How many of you have heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail?”
If this is your first time seeing it, read it again. I cannot stress the importance of these wise words enough. People often talk about how they are waiting for their big break or that if they were just given the opportunity, they would take it and run with it.
But would they really? That would mean that they have to be prepared when the opportunity presents itself, and unfortunately, the majority are simply not. A really bad habit to get into is talking more about what you would do given the opportunity -- than actually working to create that reality.
Those who are proactive about their possibilities know that they can create opportunities for themselves, and in that process, prime themselves for success. If you feel there is not enough opportunity knocking, ask yourself if you are preparing for it as much as you are talking about it.
One thing I’ve learned from being both unprepared and prepared at pivotal times in my life is that life presents us with limited windows of opportunity. These windows may never come again. Many are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. There are windows that will swing open, and if you’re not ready at that moment, you have to bite the bullet and accept it as a missed opportunity.
In high school, I was a baseball standout. I had MLB scouts coming to watch me play, and because I got involved in delinquent behavior, I was kicked off my baseball team. I wasn’t mentally prepared. I had all the talent in the world -- but that wasn’t enough. I had to reluctantly accept it as a major loss, and understand that only I was to blame.
It is important that no matter how skilled, talented or knowledgeable you are in your respective field, you must spend time every day preparing. Prepare for the next step, the next goal, the next big moment when it arises -- because you never know when it will come. I’ve found that the biggest regrets come from individuals who had a window of opportunity that they weren’t prepared for. Whether it was the job interview that they tried to wing, or the endorsement that they lost. There is nothing worse than the feeling of your dreams being close enough to touch and them slipping through your fingertips, never to return.
Whether I look at my life as an athlete or in the business-arena, preparation makes all the difference. Preparing for a game and studying your opponent is necessary in order to win. If you don’t know your opponents’ strengths, you’re going to come out blindly hoping that your skill level will outplay theirs. True champions do more than that. They don’t gamble on their skill level. They combine it with diligent preparation.
Going into a meeting looking for a capital investment for your start-up and relying on your knowledge and passion is simply not enough. True successors combine their passion and knowledge with meticulous research and preparation. You need to know who your investors are before you can convince them how valuable this investment is for them, not you.
Before a keynote, I don’t just go on stage and give a blanket speech on performance, leadership or sales. I study the organization I’m speaking to, crunch their numbers, address their challenges, and cater content specifically to them. This preparation makes all the difference and will set you apart from the people just going with the motions.
It’s often obvious to tell those who are prepared or not. Whether it’s the start-up pitch, the keynote speaker or the athlete taking the field, preparation is not a concept you can throw together quick. You cannot “fake it ‘til you make it,” and you can’t wing it.
It takes time, discipline, thought, effort, research, organization and even some meditation. It’s an investment in yourself, your product and your business, and those who are prepared are noticed. If you want to create possibilities, prime yourself for success, and capitalize on opportunity. You must simply begin to prepare as such.