How To Test The Waters

I’d always wanted to start a blog but was scared of putting my words out there. To share what I know. To be vulnerable with others.

The pressure of choosing a topic, finding an audience, and writing every day was overwhelming.

Creating a blog took me almost a year before I dove in. Why?

Because I wasn’t ready to get my feet wet. I didn’t start until I knew how to test the waters.

Off target shot

Image by Dan DeChiaro

How To Test The Waters

While my example is of starting a blog, your challenge may be going for the promotion you’ve always wanted, becoming an entrepreneur, or some other big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG for short). Going for the big goals can be intimidating. But this method of testing the waters is tried and true. And I know it can help you obtain your goals.

So, what’s the secret sauce for testing the waters and getting something done? It’s pulling a ready, fire, aim on life.


Before I started the blog, I was ready. I just didn’t want to start because of the fear. Fear flooded my life and I doubted anyone would show up.

Regardless of the fear, I was ready to start. I knew what I knew and knew it could help others out.

For your BHAGs, you might need more preparation. That’s okay. Get what you need and become ready to take on the challenge.


The next step to testing the waters is to fire.

Errr… You may be thinking you didn’t hear me right. Or that I skipped Aim. But you’re wrong if you’re thinking this.

After Ready comes fire.

Not a big rocket firing but a small shot, like a .22 gun. Tiny, but you can tell where the Fire hit.

Fire is all about find your mark. You send out a test shot to see how far off you might be.

When I was starting a blog, this meant getting a web-host, a domain, and creating content. What I posted on the blog to begin with was my firing.

Watch where the shot goes. Did it hit it’s mark or is the target more to the right?

After firing, it’s time to aim.


Normally, the saying goes: Ready, aim, fire.

However, when you’re testing the waters Aim comes last.

You’ve been Ready, you’ve Fired your shot, and now it’s time to refine and Aim where you’re going.

The next step in my blogging journey was to aim. This meant refining my content so I got it just right for the audience I was looking for. It’s slowly been shifting and attracting the audience I desired.

I touched on this briefly in the Fire section but it’s important to understand this.

After you’ve fired, you can then begin honing your target. You get a feel for where your efforts are going. You can correct after a small shot.

Once you’ve figured out the corrections that need to be made, bring out the big guns and Aim. Then fire again knowing you’re going to hit the target.

Question: How can you apply Ready, Fire, Aim to your leadership? Do you think this could help you lead better? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • This is an interesting concept, and true.

    I finally decided on a theme for my blog two months ago: True Tales Tuesdays and Featured Fridays.

    (I post twice a week, about various things, and this one made the most sense to me to incorporate my personal stories with my social media posts, author interviews, etc. Featured Fridays can be about anything, including guest posts – which I am looking for, if anyone reading this is interested…)

    Love this concept!!!

    • Glad you’ve tried this method Lorraine. It’s interesting and not what we’re normally taught. But it’s highly effective.

      Taking the small shot before going all in sure helps in lessening the risk. It also allows us to try things that might not make the most sense but may be more effective.

      I’m sure you’re readers will love seeing a bit of consistency with the theme on your blog. People love knowing what to expect. Let me know how it works out for you!

  • AutoPilot

    78% of completing a goal is just starting it. Way to go my friend, you are an awesome person, talented writer, and naturally good spirit!

    • Thanks man! Hope things are well with you.

  • Bill | LeadershipHeartCoaching

    This is a very interesting angle, but one I just employed with a new lead without recognizing.

    Ready – I realized I needed some front line supervisory help.

    Fire – I took one of my senior techs and promoted him to a lead position

    Aim – Have been sending him to various first time supervisory, management, leadership and coaching classes. Along with my meetings, he is fine tuning his new skills.

    • Awesome Bill. It’s amazing when we look at what we’ve done in the past and realize it fits a model we didn’t think it would. How’s the senior tech doing?

      • Bill | LeadershipHeartCoaching

        He is firing on all cylinders, Joe. Thanks for asking 🙂

        • That’s great Bill. I’m confident he’ll keep going strong then!

  • True strategy! With my writing it really shifted and took me six months of blogging to find my voice so if I would have waited I would not have found what truly brought me alive. With leadership a good example is give someone on your team a chance to take on some leadership you can get a good gage of where they are at and tweak and teach. Like Mike Tyson says, “Every one has a plan tell they get punched in the face.”
    I like to see a young leader in the fire and see how they react. Kind of like controlled fail test while protecting them and the customers.

    • Zech, that holds true for so many of us. Finding our voice takes time and it takes firing and not hitting the target. Eventually, we’re able to narrow it down. What strategies did you use to hone your voice?

      • Still honing it. Bible reading daily and running have helped me to narrow my gaze. I also paid attention to what fired me up the most. We are all complicated:) I thought I would write about leadership in the beginning.

  • rcsinclair952

    Even when you go into the pool (ready), the important part is just jumping in (fire). Then, you worry about which direction you want to swim (aim). (And never tell your friend how cold the water is. LOL)

    • Great analogy Bob. I never thought of swimming like that.

      • rcsinclair952

        YOU called the article “testing the waters”!! Lol

        • Haha! Sometimes the simple things go over our heads (-;

  • The next step of my writing journey can definitely apply to this principle. I want to have all the answer, but I’m realizing I need to just get moving with the book thing.

    • Sometimes it’s just making those first steps towards a goal that’s not well-defined that can be the major catalyst Jon. Just start moving (-;

    • Thanks for the link Jon. I’ll have to listen to the interview.

  • I like this method for getting started on new projects – all too often we can get stuck on the “ready” part, because we don’t really know what we need to aim at. We think we do, but we don’t until after we get started.

    Your example of blogging is a great one – I experienced the same thing – it wasn’t until after “firing” and “firing” again a number of times that I even knew what I should actually be “aiming” at.

    • Thanks Rich. It’s important we don’t get caught up in all of the preparation. Instead, we’ve got to step forward and take a bit of action before we can narrow down the target.

  • Hmmm… reminds me of my own fear to get my blog started. You should have heard the excuses I had lined up! Finally, I fired. It wasn’t the best aim and now I keep at aiming, getting closer and aiming again. I am getting there slowly, but the shots fired not only ended up with engaging others, but a book is about to be released within a year from when I started writing it 🙂 I overcame my fear!

    • I can only imagine Kimunya. I think we all have/had fears and excuses for not starting our blogs or other projects. It’s awesome that you’re getting closer and closer to your target. What was it that made you take action and finally start your own blog?

      • It was more of putting down notes of what I was learning about leadership. When I write, I remember stuff better. Then I started to get a few comments from people that I was adding value to them. That inspired me. But my fear was much deeper than just starting the blog. It stemmed from my upbringing that made me strongly attached to the fear of failure. Overcoming that fear led me to write my book “Down But Not Out: Becoming a Significant Leader at Home”. It was a painful process, but it has given me freedom to fly… And prayerfully, the book should be out this Winter 🙂

        • Awesome! I’ve heard of a couple of other bloggers that started out blogging by using it as a place for notes. Have you heard of Pat Flynn? He’s a perfect example of note-taker to blogger.

          I’m sorry to hear you had a childhood where fear was attached to you. It sounds like you’re doing a great job of overcoming it.

          • Will check out Pat Flynn. It’s been a long journey my friend, 30 years long. I could share the first 2 chapters of the book to have a feel of what I am talking about. Fear is dangerous, it can make you do stuff that you wouldn’t think you were capable of…

            • I’d love to be able to see the first couple of chapters of your book. Feel free to send them my way.

  • Great system, Joe! The firing (action) stage is so crucial. A lot of people are held back from preparing or aiming when they just need to get in the action of things. Great things happen when we are taking some type of action. Great post!

    • Exactly Dan. The preparation stage looks so nice, and it’s safe! Have you ever been caught there?

      • Not shipping when I should have:) Like what we have talked about before (over the phone) with our books.

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