The Secret Power of Preparation
And the Case for Over-Preparing
Before we talk about preparation, I have a couple of questions I’d like you to think about:
- How often do you prepare? When do you prepare? The night before? The morning of? Never? Do you just take things as they come?
- How do you prepare for presentations? Do you practice? How many times? Do you practice answering questions you might get after the presentation?
As you’re mulling over the answers to those questions, let me ask you a few more:
- Do you think you could accomplish more if you were more prepared?
- Do you think your presentation would look more professional if you practiced?
- Do you think you’d come off as more confident if you were able to answer questions more quickly?
While the answers to my original two questions are probably more varied, I’m guessing you answered “yes” to the last three. If we all know that preparation gets us further in the long run, why don’t more of us do it? Two things:
We Think We’re Better Improvisers Than We Are
Most of us think we can get away with making things up on the fly, especially if we’re well versed in the topic. Here’s the thing: great improv is actually great preparation. Even professional improvisers spend much more time preparing than improvising. They put in their 10,000 hours of training, rehearsing, watching shows, and practicing the techniques necessary to respond to suggestions and questions completely off the cuff. They put a lot of time and effort into making it look effortless.
We Think We’ve Prepared Enough, But We Haven’t
There’s a story about two explorers who raced to be the first to reach The South Pole. You can read it here, but the important thing to know is that Roald Amundsen made it there first, not only because he was prepared, but because he was overprepared. When something didn’t go according to plan (which, by the way, it never does), he had multiple backup plans at the ready and the expertise to put them into place. Like the race to the South Pole, life is ultimately about facing the unknown, and who faces it better.
I’ve faced a lot of unknowns in my career, and one of the main reasons I’ve been so successful is that I’m a chronic over-preparer. I prepare for everything – even my days off. That way, when an opportunity comes, I’m ready for it.
That is the secret power of preparation. Let me know how you prepare down below in the comments. Check out the follow-up post 5 tips on how to prepare. Thanks for being Awesome! Be sure to also check out my podcast!