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.