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The key to success? Be (and stay) prepared for the journey

The problem with wishful yearning is that it’s all about the past, not the future. And we can’t change the past.

The key to success? Be (and stay) prepared for the journey
[olyphotostories / Adobe Stock]

We’ve all heard people say, “If I only knew then what I know now.” Well, the problem with this kind of silly, nonsensical, won’t-ever-happen, wishful yearning is that it’s all about the past, not the future. And we can’t change the past.

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What if we rearrange that concept to an achievable reality, like, “If I only knew now what I’ll know then?” The phrase becomes useful, not useless. Now, it’s meaningful and relevant. That’s because we’re leveraging other people’s hindsight, passed on to us as insight. By extension, we get to use that insight as our own foresight.

Henry Ford said, that before everything else, “Getting ready and being prepared is the secret to success.” Now admittedly, I was one of those new young employees who didn’t prepare properly. I learned a lot of stuff the harder way. You see, while I graduated from college with decent grades and lots of “I know better” assumptions, I was still highly unprepared, and to my detriment, overconfident. Especially in terms of what I thought I knew about business and people, and how my life inside and outside of work was going to change me as well as those around me.

Heck, I could write a book about what I didn’t know about business, work, and life. Even worse, what I lacked in readiness and preparation, I made up for in false bravado. It was not a good strategy and I was ultimately forced to (gulp) change.

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Change is difficult—even good change.

While there may be something to learning “on the job” through the school of hard knocks or even baptism by fire, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look for help, do our homework, and be prepared. After all, a nice pat on the back for a job well done is a heck of a lot better than the proverbial hard kick in the butt for a job done poorly.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is assuming that we’ll get off to a great start with our new jobs; become invaluable employees from the very first day; enjoy loads of fun and lots of happiness; and be largely rewarded for our work through lots of props and bankable coin.

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Guess what? It’s probably not going to happen—even if we’re gutsy, book-smart, talented or school-trained to do specific jobs. In fact, it’s dangerous to overestimate ourselves, thinking that we can just show up and hit the ground running.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter if you’re the new intern or the new mayor—regardless of the job, you’re not going to completely know what you need to do or what it’s all about until you do it. And then do it some more. Even common sense (or Spidey senses) won’t help us out completely. Because the fact is, common sense is not so common (and you’re not Spider-Man).

As Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know that just ain’t so.” How true. Or take singer/songwriter John Mayer who sings so eloquently about the bittersweet “train of life.” No, we can’t stop it. And sure, the ride will be bumpy and discouraging sometimes, and we’ll have to travel with some unlikable passengers, but there will be more times when the ride is smooth and encouraging, with lots of likeable companions, especially if we have the right attitude and the right support.

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This means that you can’t just wait around for the world to change in your favor. (Sorry to disagree with you on that one, Mr. Mayer.) Waiting on the world to change is not realistic, and not all that smart. The fact is, your time is here, and your time is now (with a nod to another J.M., John Mellencamp). You’re the future and the present, so get onboard and be a good passenger.

Better yet, jump in the front seat, buckle up and help drive. After all, nobody likes a backseat driver.

And that’s why it’s important to always be (and stay) prepared. Now, and forevermore.

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Scott Abbott is a Business & Executive Coach, Angel Investor, Best-Selling Author and Top-Rated Podcaster.

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