On Being Prepared

Three things have converged recently that relate to being prepared. Thinking about Slawyers, I am certain that readers of this blog are likely those that support and espouse the notion of preparedness, I decided to write about preparedness from three perspecitives.

1. The unprepared (fly by the seat of your pants and deal with the consequences as they arise)

My youngest daughter is a musician. She recently finished her first year of university and is now looking for employment. Despite her mother and father’s strong (occasionally screechy) suggestions that she begin applying for summer work in March, she put the last polishing touches on her resume yesterday. Drives me absolutely bonkers – probably because I did the EXACT same thing after my first year of university.

Trying to gain some perspective, I asked myself the question, “Does her unpreparedness truly matter?” To decide the answer I thought about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. She moved home (welcomed with open arms) so her basic physiological and safety needs are met. She has a close circle of friends and supporters who are also sharing job tips so her belonging needs are met. She will likely find a job (maybe not the best and most fulfilling that her parents would wish for her) in the next two weeks so ego/status will be under control and solving the lack of employment problem will bring some self-actualization.

Being unprepared in this instance is a very strong motivator for my lovely daughter to find a solution to being jobless. In short – my perception of her unpreparedness is not her monkey, but mine. Sigh.

2. The over prepared (way to much time spent on preparation compared to the task’s level of importance)

I recently moved offices to a different floor in our building. This involves packing and unpacking, but that is not part of my story on being over prepared. When I think about some of the things that I have not 5S’d out of my office drawers, I really think that there is an element of over preparedness to my pack-rat-itis. I have things like gift bags, blank note cards, contact lens solution (I rarely wear contacts) a rolodex with printed business cards alphabetically filed (?just in case I can’t get my contacts off of my smart phone, tablet, AND Outlook on my desktop?), and not less than 5 different bottles of eyeglass cleaner.

Really. I am ashamed of myself. I also have various lengths of network cabling and neatly rolled up flip chart paper showing processes that have already been turned into Visio diagrams – just in case.

On writing this, I decided to schedule some time to 5S my office. Five S is a philosophy embraced by Lean of sorting, storing, shining, standardizing, and sustaining an environment for maximum productivity.

3. The prepared (the just right amount of preparation – think Goldilocks)

I wrote an open book exam yesterday. I prepared by taking a 16 week course, purchasing a recommended study guide, bought access to a practice test, and downloaded an app that cycled through test questions. It was a difficult exam. I passed. Looking back on my preparation, even though it was extensive, it was just right.

Knowing just how much preparation time that you need in advance of ‘the big moment’ is a skill that is learned. It comes from past experience, personal comfort, and the ability to gather information in the moment that you don’t have immediately in front of you. One view of prepared might be to rely on their smart phone’s built in GPS, another’s might be to have their phone and a paper map, and another’s might be to have their phone, a map with a highlighted preferred route and a guide book with alternatives. My chef daughter says, “look in the fridge before you start dinner,” my musician daughter says, “never perform without practicing,” I say, be conscious of how prepared you need to be.

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