Now I’m not a “doomsday prepper” in the sense that I take all of my money out of banks, hide it in a cave, and live off the grid in a cabin in the mountains with no electricity. That’s not me. But preparing for key moments in both life and business is essential.

I have learned through both positive and negative outcomes, that prep work can be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful interview or proposal. Now this is not some new revelation, it makes sense right? But sometimes I think that I have forgone preparing because I think I can “wing it” or am overconfident. Sometimes preparing may seem unproductive… we all just want to get to the big moment! But part of the big moment is the prep work.

Now the “big moment” can be manifested in different forms. Maybe you are an athlete that practices before a game. Students have to prepare for final exams by studying. Sales professionals should recite and research whatever necessary before a big proposal. There are many examples. The point is this, when you prepare, things tend to go smoother, and you have a better chance of being successful come crunch time.

Growing up I studied for tests, but many times I put minimal effort into preparing. Maybe this was because the previous results made me think that I could succeed for the most part without hours of studying. But sometimes this type of behavior catches up with you and teaches you tough lessons.

I mentioned this in a previous post, but I had a final job interview once with a company that I was interested in. The first portions of the hiring process had gone well, and to keep it short I did not prepare. Previous phone calls had been very positive, what could possibly go wrong. I had it in the bag right? I did not get a job offer. Thinking back, this occurrence really has stuck with me, and whether I got the job or not, I knew deep down that I had not put my best foot forward, and that had eaten at me a bit since then. I am grateful for this experience though because it truly gave me a kick in the pants that I needed and the lesson I learned I will take with me through the rest of my life.

There are many times when I prepare and organize my thoughts before a meeting or a call, and then much of the material and information I bring to the “big moment” goes unmentioned. But by over preparing, I am more likely to be able to competently speak on any subject or answer any question that is brought up. Better to over prepare than under prepare.

I recently listened to the book Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters by John Maxwell. One of the stories he references is how prepared John Wooden would be for each of his practices while he coached the UCLA basketball team. He had such an organized system, that he claimed he could retrieve a notecard with practice information from a specific date to see what they had worked on that day. John Wooden understood the value of practice and prioritized it. Games only lasted a few hours, but the games only went well if the team practiced and prepared intentionally. The result: 10 NCAA men’s basketball titles over the span of 12 years. Not too shabby.

So to those of you going into an interview… take the time to read the job description, think about why your are a candidate that brings value, and definitely research the company as a whole. If you have a test coming up, study. And before a proposal, take the time to learn more about your customer and their needs, and think through the reasons as to why the prospect should do business with you.

This post is not rocket science I know. But in my own life I am aware that I must guard against procrastination and a “winging it” mentality. There are definitely times where you run into unforeseen situations where you may have to “wing it.” But by all means, when possible, prepare as best as you can for the “big moments” as you strive to succeed in work and life.

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