The life of Meriwether Lewis shows a truth about preparation: spectacular achievement comes from unspectacular preparation. Talent, much like the eighteen-year-old Lewis, wants to jump into action, but preparation positions talent to be effective. Talent plus preparation often leads to success. Talent minus preparation often leads to disaster. This should let you know that he who doesn’t esteem the value of preparation will definitely fail in life, business and leadership.
Authors Don Beveridge Jr. and Jeffrey P. Davidson believe that lack of preparation is the primary reason for business failure today. “Poorly educated, poorly prepared, and poorly trained people fail because they do not have the skills or expertise to perform,” they say. “Inadequate financing, the number-one reason businesses fail, can also be traced to lack of preparation.”
Preparation is a major key to achieving any kind of success. It alone can position your talent to achieve its potential. Military people know this. General Douglas MacArthur said, “Preparation is the key to success and victory.” He also stated it more bluntly: “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” The actions of Meriwether Lewis demonstrated that he had a similar attitude. Despite all the dangers and deprivations, the brutal weather and hostile Native Americans, Lewis lost only one member of his party, Sergeant Charles Floyd, probably from peritonitis cause by a ruptured appendix. No preparation on Lewis’ part could have saved him from that. Infact, in 1804, Floyd probably would have died under the care of a trained physician.
It’s been said that discipline is doing what you really do not want to do so that you can do what you really do want to do. Meriwether Lewis’ most evident weakness was a tendency to be a bit rash and take offense. Infact, one of Jefferson’s serious concerns was that Lewis might alienate the Native Americans and either starts a war or get himself and his party killed. Lewis came close several times, including a tense standoff with the Teron Sioux.
The explorers were one wrong move away from being wiped out and becoming little more than an obscure footnote in American history. What saved the day? Ambrose says Lewis’ rashness was compensated by his tremendous self-discipline. With guns loaded and aimed and dozens of arrows pointed in their distraction, Lewis waited out the situation. Eventually, a Sioux chief managed to get the angry braves to stand down and defuse the conflict. Lewis understood the value of discipline.
A frustrating thing about preparation is that it usually takes much more time than the actual event one prepares for. Musicians may practice many hours preparing to perform a three-minute piece. Stage actors practice for weeks to prepare for a performance that lasts two hours. I know that when I create a leadership lesson that may take me less than an hour to deliver; it usually takes me eight to ten hours to write it. Discipline is required to keep preparing long hours for something that will be over quickly.
The man Jesus took 30 years to prepare what he did for about four years! A preparation that will last for15 minutes that will end up connecting you to places of influence and affluence may take you years to prepare. You need to understand that the longer the time of preparation, the greater the results that it will produce. You cannot prepare briefly and expect to a ground-shaking delivery. It is not possible. Also, to truly have a new year (2021), you will have to prepare for it. You do not wish for a new year, you prepare for it. This is very important.
Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father of the United States and its first secretary of the treasury, said, “Men give me credit for genius; but all the genius I have lies in this: When I have a subject on hand, I study it profoundly.” Hamilton was a disciplined and highly productive man. He understood that no matter your circumstances, or natural talent, certain things were always within your control—your ability to work harder and smarter than anybody else. That bears remembering as you prepare yourself for the challenges that lay ahead of you.
Also, automaker Henry Ford observed, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.” Ford understood the power of preparation and all the things it can do for everyone who dares to explore it. This counsel from Ford of this world, if you will do what it says, you are going to truly have a new year, 2021. Remember, it is not too late for you to start preparing for the coming year. Do not forget that having a new year is beyond mere wishes!
Lastly, many people detest the place of preparation today because we live in a quick-fix world. Folks today think in terms of events and instant solutions, but preparation does not work that way. Why? It is because it is about you. Anything having to do with people is process-oriented. Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden says that the best way to improve your team is to improve yourself. He did learn that lesson from his father, Joshua Wooden, who used to tell young John, “Do not try to be better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be best you can be.” That’s a good advice whether you are playing basketball, parenting, or conducting business. Till I come your way again next Monday.
See you where leaders who esteem the value of preparation are found!
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