Word Count: 1031
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes
“Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” – Nancy Pelosi
The Time Has Come
Since the start of the year, I have been running and training in anticipation of completing a singular goal: running my first marathon. But as time draws closer, I must admit the pressure is growing. I am prepared and a little scared. I did a max-out run a few weeks ago and gassed out at 15 miles. I keep asking myself, “Why do you think you can accomplish this?” Sure, I have completed several half marathons. Now I am going for two halves. At the same time! Then a moment of insight occurred. I recalled the time I thought running a half marathon was ridiculous. Up until then, my farthest run was about seven miles. It was through preparation and belief that 13.1 miles became a possibility and a reality when the opportunity was presented.
Preparation and Productivity
In any area of life, preparation plays a key role in productivity. Nothing worthwhile ever materializes without preparation. It was Alexander Graham Bell who said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Are you preparing for the future opportunities that are going to come? Trust me, they always do. Most wish for the opportunities others have but do nothing in the present to prepare to make use of the opportunity if it came their way. Those who prepare in the present seize the opportunity in the future to do something meaningful. I don’t believe in luck but I do believe in preparation. No matter how painful it is.
Pain in Preparation
But let’s face this fact. Preparation is not always fun. There is pain in preparation. It can seem fruitless. I can attest to the arduous task of preparing content for a blog post that is often accompanied by frustration and discouragement. I have deleted entire paragraphs for lack of confidence in what I am trying to express. This unspectacular aspect of preparation makes many give up, not seeing that a spectacular accomplishment awaits if they push past the frustration. Preparation is and always will be the beginning stage of anything productive. There are four stages of productivity I will venture into this month:
- Preparation (today’s post)
- Planting (delivery date: 10/10)
- Process (delivery date: 10/17)
- Produce (delivery date: 10/24)
- The Attitude of Gratitude (delivery date: 10/31)
How do we stick with preparation long enough? Simply put, anticipation drives preparation.
Anticipate more, react less
In a time when everything is rushed and immediate, anticipation remains a necessary growth skill. Those who can anticipate what’s coming are better prepared when the future arrives. An athlete who anticipates competing in the 2020 Olympics has been preparing since the last games concluded four years ago. Away from the many adoring fans and the medal stand, the future medalists we will see at the podium are preparing in obscurity for their moment. Likewise, a farmer who anticipates a crop in the fall must have plowed, fertilized, and planted in the spring. And the student who stays prepared during the semester through attendance, participation, and study is sure to reap a harvest of excellent grades during finals.
Those who don’t anticipate and prepare will consistently find themselves in reaction mode.
Lessons from Anticipation
I have learned that anticipation develops through insight. Through experience, I have come to agree with Thomas Carlyle who said, “Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.” Activity involves motion. Insight provides the rhyme and reason behind the activity. Without insight any activity bears similarity to a hamster on a wheel; going nowhere really fast! According to a study conducted by research scientist and author of Seeing What Others Don’t, Dr. Gary Klein, we develop insights from connections (drawing a bridge between memories, ideas or thoughts – similar to the one I made while preparing for my first marathon), contradictions (seeing inconsistencies), and corrections (making necessary adjustments to correct assumptions and eliminate errors). Have you ever experienced any of the above?
Second, anticipation supports maturity. We become students of life instead of early dropouts. We remain alert, agile, adaptable, and forward-facing. We give due course to learning and commit to growing in the right direction. Theodor Adorno was quoted, “He who matures early lives in anticipation.” We never wish our way into opportunities, we grow into them.
Finally, anticipation calls us to live by design, not by default. This is one of the themes for my blog. Living by default relegates us to whimsical living. Our circumstances dictate our lives. We end up living a life we never planned on instead of the one that we were designed and destined for. With that said, How do we anticipate?
Ask the right questions
The best way that I have learned to develop the skill of anticipation is to ask myself and others the right questions. Sometimes we focus so much on having the right answers. But what if we are correctly answering the wrong questions? It is to our betterment and anticipation of future opportunities to ask the right questions now. CEO and best-selling author Eric Ries made this eye-popping observation,
In the old economy, it was all about
having the right answers. But in
today’s dynamic, lean economy,
it’s more about asking the right
questions. A more beautiful question
is about figuring out how to ask, and
answer the questions that can lead to
new opportunities and growth.
One of the growth questions I am grappling with is, How can I effectively communicate the truth of God’s Word to a generation of young people that are slowly growing disinterested in the church and God’s word? What questions are you asking? Are they the right ones? Will they lead to growth for yourself and others? If they do, you will live a life of more wins and fewer regrets.
Final thought: “When the opportunity comes, it is too late to prepare,” said Coach John Wooden. Just like the fall season never fails to appear, so do opportunities never fail to come our way. Whatever the opportunity, preparation will position you to act on it. Start anticipating by asking the right questions and drawing critical insights. Your future will thank you for it.
Keep on Keeping on!