easily lead to failure. Any momentary lapse in focus can lead to being discovered, captured and even worse, killed yourself.

"While the tools, purpose & results may be markedly different, there are definitely parallels between the craft of cold-blooded killing and doing business in almost any other less violent field."


The discipline and focus one needs to succeed in business, while nowhere near as precise and demanding as they are for military snipers, are, nonetheless, necessary skills that one needs to develop and constantly hone.

So the next time you have an opportunity to pitch an idea or a piece of business, you would be wise to adapt the military sniper mentality to the project.

And use your discipline and focus to make yourself a true killer. Jim out


Jim Murray is an experienced advertising and marketing professional. He is a communication strategist, writer, art director, broadcast producer, mildly opinionated op/ed blogger & beBee Brand Ambassador.

He is also a partner at Bullet Proof Consulting. www.bulletproofconsulting.ca

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John Rylance

3 years ago #7

For me I would not like my actions to be seen as sniping, or be called a sniper. I define a sniper is someone who shoots people while out of sight. This leads one to this comment by others in the workplace. He was disliked by colleagues for sniping about others. Hovering out of sight in the background picking off the opposition. An interesting concept, but not an approach for me.

Jim Murray

3 years ago #6

If I didn't know better I'd think you were insulting some of the world's best selling fiction writers. They do their research, which is why their work is so compelling.

Mark Morris

3 years ago #5

So, you have based your understanding of snipers and killers on fiction? Wow. That's a solid platform on which to base business advice.

Jerry Fletcher

3 years ago #4

Jim, Discipline, Focus and a Damn Good Headline

Geoff Hudson-Searle

3 years ago #3

Great article Jim Murray I wrote a blog around 6 years on the subject, There is a growing incidence of toxic leadership in organisations across the world. This is clear from anecdotal evidence as well as research which suggests that one out of every five leaders is toxic. This is in no uncertain terms endangering the well being of organisational members, compromising future sustainable organisational, community and societal performance and success, as well as the very continued existence of them. But organisations can be toxic in their own right through the organisational culture they have. Organisational culture refers to shared ways of seeing, interpreting and acting upon the world that becomes ingrained in an organisation’s DNA. It’s the glue holding it together and provides an organisation with a way of looking at and relating to the world. I believe that toxic leaders, regardless of their level of technical and professional competence, are incompetent. After all, competent leadership is all about getting things done with people.

Jim Murray

3 years ago #2

I agree to some extent Ian Weinberg . But that was not the message I was trying to structure. And yes, we are all a little psychopathic these days.

Ian Weinberg

3 years ago #1

The other attribute of course is to be psychopathic. At no point dare a sniper become sensitive to the life about to be extinguished and the full consequences that follow. But then to follow on from a comment made by Phil Friedman recently on one of my articles - perhaps we are indeed selecting out psychopathy as the next successful evolutionary trait in man. After all, it ticks all the boxes for professional and business success in this consumeristic-technological environment.

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