How many of you have heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail?”

If this is your first time seeing it, read it again. I cannot stress the importance of these wise words enough. People often talk about how they are waiting for their big break or that if they were just given the opportunity, they would take it and run with it.

But would they really? That would mean that they have to be prepared when the opportunity presents itself, and unfortunately, the majority are simply not. A really bad habit to get into is talking more about what you would do given the opportunity than actually working to create that reality. This is failing to prepare in and of itself, even if you do not intend to do so.

Those who are proactive about their possibilities know that they can create opportunities for themselves and, in that process, prime themselves for success. If you feel there is not enough opportunity knocking, ask yourself if you are preparing for it as much as you are talking about it. Failing to prepare for going out and creating your own luck can be equally costly.

One thing I’ve learned from both failing to prepare and being prepared at pivotal times in my life is that life presents us with limited windows of opportunity. These windows may never come again. Many are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. There are windows that will swing open, and if you’re not ready at that moment, you have to bite the bullet and accept it as a missed opportunity.

In high school, I was a baseball standout. MLB scouts came to watch me play, but my involvement in delinquent behavior led to my expulsion from my baseball team. I was failing to prepare for my big moment while positively shaping my future reality. I had all the talent in the world, but that wasn’t enough. I had to reluctantly accept it as a major loss and understand that only I was to blame.

It is important that, no matter how skilled, talented, or knowledgeable you are in your respective field, you spend time every day preparing. Prepare for the next step, the next goal, and the next big moment when it arises, because you never know when it will come. I’ve found that the biggest regrets come from individuals who had a window of opportunity that they weren’t prepared for. Whether it was the job interview that they tried to wing, or the endorsement that they lost. There is nothing worse than failing to prepare for your big moment and the feeling of your dreams being close enough to touch and then watching them slip through your fingertips, never to return.

Whether I view my life as an athlete or in the business arena, preparation makes all the difference. Preparing for a game and studying your opponent are necessary in order to win. If you don’t know your opponents’ strengths, you’re going to come out blindly, hoping that your skill level will outweigh theirs. True champions do more than that. They don’t gamble on their skill level. They combine it with diligent preparation. It’s important to note that failing to prepare is a form of preparation, albeit not the kind we prefer.

Going into a meeting looking for a capital investment for your start-up and relying on your knowledge and passion is simply not enough. True successors combine their passion and knowledge with meticulous research and preparation. You need to know who your investors are before you can convince them how valuable this investment is for them, not you.

Before a keynote, I don’t just go on stage and give a blanket speech on performance, leadership, or sales. I study the organization I’m speaking to, crunch their numbers, address their challenges, and cater content specifically to them. This preparation makes all the difference and will set you apart from the people just going with the motions.

It’s often obvious to spot who is prepared or not. Whether it’s the start-up pitch, the keynote speaker, or the athlete taking the field, preparation is not a concept you can throw together quickly. You cannot “fake it ‘til you make it,” and you certainly can never wing it.

It takes time, discipline, thought, effort, research, organization, and even some meditation. It’s an investment in yourself, your product, and your business, and those who are prepared are noticed. If you want to create possibilities, prime yourself for success, and capitalize on opportunity, then you must simply begin to prepare as such. Failing to prepare is detrimental to everything you want out of life.

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