Just as planning and goal setting is essential if you want to achieve even a modicum of success during this lifetime, there’s also something else I’d also like to add to the equation, and that’s to say that preparation is just as vital as planning:
If you fail to prepare for success, you successfully prepare for failure.
Preparation is not just another word for planning. Preparation differs both in nature and in definition, and there are 2 main types we need to consider:
- Constructive Preparation: Preparing what you need to succeed (e.g. skills, education, tools of the trade, practice).
- Receptive Preparation: Preparing for the results in advance (e.g. expectancy, belief, active faith, future pacing).
I’ll go into more detail about both these types in just a moment, but first I’d like to draw your attention to a quote attributed to the Roman philosopher, Seneca, that reminds us of an essential quality of success:
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Successful people may seem lucky to others, or they have luck attributed to their success. But, if luck has anything to do with it, it’s because successful people know they have to make their own luck.
On the surface it might appear that success comes easy to some, or they have a golden touch, but that’s because we haven’t seen the thousands of hours of practice and hard work that successful people have put in while nobody was looking.
We just see the accomplishment and think it’s easy for them.
In other words, to be successful you need to actively position yourself—prepare—for when opportunity comes your way.
Otherwise, if you’re not ready for it, if you’re ill-prepared, if you’re out of position, the opportunity will be missed.
This is the first type of preparation:
Constructive preparation—preparing what you need to succeed.
Like saving money for a holiday or investing in property or the stock market. Or getting the education you need for a particular job or career, and developing the skills that you know will be required on the job.
If your dream house comes up for sale but you haven’t saved the deposit required to get the mortgage you need, then the opportunity will slip by.
I recently illustrated this point to my youngest daughter. It was less than 5 weeks until Christmas and she wanted to buy an iPhone for her elder sister. We searched the internet for an available iPhone that matched the specifications she knew her sister would want, and settled on a secondhand model for A$500. The problem was, she had only saved $60 in her piggy bank.
All throughout the year, my wife and I had encouraged her to save her money for when an opportunity came that she would need it. Unfortunately, she didn’t take our advice, claiming she didn’t know what she wanted to save for.
When the time came to look for Christmas presents, however, and she didn’t have the money saved for what she wanted to buy, the message started to sink in.
In the end, I loaned her the money on the agreement that it would be paid back in 3 months (which will be another life lesson for her that I want her to learn: don’t borrow what you can’t pay back), but for the time being I wanted to teach her a valuable lesson in constructive preparation:
Putting aside some money for unknown or unseen future opportunities puts you in a great position to capitalise on those opportunities when they arise.
The same applies with your dream job. Every job has a barrier of entry, some higher than others, and in a free and egalitarian society that’s usually based on levels of education.
If you want to be a lawyer, you need to go to law school and get the proper legal education. If you want to work in a trade as a plumber or electrician, you need to first complete an apprenticeship.
You won’t be able to sidestep the barrier of entry and access the opportunity to be a lawyer until you have a law degree. You won’t be able to access the opportunity to be a plumber or electrician without first completing the apprenticeship.
Without educating yourself and developing the required skills, the opportunity will remain out of reach and inaccessible to you.
But it doesn’t stop there. Education is just the beginning, just the foot in the door. Preparing to achieve real success in your chosen career also means thousands of hours of honing your craft.
There’s no escaping it. That’s what this type of constructive preparation, and ultimately your success, requires.
The 10,000-Hour Rule
As they say, overnight success takes 20 years, and speaking coaches tell us we need to do 10,000 hours of presentations in front of a live audience before we can become any good at professional speaking.
Piano teachers say the same thing about playing the piano: you won’t be a proficient pianist without practicing for 10,000 hours or more.
It’s what’s known in professional circles as The 10,000-Hour Rule.
This rule has quantitative and qualitative requirements. The quantitative requirements are the 10,000 hours, the physical effort and the time required, such as practicing and honing your skills.
Greg Norman, Australia’s most famous and successful golfer, would practice for hours before any tournament, hitting thousands of golf balls on the driving range before even thinking of stepping foot onto the first tee. He practiced relentlessly.
He took the time to hone his craft. So when the opportunity came, he was prepared, and he won many tournaments. He made his own luck.
In his heyday at Manchester United, David Beckham would stay behind when all the other players had left the training field and practice his trademark ‘bend it like Beckham’ free kicks at goal. He practiced relentlessly.
He took the time to hone his craft. So when the opportunity came, he was prepared, and he won many games for Manchester United and many trophies. He made his own luck.
In contrast, the qualitative requirements of The 10,000 Hour Rule are mainly attitudinal, in respect to your attitude toward your effort and your attitude toward improvement.
Your 10,000 hours will have a greater impact if you have the attitude of wanting to improve all the time and get better, and not just maintain the status quo.
In my high school days, one of my cricket coaches used to say over and over again,
“It isn’t practice that makes perfect; it’s the perfect practice that makes perfect.”
He would emphasise that there was no point in practicing badly or practicing the wrong technique; that wouldn’t improve your game. Only the perfect practice will improve your game, and that meant having the right attitude to begin with.
Up until I’d heard those words, I had treated practice as a chore, something I had to do to keep my spot in the school team. I enjoyed batting and bowling, but not fielding, especially at practice.
I wasn’t the best fielder on the team to begin with, and my attitude toward catching and throwing and diving was pretty lacklustre, which showed on the field during game time.
Looking to keep damage to a minimum, the captain often sent me far out of harm’s way down on the boundary at fine leg, the position that was least likely for the ball to be hit to and where the team could be sheltered from too many of my mistakes.
I hadn’t yet learned that the only disability in life is a negative attitude, as the winner or 23 paralympic swimming medals, Jessica Long, said. The penny only dropped when I joined a cricket club and expectations and competition for places were higher.
I was expected to not only be a good batter and bowler, but a good fielder as well. I had to compete with many other players to make the team, which meant a change in attitude toward fielding.
I began to implement the ‘perfect practice makes perfect’ mantra and, by the end of the season, my fielding had improved so much I was considered one of the better fielders on my new team.
So, The 10,000 Hour Rule is both quantitative and qualitative, and you can apply it to any career or any sport or any activity you choose.
The question is: Have you applied it to yours?
The second type of preparation is receptive, which is essentially the mental expectancy of future success.
Receptive preparation—preparing for the rewards of success.
First, you plan your roadmap to achieve what you set out to do, then you upskill and educate yourself on what you need to do and hone your craft, and then you prepare for the successful achievement of it.
As international speaker and bestselling author, Brian Tracy, puts it:
“Decide what you want, and then act as if it were impossible to fail.”
Receptive preparation means you actively prepare to receive the rewards and success you have planned for before they have arrived, or before you arrive at the destination you have planned to arrive at.
You vividly envision you’ll have in your hands what you set out to get and make the required preparations to receive or create it, as if it were impossible to fail.
You build your port and wait for your ships to come in. You set your stage and wait for the actors and audience to arrive. You dig your trenches and wait for the rain to fall.
I recently heard two accounts that illustrate this type of receptive preparation.
The first is an example of ordering a kitchen fridge online or over the telephone. Once it’s been ordered, you need to prepare an area in the kitchen with appropriate electrical accessibility where the fridge will be placed. The fridge cannot reside in your house or apartment until an area has been prepared especially and specifically for it.
The take-home message of this example is to prepare for your success as though it is a fait accompli. Or, as Jack Canfield writes in Chicken Soup for the Soul, acting as if you knew you can’t fail.
You’ve ordered it. It’s on its way. All you need to do is prepare for it to arrive.
The second example of receptive preparation is of anticipated love. The story I heard was of a single woman who desired a husband and family. She lived alone at the time but actively prepared for the arrival of her as-yet-unknown future husband by purchasing a double bed, extra clothes hangers, bathroom towels, and even an extra toothbrush, which she kept in a rinsing glass next to her bathroom sink.
She also took it another step further. She realised that she had to not only prepare her physical surroundings for his arrival, but also her mental attitude.
When she looked in the mirror, she trained herself to see a married wife, not a spinster. She knew she had to ‘be’ married in her imagination and act like a wife, including all the positive emotions she anticipated having, to prepare for her upcoming wedding, which she had no doubt would happen.
Even though she had not yet met her future husband, she actively prepared herself by thinking, feeling and acting as if he were already living with her.
Neville Goddard, author of the bestselling book, Feeling is the Secret, was one of the earliest proponents of the modern self-help movement in the USA, whose works also influenced Rhonda Byrne and Dr. Wayne Dyer. He described this type of receptive preparation as coming from the position of the wish fulfilled (having), not the position of wishing for the fulfillment of the wish (wanting).
Your heart must be embedded in the imagined outcome. You must feel the future in this instant.
In other words, you come from the end you have in mind, which includes thinking, feeling, and behaving as having already achieved your goal. You act in the real world what you imagine you have already achieved. You need to be in your mind before you do in the physical world.
Imagination and intentions come first. Then feelings and emotions. Then actions and behaviours.
You create a bridge to your future intentions by bringing them into the present moment through your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Both these examples illustrate the need for a degree of faith and belief with this type of receptive preparation. Or more to the point, a degree of active faith.
In other words, you anticipate your success by actively preparing and arranging your life, your lifestyle, and your house in advance as if your success was already manifest, as if it were already a fait accompli.
If you don’t, you’re actually preparing to be let down. You have inactive faith. You’re preparing for failure, in other words.
So don’t prepare for failure. Prepare for success instead.
- Constructively prepare for your success and embrace the 10,000-Hour Rule.
- Receptively prepare for your success and believe you have received it by coming from the end in mind.
Because luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.