Fire Bullets then Cannonballs: A Strategy for Success

What if I told you it was a good idea to bet all of your money on a single spin of a roulette wheel? Or to try to figure out what you’re good at during a talent show? I probably wouldn’t have many takers because obviously, it is ill-advised to take risks in a game of chance with ‘pray that shit works out’ as your only back up plan. But that’s exactly what I see people do all the time.

People buy a bigger house than they can afford, invest too much money in a single stock, invest no money at all, get a college degree in art related anything, and play the lottery. Honestly it blows my mind that casinos are even a thing. Hey everybody let’s all bet money on games where the expected outcome is a loss!

lucky charms

These and scratch-offs are all the ‘investing tools’ I need.

 What I want to share today is a strategy for success that is the opposite of flirting with fickle lady luck. It turns out that you can improve your chances of success with this cool new thing called ‘science’.  The basic premise of which is to perform experiments to gather data before making big decisions. Author Jim Collin’s paraphrased this idea best in his book “Great by Choice”, as the ‘fire bullets, then cannonballs’ strategy.

In this context a bullet is a low cost, low risk, and low distraction experiment. If you fire them randomly in every direction like a madman, a few will probably hit the right target. Once you have validated which experiments worked you can calibrate your aim before firing a concentrated blast of your remaining resources, a ‘cannonball’, in a proven direction. This process of making data driven decisions reduces your risk of loss to just a few bullets and maybe a bit of collateral damage rather than an entire cannonball.

There are only so many hours in the day and dollars in my wallet that I can devote to a given project, so I welcome any strategy that helps me determine how to best use my limited resources. I do actually have a few cannonball articles on deck, but I’d like to lay the ground work and experiment a bit more before releasing them lest I find myself sharing something really cool to the sound of crickets. So I’m putting this strategy into practice by sharing small projects on different websites (bullets) to spread the good word about EngineerDog so I can see what works best. (Don’t forget though, I do this for fun!)

Interestingly, I’ve already determined that my efforts are significantly better spent designing things on Thingiverse rather than writing articles on Quora. I’ve also determined that effective article Tags are absolutely critical. This sort of information is priceless to a blogger and I think it is interesting so I’ll continue to share my findings of what works and what doesn’t every once in a while.


As a scientist this is how I see myself.

In some cases we can substitute performing experiments with simply doing research to get feedback and achieve the same result. Here are a few resources that could help you do just that.

As a new blog writer I need feedback to help push me in the right direction but since this blog is hosted through I can’t sign use Google analytics. Instead I have to use the built in wordpress version. On the bright side I have found a tool that will analyze my website SEO for FREE. If you usit just be aware that you get one free analysis per week so make sure you type your website name correctly.


I used to spend a good portion of my time as a test engineer quoting potential work for new clients. One recurring problem I ran into seemed like a catch 22 that could only be resolved with cash money flowing out of my employer’s pocket. In order to provide a quotation for a project I needed to see the test specification to determine exactly what was required of me, unfortunately specifications are proprietary information and must be purchased. Too often we would buy a spec only to later find out that we didn’t win the job, until I found a way to circumvent the process.

A Chinese website called Wenku Baidu allows you to search and download ASTM specs for free.  Similarly, offers many other specifications for free. (I didn’t feel bad about using these resources because if we won the work we would buy the updated specification anyway, I just needed a peek to get us through the quoting phase.)


When you are doing research on companies for whatever reason, a company homepage is often not the best place to get certain information. Time and again I have found manta’s databases to be extremely useful. They collect information on company top executives, number of employees, estimated revenue, etc. Pseudo private stuff, the kind I like to read. You can use this resource to get the down low on the competition, for finding the names of company employees so you can befriend them on LinkedIn and beg them for a job, or just for research before a job interview.

If you liked reading about the three aforementioned websites then you’re definitely going to like my Best of the Internet List here. 



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