If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, as the business coaches of the world like to say.
This is a truism which is not just relevant for business success, but also for your own personal and professional success.
Planning for success is just a roadmap. It isn’t the journey, as no roadmap could ever be, but the right roadmap will guide the way to who you want to be and where you want to go.
Yet to arrive at that place you want to be, you need to know your destination in advance (what you want), and then work out the pathway to reach that destination. With a good roadmap, you can even anticipate obstacles and difficulties along your journey and plan your route accordingly.
Going on a road trip is a great analogy for your journey through life, and one of the best and most scenic road trips I’ve ever taken is the drive from Denver, Colorado, to Las Vegas, Nevada.
In my carefree younger days, I rented a Mustang and hit the road with a friend I’d met along my travels through the USA. It was around the end of March, springtime in the northern hemisphere, and the weather was perfect. Without a cloud in the sky and no threat of rain or snow, we drove over the snowcapped Rocky Mountains via Aspen and descended into the Nevada desert. On either side of the highway, huge mesas and giant cacti dominated the landscape, reminding me of classic cowboy scenes from all the old John Wayne westerns.
Then, 10 to 11 hours later, as the evening dimmed and we approached the sparkling lights of Las Vegas, the massive disc of the moon lifted above the desert horizon and I could almost hear Tom Jones crooning from the tumbleweeds, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie… That’s amore!”
We pulled into our hotel on The Strip, tired from the long drive but eager to hit the bars and casinos and have fun. The day had been a success. We knew what we had wanted to achieve and had arrived safely at our destination.
My point about planning is this:
Why, when we would never spend 8 to 9 hours in a car or bus or train not knowing where we were going, do many of us spend 80 to 90 years of our life not knowing where we want to go?
A lot of people resist planning, especially the carefree and young, because they fear it will take the spontaneity and fun out of life.
Yet, my travelling buddy and I had plenty of spontaneous moments during our road trip to Las Vegas. We’d had fun pulling over to the side of the road for scenic photos of the mountains or desert, having leisurely meal breaks, and chatting with locals at the roadside diners.
Planning just sets the route. What you do along the journey is up to you.
In my book, Samantha Honeycomb, I originally included a scene where Samantha encountered a free-spirited dragonfly called Derek. He was a cool, surfer-dude, drifting on the wind without a care in the world, happy to go wherever the breeze took him.
Derek ended all his sentences in ‘man’ or ‘yeah, man’, and I kind of had a soft spot for him, but my editor killed him off. With a stroke of her pen, she eliminated him as ruthlessly as any flyswatter.
“He isn’t necessary to the story,” she wrote in blood-red ink at the side of my manuscript.
I was slightly put out, and slightly more devastated at losing a favourite character, but I understood my editor’s reasoning and accepted his premature demise. Although I did secretly resurrect him in a brief sentence when Samantha noticed a dragonfly hovering above the sunflowers in the Crazy Lands.
This encounter causes her to ponder the difference between his life, drifting from moment to moment without any goals or aims, and her intense desire to reach her goal, Beebylon, the magical hive where honey drips from the walls and dreams come alive.
The underlying message I was trying to convey with Samantha’s encounter with Derek the Dragonfly (may he rest in peace), was that drifting through life without a destination to reach or a plan on how to get there probably kills spontaneity more ruthlessly than any editor or strategic planning will.
Drifting from job to job, partner to partner, town to town might seem like a bohemian and spontaneous lifestyle, but it is more reactive than bohemian, more stifled than spontaneous. It might be fun for a while, but if you become like a pinball ricocheting from bumper to bumper you’re more likely to get tired and worn out than achieving any significant success you want for yourself.
So planning and goal setting is essential if you want to achieve even a modicum of success during this lifetime, and just as essential to becoming the person you want to be.
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.
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 takehome 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.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most well-known and admired poets of the 19th Century in America, whose works include The Song of Hiawatha and the epic poem Evangeline, put it this way:
“A man’s life is a history to his fears.”
Fear causes inactive faith. It prevents you from taking action on your hopes, dreams, and desires. Inaction over a lifetime curtails not only your potential but also your success, and when you look back at your life you see a story of what could have been—a history of unfulfilled desires and talent written with the pen of fear.
But the future is not yet written, it’s a blank page, so there is a counter to fear. There is a way through it, and that’s arming yourself with active faith.
The pen is mightier than the sword, as they say, and there’s always time to rewrite your history the way you want it to turn out. So why not look ahead, plan what you want to do, and write the remaining pages of your life with the pen of active faith?
A simple, everyday example of active faith that you can implement almost immediately is preparing for your next holiday.
Getting back to my road trip from Denver to Las Vegas, I actively prepared for my arrival at my hotel on The Strip by bringing my backpack. It’s what we all do when we go on holiday. We pack our bags with clothes, swimming bathers, toiletries, and maybe a passport and other items we will need when we get to our destination—we prepare in advance for our successful arrival.
We know exactly where we’re going—we can even see the hotel or apartment in our minds, inhale the aromas and hear the noises we expect to encounter when we get there—and we just do it.
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioners give this mental preparation for success a term, which they call “future pacing”. We’ll discuss this in more detail in just a moment in #2: Consolidating Your Opportunity—your ‘I will’.
For now, we generally do this “future pacing” on autopilot, without paying it too much thought. We expect to arrive safely at our hotel or lodgings with a high degree of certainty, and we envisage ourselves doing the things we want to do on holiday with just as much expectancy. We prepare for our holiday success as a matter of fact, as though it is already written in your holiday diary.
We imagine what we want and we do it, but more often than not it’s an unconscious and unthinking process, almost humdrum. But think of all the times you’ve succeeded this way, more unconsciously than consciously, and imagine how much more you could achieve and how much more success you could enjoy if you just put a little bit more conscious thought into your intentions and desires.
How wonderful, then, would it be if success in life was as matter of fact as driving or flying or training to your holiday destination?
How wonderful would it be to expect to arrive at where you want to go in life as easy as arriving at your hotel?
Well, you can achieve the success you want, if you’re more conscious about it, but there is a little bit more work to do before success comes as easy as booking a holiday. That’s also assuming we’re using Earl Nightingale’s definition of success, which is:
Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal.
As we’ve been discussing, you have to dig into that goldmind of yours and actively think about what you need to do. Success doesn’t come without thought; it doesn’t come without brainpower. It doesn’t come without foresight and imagination and planning.
It doesn’t also tend to come without preparation either. It doesn’t come without constructively developing the skills or gaining the education required to sidestep the barriers of entry of your desired career, or without the faith and belief that you’ll receive the rewards you’re working for.
Which leads to the final point, that your success won’t come without taking action, without effort, without persevering.
According to Earl Nightingale’s definition above, success is progressive, which means there is no such thing as effortless success. Very few, if any, achieved success on their first attempt.
There’s a saying that the master has failed more times than the amateur has tried. Masters know that success waits for you to take the first step.
They also know there’s no easy way, that faith without works is dead. You have to take some form of action to bridge the gap and move closer to your destination. You have to put in the effort. You have to persevere.
Giving up is not an option. There will be obstacles in your way along your journey to success, and only those who keep persevering will cross the finish line.
Winston Churchill put it this way when he visited Harrow School, his alma mater, in 1941:
“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
In other words, set your course and keep going no matter what.
That’s what successful people do: they set their course and simply don’t give in. It means they fail more often, but it also means they succeed more too.
Michael Jordan claimed he missed 10,000 shots in his basketball career, and that’s why he was a success. Colonel Sanders’ recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken was rejected 1009 times before he found a willing backer.
They were resilient. They persevered. They used failures as stepping stones to their success.
So, in your intention to become the person you want to be and do the things you really want to do, planning, preparation, and perseverance will be required.
And one of the best ways to do develop these 3 important habits is to broaden your SCOPE.
This article is an excerpt from Dr. Scott Zarcinas’ upcoming book, The SCOPE of YOU!
Why Success in Anything You Do Depends on Your SCOPE (and Your Failure Too)