In Praise of Preparation

By Scott Westerman
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“The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it.” ~Thomas S. Monson

The all-nighter. We’ve all had at least one. It’s the cram session where you try to force a term’s worth of information into your brain in one 12 hour period. We spent the previous weeks “majoring in minors”, doing things that were tension relieving and not goal achieving. And now the rubber is about to meet the road. So we cram… and hope it gets us by. It doesn’t.

The only way to get what you want is to prepare. You have to visualize the goal, determine what you need to do to achieve it and create a set of habits that keep you there once you’ve arrived.

By now, most of my regular readers are saying, “Yeah, I know all of this stuff. Why does he keep repeating it?”

You may know it, but are you doing it?

Here are a few questions. Is your fitness level where you want it to be? What have you done over the past two months to improve it? If your performance review was tomorrow, how would your boss evaluate your past six months on the job? And what about that dream gig? If that perfect job posting appeared right now, are you prepared to apply? When did you last update your LinkedIn profile? Your resume? Your references? Your Network?

This is the season where preparation meets opportunity. There’s a recent grad who is suddenly asking me a lot of questions about who I know in a particular city. He’s moved there and is looking for a job. I never really knew him before all of this, but now I’m his best friend.

I fired off the usual questions: What do you want to do? Where do you want to work? What do you know about the company and how could you add value? And who do you know there that can advise you on the way in?

“Have you done your homework.” I asked?

Of course he hasn’t. And now he’s looking for life preservers as the ship of opportunity is slowly moving toward the horizon.

“Don’t wait for your ship to come in,” the old saying goes, “Swim out to it!” But don’t start swimming until you know what that ship looks like and where it’s going. Stephen King puts it this way, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” Do the work to figure out how you can best add value in your area of passion.

And what if you’re already in the zone? You’ve succeeded in creating a good situation, a job you like, a rewarding friendship, a comfortable lifestyle. You’re doing all the right things to maintain the status quo.

But we all know that nothing ever stays the same for long. What happens if your company decides to downsize? What happens if your biggest client goes out of business? What happens if your house burns down, your significant other dumps you or your break a leg?

The part of preparation that most of us forget about is preparing for the unexpected. What’s your plan “B”? How much do you have in that rainy day fund? What will the job you do today look like tomorrow and how are you improving your skill set to succeed in that new environment right now?

My running friends seem to always be changing up their training regimin, reading the latest  research and making those micro adjustments that have them across the finish line and relaxing with a sports drink while I’m still huffing and puffing past the half way point.

And oh, how I love those serial entrepreneurs. Even after they have succeeded several times, they are back at it again. “Why,” I ask? “You’ve already got the money, the t-shirt and your name on a wikipedia page. Why do it all again?”

“I have another idea,” one told me recently. “Now that I know the drill, I want to do it again.. and see what happens.”

How would you like to live a life like that? The fact is, you can.

Even if you happen to be my unprepared friend, looking for that first gig in a brand new town, you can start today to do the homework, bracket your passion, create your value proposition, and build the habits that will take you exactly where you want to go.

You won’t get there with an all-nighter. But with patience, persistence and preparation, you will become that which you set out to be.

So do it. As Jackie Joyner Kersee says, “It’s better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.”

Have a great week.