Recently as I was getting ready for a trip, a fairly routine process in my line of work, I realized that I spend a lot of my time focused on preparation.
I prepare for business trips…
I prepare for calls with clients…
I prepare for travel to see family…
I prepare for leadership training around the country…
I find that my focus on preparedness before an event, meeting, call or trip requires quite a bit of my time. However, this time spent on the habit of preparation is one of my greatest keys to success.
When I was 12 years old, one of my favorite activities was being a Boy Scout. If you know anything about the Scouts, you probably know the Scout Motto: “Be Prepared.” These two words are simple, unforgettable and quite profound. And it is a motto that has stuck with me from my very first campout.
While on this campout I recall our group needing some twine, and I was sent to the leader’s tent to retrieve it. When I got there the Scout Master asked if I had my knife with me.
“No.” I said.
“Would you like to use mine?” He replied.
“Yes, thank you,” I answered, as I reached out my hand.
His response has stuck with me for 50 years since that moment.
After a brief pause, the Scout Master told me, “You can use my knife, but it will cost you 15 pushups.”
I was stunned! The Scout Master was very polite, and not aggressive at all with his request, but at age 12 I was shocked to be required to do pushups in order to complete the task my group had assigned to me.
The truth of the situation was that I was not prepared for the task. Had the Scout Master not been at the tent, I would have had to hike back to my group to retrieve my knife, and then hike back to get the twine. The wise Scout Master took this opportunity to illuminate for me the importance of being prepared. The lesson was that if you are not fully prepared, extra effort might be required.
How true is that in your life? I know it is true for mine. That day was half of a century ago, and to this day as I prepare for an event, or travel or a normal, boring Wednesday, that interaction flashes through my mind, and I think, “Do you have everything you need? Are you truly prepared for this task?”
As a graduate of the Citadel, I know first-hand the emphasis that our military places on preparedness. Soldiers will spend exponentially more time preparing for tasks than they do actually carrying them out. Why? Because being prepared is vital to success.
I recently heard Alabama football coach Nick Saban, when asked about his team’s practice schedule, say:
“We practice a lot. Most of you think we practice so much so that we will get it right, but in reality we practice so much so that we cannot get it wrong.”
Did you catch the distinction there?
If you want to get something right once, practice it until you can do it. But if you want to get it right every time, practice until doing it right is the only way you do it.
So, how would you rate your preparedness?
This concept seems to be both fundamental and essential for success in business and in life, but does your calendar or to do list reflect how important preparation is for you?
Do you prepare for your week ahead? Your month, quarter or even year?
How thoughtful are you about what needs to happen in a given day?
And, if you don’t spend the time focused on preparedness, how likely are you to stumble into or accidentally arrive at success in your career, relationships or life?
I believe the Scouts have nailed it with their two-word motto: Be Prepared.
That is how we make success happen.
"You cannot have a VISION without a VIEW." - Dr. Sandra Shullman
As a kid growing up in Anniston, Alabama, football was my whole world.
One time when I was in probably the 7th grade a local high school football coach visited my house and my father, a former football player himself, told this giant man that I was interested in playing football. I will never forget his response to hearing that as a young kid I had aspirations of playing high school football one day.
He said to me, “Let me see your hands, son.”
After I got past my initial fear of what this larger-than-life man might have planned to do to my hands (was he going to squeeze them, punch them, give me a high five?!) I cautiously presented my hands with all the courage and boldness I could muster.
“Yep, those hands look big enough to be a Quarterback,” was his response as he looked me square in the eyes.
Now, I have very normal sized hands, and in the 7th grade I can assure you there was nothing impressive about my stature or strength. But after this brief interaction with a high school football coach, I felt like I had grown 4 inches! I remember thinking to myself, “I DO have some pretty big hands!”
For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Alabama, and the coach I had met just happened to be the starting center for Alabama in the early 60’s named John Olinger. As a youngster looking up to a football giant, this quick, and likely forgettable (on his part) conversation completely rocked my world.
All of a sudden I started to think that I could have a future playing football.
If you were to fast forward the story from this moment to 10 years later you would find this average sized kid actually playing college football for the Citadel! What a great impact that one sentence had on my life!
It took one guy who had a little bit of experience in his field to suggest that I could do it.
The vision that Coach Olinger gave me at that young age was a picture of what was possible. Sure, I had dreamed of playing football before I met him. I had pretended to be a college athlete with my friends and hoped to one day represent a university on the field…but it wasn’t until that coach suggested my dream could truly become a reality that I saw myself playing at that level.
As leaders we have an incredible power and responsibility. The power we have is not to control or command others, it is instead the power to see within others what they can’t yet see. It is the power to encourage those that we influence to take what they think is impossible and chase it down until it becomes possible. This power of leading others to where they can and should be comes with the responsibility to present them with a vision that will carry them beyond where we can take them ourselves.
Think about those that you lead and influence. When did you last give them a vision of their own potential, their own leadership ability, or their own dream-chasing? When did you last free them from the chains of doubt by calling out of them what they are currently unsure of but need to pursue?
The value of vision in leadership is occasionally seeing what is coming around the corner for the organization, but every day we have the chance to see what is inside of those we lead and share this vision with them as we guide them into the future.
So, who do you need to call, text or meet with today who needs to know they have the hands of a quarterback?