How Much Preparation is Enough?

You don’t need to know everything.

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author of Life’s Little Instruction Book said,

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”

The first time I gave a speech I spent my life preparing. The topic was me. As a new member of the Dale Carnegie Course in Human Relations, my assignment was to introduce myself to the rest of the class.

Later I joined Toastmasters International and was called to speak with no preparation whatsoever at every meeting.

Whenever you do something new, your preparation falls between these two extremes. But if you feel nervous at all before you begin, it’s because you don’t feel prepared.

Knowing It All is Overrated

It would be great to know everything, wouldn’t it? That way you’ll never be sideswiped by a curve ball that comes out of nowhere.

But you can’t.

Just know you will get hit at some point.

As you gain experience, you’ll come to know what matters and what is peripheral. Consider smartphones. Most have way more features than most of us will ever use. You learn what benefits to share with anyone by asking, “What are the top two or three things you’re looking for in a smartphone?”

The answer is your roadmap.

So how do you determine how much preparation is enough?

First, do you know enough to go?

To drive, you need to know where the gas and brake pedals are and how hard to press them at any given time. You’ll also need to master the steering wheel well enough to keep the car between the lines.

To gain mastery, you have to scare your trainer, stumble, and tremble a bit. With repeated efforts, you’ll inevitably find comfort behind the wheel and reduce the risk you pose to other drivers.

Go before you’re totally ready. The road to readiness is paved with baby steps. If you look for shortcuts, you’ll only retard your progress.

Second, remind yourself that you don’t need to know everything.

You don’t have to understand how your engine combusts fuel to press the gas. You don’t need a wiring diagram to turn your lights on. You don’t need to know every feature your product offers.

You don’t need to know every single road to visit the places you frequent. At best, one main route with a handful of alternatives should do. New places are a map away.

Sales trainers are notorious for teaching hundreds of closes. If you have a response to every objection, you’ll be a sales superstar, right? Maybe. But your brain will be taxed trying to catalogue so many techniques.

Use your memory wisely. Store responses to a handful of common scenarios and have a structure for dealing with the unexpected. Your brain — and your wallet — will thank you.

Third, you can always learn more as you go.

You can refine your brushstrokes with each new painting. You can write better scripts as you test the ones you use now. You build a better physique after you build muscle mass to work with.

Don’t let what you don’t know keep you from using what you do know.

“In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.” — Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist

You know more than you think. Employ these three strategies and the life you want will open up to you.

Writer. Teacher. Bestselling Author. Shy Kid turned Fear Fighter. I write about communication, business, and personal growth.

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