One Bullet Mentality: How to Hit Your Fluency Target like a Sniper

“Often he who does too much does too little.”


One-Bullet Mentality (

Confidently speaking fluent Mandarin Chinese.

You want to do this but it’s not happening.

You’re loaded with all ammunition to fire at the thousands of new Chinese characters to memorize, the hundreds of grammar rules to master and not to mention the oh so complicated characters to write.

You fire in all directions. Trying to hit as many targets as you can. You get busier and busier, noting down all the new words you come across, mixing and matching all the grammar rules and writing all sorts of characters.

But at the end of the day, you are left frustrated.

You can’t remember

• How to correctly pronounce that new word

• How that new grammar rule works and

• In which order these strokes should go

Even if you just studied them all yesterday!

You scramble, hustle and cram everything you need to learn but the results are not what you expect.

What’s wrong?


Carpet-Bombing Approach


Fluency in any language is definitely a touch battle to win over, what more Mandarin Chinese? So you attack it by carpet-bombing every aspect of the language that appears to be a threat to your success.

You fire at everything that comes your way: new vocabulary, new expressions and new slang. Trying to take them on faster than you could re-load your weapon.

You leave yourself stretched too thin. You grit your teeth in frustration and are left scratching your head.

You are the attacker but why do you feel like collateral damage?

It’s now time to go back to the drawing board.


The Whacked Whack-A-Mole Syndrome


Imagine this, you are playing a round of Whack-A-Mole.

You hold your hammer ready to hit that annoying mole when suddenly…

The moles come up all at the same time!

What do you do? Well, your brain temporarily short circuits and you then go all crazy to whack as many as you can in the shortest amount of time!

This is what happens you trade off preparedness for busyness.

When you have unlimited ammunition, it’s easy to get trigger-happy and hit everything that moves. You often misconstrued activity with achievement.

It’s pretty much like running in circles while punching air. And as the image conveys, it’s tiring, dizzying and really ineffective.

You know what? You deserve more.

Stop running around like a headless chicken.

It’s time to think like a sniper.


How Scarcity can Bring you Limitless Rewards


Snipers are cool, suave and deadly accurate. They get the job done without so much as saying a word while simply walking away as if nothing just happened.

What makes snipers lethal is their uncanny use of stealth. They simply can’t afford to blow their cover. Otherwise, they’re doomed. Thus, in reality for them, it is…

One Bullet, One shot

And they better make it count.

Take this funny yet insightful example care of Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing on his Naked Marketing Manifesto about the power of focus.

“Picture this classic college movie scene: It’s the big football game against Enemy School. Everyone’s excited and enthusiastic, and the game is going great! Hero Team is going to win!

Then at half-time, or the coffee break, or whatever, some fraternity pledge or local funny guy takes some unfortunate initiative, strips down, and streaks across the field for all the world to see.

Cue the black censor bars, and cut to screaming fans feeling outraged, or laughing until they spit Gatorade.

At best, all streaker-boy has done is surprise people and piss off the administration. He may or may not get in trouble, but no one is ever going to take him seriously.

His message was put on display to far too many people, and no one reacted the way he probably wanted them to.

Contrast this with the Ten Things I Hate About You classic love song scene where, in the same setting (arena) one person (a very dapper Heath Ledger) orchestrates a massive, laser-focused message (complete with marching band) meant for just one girl (surly-with-a-heart-of-gold Julia Stiles).

She couldn’t help but pay attention and respond positively to his message.

Heath got the girl, and the streaker got suspended.”

Get the picture?

Now what does having a One Bullet Mentality have to do with achieving your goals?


Limitations = Liberation


Limitations could be viewed as protection against yourself.

With unlimited options, you would tend to be erratic and careless in your decisions. Why wouldn’t you? You’ll always get another shot, right?

But given just ONE chance, everything suddenly comes into clear focus. You cut through all the distractions, the noise and the B.S. It liberates you from your own human tendencies that would otherwise hold you back from achieving your goal.

This One Bullet Mentality will give you something that would boost your success rate through the roof – and that is clarity.

Clarity allows you to define the path you should take in order to arrive at your destination. It will not always be a straight one, but having a clear vision of your destination allows you to make detours that would move you closer to your goal no matter what.


One Bullet Mentality for Learning Mandarin Chinese


There are four elements that you must consider when implementing the One Bullet Mentality.

1. Target– A sniper would be of no use without a target. Determine what language skill you want to learn right now. Goal setting with language is often overlooked because a lot of the necessary skills do overlap thus the tendency to jump from one to another. Set boundaries for yourself and focus on only one skill at a time.

Example: Improving your spoken Chinese


2. Weapon– You must use the best weapon for the task at hand. Choose the right weapon for the appropriate task. There are a lot of useful textbooks out there, but would it really improve your spoken Chinese? To do so, you must actually start speaking it.

Example: Finding language partners via or and have actual conversations with native speakers


3. Timing– It is indeed everything. You probably are a busy person with long to-do list everyday. But a vital ingredient in language learning is consistency. Find that 15 minutes daily to actively learn the language by scheduling it. Placing it at the same time everyday is a good idea to turn it into a habit.

Example: Schedule 15 minutes of Spoken Chinese exercise daily at 7 p.m.


4. State of Mind– Always look for your sweet spot. Location is not as important in the internet-connected world we live in right now. Where you live isn’t a limitation to your ability to learn a language. Attitude is more important than latitude/longitude. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to use the language.

Example: Say your prayers in Chinese, record yourself speaking Chinese etc.


Do you have any more tips on how to focus yourself and get the results you want? Let me know what you think and well… FIRE away at the comments below!

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  1. Great points — the “one bullet” method should work for virtually any goal a person wants to accomplish.

    • Thanks, Laura! I totally agree with you. It not only allows you to achieve your goals faster, but leave you more free time to enjoy and relax. Rather than going pedal to the metal and going around in circles. 🙂

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