Monthly Archives: December 2011

Preparation or Procrastination?

Preparation or Procrastination?

An Art of the Question Blog

How do I prepare?

Failing to prepare is like preparing to fail.              – John R. Wooden

We lost him last year.  He was remarkable. He was unique. He was a winner.

Not just good success.  Not even great success. He had the kind of success that almost defies belief. And the common thread in all his success was preparation.

It started when he was just a player, if you can use the term “just a player” to describe someone who was the first person to be named basketball All-American three times – an achievement only matched by two others. While still in college, he won a national championship, and was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

He went on to become a coach – an extraordinary coach, winning ten NCAA national championships in 12 years.  While at UCLA, he won an unprecedented 7 national championships in a row! It was during this period that he won 88 consecutive games, and was named Coach of the year six times. Success beyond belief.

He is one of the most celebrated and revered leaders in the sport. He coached basketball greats like Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Bill Walton.

Part of Coach Wooden’s legacy is the Pyramid of Success which outlines his 15 keys to success. One of the building blocks in the pyramid is Skill. Part of Skill, says Coach Wooden, is to Be Prepared.

The great Roman statesman Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  A key part of Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy is summed up in his quote, “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.”

As I write this, the beginning of a new year approaches. The past is just that – past. There is little we can do to affect what has already transpired, except perhaps learn from it. But the future – now there is an entirely different story.

Many people set resolutions for the new year, which is a great thing to do. But as many of us have learned, resolutions by themselves carry little power.  By itself, without proper framework, a resolution is doomed to fail.

So what is the framework? What can we do to help ensure our resolutions are successful?

There are three keys:

1)    Know what you want to do (see Can I Draw It With A Crayon?, and Am I Smarter Than A Harvard Grad?) through effective goal setting.

2)   Prepare

3)   Take action every day on some part of your plan.

Today’s question is centered around number 2 – Prepare.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a famous landmark because of its peculiar cant, or lean. It is a great example of a lack of preparation. It was built on a foundation that was not strong enough to support the structure, in soil that was unsuitable. Expansive (and expensive) countermeasures have been taken over the years to try and stabilize the structure.

That’s what happens when we fail to prepare. We wind up spending time and resources in an effort to correct all the problems caused by the lack of preparation. From late fees to missed appointments, from poor return on investments to presentations that didn’t do our product justice, being unprepared creates headaches on a lot of levels.

So how do we prepare?

  1. Be Informed – the first step to being prepared is to know what you are preparing for. Be sure you have written your goals and have them firmly in mind.  (For a free presentation on SMART Goal Setting, send an email to  Brainstorm all the things you should do to prepare for each step.
  2. Be Intentional – each day, review your goals and the steps necessary to achieve them.  Set a clear expectation with yourself that you will fulfill at least one step or take at least one action toward your goal that day.  Write it down. Track your accomplishments. 
  3. Be Aware – how many opportunities have been missed because we weren’t paying attention?  Notice everything. That person you just met may well play a key role in fulfillment of one of your goals. That opportunity that someone mentioned might be a path to the next step for you. 
  4. Be Expectant – When you take action toward your goals, some magic things begin to happen. As you talk with others about your goals and dreams, “coincidences” pop up everywhere. Events seem to align in your favor. You meet the right people; you are in the right place. There is a magic in the air. Expect that. Walk through every day, aware and expecting something unexpected to happen which will help you in your quest.

 Success doesn’t happen by itself. Attaining our goals won’t happen without preparation, intention and purpose as we pursue them. But with planning, preparation and focused intensity, we can see nearly any dream come true.

How am I preparing now for next year? Next month? Next week?

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The Card or the Gum?

The Card or the Gum?

An Art of the Question Blog

What do I value?

Don’t let your special character and values, the secret that you know and no one else does – the truth – don’t let that get swallowed up by the great chewing complacency.                                                                                                                        – Aesop

It is roughly four square inches in size.  It’s a piece of cardboard with a couple of different color inks on it. The image is of a person that many of us have never heard of.

It sold for $2.35 million dollars.

What the heck is it?  It’s a baseball card.  Yes, you read correctly – a baseball card.  A remarkable baseball card, termed by some collectors as the holy grail.  It was issued in 1909, and features Pittsburg Pirate Homer Wagner, dubbed “The Flying Dutchman.”

One of the reasons for the card’s value is that only 50 or 60 are believed to still exist.   Think about that for a minute.  I wonder how many kids bought a pack of gum, and tore into the packaging, damaging the card in their eagerness to get to the gum.  Or how about this – how many cards were tossed into the trash, because the kid just wanted the gum? They literally threw away millions of dollars, and didn’t even know it!

Thinking about this, I began to wonder.  I wonder how many times I missed the best option available because I didn’t think through the consequences of my decision?  How many times have I inadvertently wasted an opportunity because I was in a hurry? Have I settled for less than the best because I didn’t listen to good advice or spend a little time in research? And most important of all – how many times have I wished I could have a do-over because I didn’t make a decision that was in line with my values?

Now, don’t get me wrong, we all make mistakes. We all have things in our past we wish we could change. Focusing too much or too long on things that we can’t change is a sure way to become discouraged, so let’s not go there.

But if we are wise, we owe it to ourselves to learn from the past so that we can always be improving.  We can learn from our own past, as well as the lives of others.  And that is the purpose for this question – what do I value?

It isn’t necessarily just a financial question.  Our values extend into every area of our life.  Relationships, moral views, work ethic, faith, family – the list is long and varied.  Our values are just that – things that have value to us.  A value is a belief, a philosophy, a viewpoint – something that has meaning to us.  A value influences our decisions, and guides how we spend our time and resources.  Values provide a foundation upon which we build our business, our relationships, and our life.  Do your decisions reflect your values?

Mother Teresa valued the poor and sick, those that society had mostly forgotten.  Despite personal pain, discomfort and serious health issues, she spent nearly half a century investing in them, because they had value to her.

Galileo publicly defended his scientific views on heliocentrism.  He was mocked by his peers, accused of heresy by the church, and denied the opportunity to publish his work. Ultimately, he was jailed for his views.  He spent the rest of his life under house arrest for his beliefs, because they had value to him.

On a business level, Marriott values service to its customers and communities, and encourages its team members to operate in a “spirit to serve”.

Nordstrom has based its reputation – and indeed has become  famous – for their top quality associates and their customer service reputation.  This excerpt from their handbook gives insight into how highly they value the team member and the customer.  It reads, “Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Starbucks core values include community service, ecological responsibility, and aid to underdeveloped nations.  

Wal-Mart has a core value of everyday low prices.

Whether a corporation, a small business, or an individual, values are fundamental to our identity and our success.  Values serve as a constant foundation.

Here are five key areas in which values benefit us and our organization:

  1. Values help us focus on what is important.
  2. Values help us communicate what is important to our family, friends, and business associates.
  3. Values drive and inspire us to achievement.
  4. Values demonstrate and help shape our character.
  5. Values demonstrate our uniqueness. (For more on your uniqueness, see my blog “Fingerprints and DNA” in the July 2011 Archives.

Your values can change the world, one decision at a time, one action at a time.

What are my values?

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