By CAL Founding President Samuel Kim (Harvard MPA)
Good preparation is the key to success in every sphere. Without preparation, when opportunities appear, you won’t be able to seize them for your own and everyone else’s benefit. Some of my favorite motivational quotes revolve around this fact.
Bill Paxton, an actor, said this: “Through readiness and discipline, we are the masters of our fate.”68 Many people shy away from taking the first steps to prepare, out of fear, indolence, or simply lack of awareness. But preparation is crucial, and readiness goes hand in hand with discipline. Without discipline, our preparation will fall short, since, of necessity, it is an arduous and ongoing process.
Seneca, a Roman scholar, wrote, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” When I first read this quote, I realized that it aligned perfectly with my personal view that opportunities lie all around us at all times. We just have to recognize them for what they are and prepare ourselves, so that we can take advantage of them when we do see them. In fact, I consider preparation crucial to being able to see them in the first place. The more effort you put into preparing, the more luck you will create for yourself.
You might ask, how can we begin to prepare? I recommend engaging in frequent reality checks, asking yourself what you need to be, do, and have to increase your readiness for the future.
Be: What state of mind should you be in to prepare effectively? Perhaps, given all the looming uncertainties in our world, being more focused, disciplined, patient, empathetic, and reflective will help you understand how you need to spend your time, energy, and money in the most efficient and meaningful ways.
Do: Often reprioritization is an important and valuable activity. This could mean learning new knowledge, trends, and skills such as critical thinking and planning, or else speaking to people with experience, expanding your networks, developing new products and services, or even exploring untapped markets.
Have: You may need to acquire new credentials that show your continued relevance, find like-minded people that you can partner with, or obtain new technology that can support your work.
All these preparations require us to stay in the present, constantly asking what we need to be, do, and have in order to ready ourselves for upcoming surprises. The more we learn about where we are today, the more we can discover about what we need to work on, so that we have a better chance of surviving and thriving in the future.
But remember, there is no such condition as being fully prepared. No matter how much we know, there will still be unknowns. Having said that, I believe that increasing our knowledge, skills, flexibility, and resilience will help us thrive even in the midst of the unforeseen.
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