Raise Some Panda-Monium

Alright, I’ll just say it: I’m a lousy free throw shooter.

I love playing basketball. And I don’t mind telling you, for an aging, balding (ok, bald), not-really-all-that-athletic-to-begin-with, knee brace-wearing, father of three, I have a pretty mean jump shot.

But free throws? There I have the soft touch and accuracy of an ill-tempered panda tossing frozen turkeys at a barn door.

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Luckily, and as a practical matter, free throws (or foul shots, as they are often called) don’t play a big role in my basketball life. We don’t play with referees, and so if someone hits you, you just yell “foul” and you get the ball back.

The only time they come into play, frankly, is at the end of each game. At that point, and if your team loses, we shoot free throws to determine who plays next and who sits.

If it goes in, you play. If it doesn’t, you sit.

I sit a lot.

So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to finally do something about it. I decided I would become a fantastic free throw shooter (cue Rocky theme).

And so I did what anyone would do: I Googled it.

It didn’t take me long to find my way to this page, a 10-minute video in which Rick Barry – the NBA’s third all-time leading free throw shooter (and first all-time leading guy in love with himself) – explains how he does it.

The answer: underhand.

I won’t bore you with the details, but according to Rick, as well as a fair number of apparently underutilized college engineering professors, underhand free throws are both easier to shoot and more consistently accurate.

There is one problem though … they look ridiculous.

That wasn’t an issue for Rick Barry of course – when you hit nine out of ten over a 14-year professional career, nobody’s laughing.

My dilemma, on the other hand, is that I’m still a beginner with this approach. Which means that for now, I look like an ill-tempered panda tossing frozen turkeys at a barn door underhand.

If you thought you were an embarrassment to your children before, try standing in the driveway shooting a basketball underhand while the school bus pulls up.

And that, my turkey-tossing friend, is the point. It’s hard to try new things because when they’re new, we’re not particularly good at them. We look foolish, especially if the results don’t yet speak for themselves.

As solo professionals, we’re faced with this dilemma all the time. We can play it safe and keep doing what we’ve been doing, or we can risk some embarrassment and try something new.

The problem with the former (safe) strategy, is that it severely limits your upside:

You’re not going to launch a new business. (“What if it fails?”)

You’re not going to change the way you describe and package your services. (“What if nobody wants to buy them that way?”)

You’re not going to speak your mind in your newsletter, or in your blog, or in a client meeting. (“What if someone disagrees?”)

Comfortable? Absolutely. Productive, profitable, innovative, exciting, breakthrough, memorable, thrilling? Not so much.

Safe and risky don’t lead to the same place. If they did, nobody would ever choose risky.

So here’s an idea with which I invite you to begin 2013: Choose one, big, risky thing to try in the coming year. Not a lot of things, just one.

But big enough that there is some serious upside and breakthrough potential.

Something that scares you. Something you haven’t done before. Something maybe nobody has done before.

Sure, you might look foolish for a while. Maybe you’ll even fail.

But don’t worry too much. Whatever embarrassment lies ahead, it can’t be worse than a grown man in the driveway throwing turkeys, I mean free throws, underhand.


9 thoughts on “Raise Some Panda-Monium

  1. Doug Chovan

    Another great post (as always)!

    Still thinking about my next BIG, risky thing options for the new year. In the meantime, here’s another inspirational take on the Rocky theme that will “blow” you and your readers away:
    . . . a little dated from the mid-1980s, I admit, but electrifying just the same from the late, great jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson (he was nominated for a Grammy by the way when his famous rendition of Rocky was released on his “Conquistador” album in the late 70s).

    Maynard was a master at doing big, risky things, even to the point of risking sounding foolish among jazz purists, but he was a constantly evolving musician, composer and arranger who enjoyed every step of the way. He didn’t about his critics and the word “failure” wasn’t even in his vocabulary. His fans and promoting music education in a rock & roll world came first. His live concerts were truly awesome as he “spoke his mind” through what he often called his “favorite toy” and “God’s favorite instrument” . . . the trumpet. Enjoy!!


  2. Thea Dunmire

    Based on our discussion during your last “Pricing Your Professional Services” webinar (it was a great inspiration), I decided to stop selling consulting by the hour and start selling executive coaching in fixed price packages. This is a big – and scary – change for me. It means I have to “blow up” my existing website and re-position everything I do in the way of marketing and sales. I don’t know if it will be successful. I guess I will see in a few months.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      That’s great, Thea. And remember, as we discussed, you can do it in steps too. Next opportunity, offer a package to someone and see if they want it and like it. Then, over time, move to the new, better way.
      Keep us posted!!

  3. Ellen Finkelstein

    I did a marketing plan for 2013 and it ended up with lots of webinars. That isn’t new for me, but doing so many — at least 2 per month — is. But the big new thing is I hired my 1st employee! I shared a full-time VA in the Philippines (still do), but now I have someone here in my home offer for 3 hours each afternoon. It’s a bit scary, because I have to pay her, of course. I have to make sure she not only helps me with administrative stuff but helps to make me more money, so I can continue to afford her. But, wow, it feels good!

  4. Rev. Cat Cox

    Thanks for asking. First of all, I am trusting you to believe that I came up with the new tagline for my ministry of interfaith spiritual direction BEFORE I read your invitation to “please inspire us.” Because I did. Here it is:
    Rev. Cat
    The Path of Joy – Practices for Claiming Your Inspired Life
    Spiritual Direction for People of All Faiths
    Individuals ~ Families ~ Groups ~ Communities
    I also switched from the description “Interfaith Spiritual Direction” to “Spiritual Direction for People of All Faiths” because some people though the word “interfaith” meant having two religious backgrounds!
    But that’s not where the really big (upcoming!) risk I’m going to take lies. The real risk is in the vulnerability of a deeper self -revelation in my blog and on my website about how I got to the ministry / life orientation I’m living now.
    I was born into the world almost everyone is trying to get into: the super-rich world of “the 1%” (money’s gone now) and I left – dazed and bewildered but searching. Such unspeakable pain all around me. I went to the one of the top girls’ prep schools in the nation – where by second grade I was being tested for ulcers and saw girls regularly break down in fearful tears that they would not get into the colleges of their parents’ choice.
    I left – staggered out really – because anything had to be better than the soul-killing isolation, drivenness and shunning at anything less than perfection, and the multiple forms of addiction and denial they led to, that turned so many of my cohort (including Patty Hearst) into another generation of emotional zombies.
    Excerpts from my memoir-in-progress “A Feast of Crumbs: The Failure of Life in the 1%” will appear in my blog. I may start with a story from my debutante ball: One very stout father (of a deb) passed out on the dance floor while dancing with his daughter. For all any of us knew, it could have been a heart attack, or he could have been dead! While 4 or 5 busboys were being assembled to carry him off the dance floor, the rest of us, men in white tie and tails, girls in their bejeweled gowns, kept right on dancing as the man lay there inert! Not one person who was an attendee of the ball so much as acknowledged that one of our own circle was lying unconscious in our midst! Such a display would have been an appalling violation of the social code in “the best of all possible worlds.” “Don’t look,” my dance partner said. “It will be taken care of.”
    What I really want to write about is where the unbelievable greed and willingness to exploit (people and the planet) of the 1% comes from. It comes from having been raised like this.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Cat!
      Thanks for sharing that. Here’s my belief in terms of these types of revelations and marketing: you (almost) can’t reveal too much. Reading what you wrote is going to annoy some people; it’s going to make others cheer. Those who cheer are the ones you want as clients (they like the way you think and see the world) and those who are annoyed would be a bad match for you anyway. Not bad people, just a bad match.

      The goal for us as solos is to stand out and be recognized as believing in something, whatever our work is. The two go together most of the time. Also, as solos, the number of clients we want/need is such a tiny fraction of the number of “potential clients” out there, that as a practical matter, you’re not sacrificing anything by letting the people who wouldn’t like you anyway go elsewhere.

      Say what you think, be the way you really are, and your marketing becomes both easier and more effective. (It’s more fun too.)

      Happy holidays,


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