I learned an important lesson in high school about preparation. Some peers and I participated in a talent show/fundraiser event. A group of us got together to perform a funny old song, the details are foggy (probably for a reason). I was the lead singer, and I was pretty confident about the whole thing, the band, my part, the quality of the material. We were really going to impress some people. Maybe I yet hadn’t learned how to pay attention to nervousness, maybe I just way overestimated my own abilities, or maybe a bit of both, but the level of preparation I gave to my lines was minimal. I only sort of had the song memorized, but I was sure it would all be in my head when the lights went bright and the music began. I was even confident that they’d be there after I forgot the first time, while on stage, and had the band start over. I even thought maybe I could piece it together after the second restart, while still on stage. Somewhere through the third disastrous start, my Dad, sitting near the front row, motioned for me to use the lyrics which I (thankfully) had in my pocket. The fourth try went mostly without a hitch, though I was so broken by that point I was having trouble even reading the words. For high school me, it was fairly devastating, but emotions run high in high school. I remember thinking that the thorough humiliation I had undergone was just a wound to my overworked pride. But my Dad talked to me afterward in the depth of my despair, and said simply, “you gotta prepare.” So I learned that preparation is important.
In college, this important lesson was reinforced in a much happier way. I’m not usually a performative type person, but I ended up in another performance event (as I think back, my brother was an instigator for both of these groups and he does have the performance gene), this time lip-syncing. We gathered a few close friends, five us of in all, and set out to imitate NSYNC’s famous ‘Bye Bye Bye’ dance. We spent hours upon hours in the basement of our small college gym, dealing with crappy wifi and incomplete YouTube videos, rehearsing the beautiful (depending on the refinery of your tastes) choreography of NSYNC. The crowd was significantly larger this time (and included my future wife), the lights brighter, the music louder, and the stakes much higher. But this time an amazing thing happened, the first try went off without a hitch! And not only that, but we also won the category for ‘best applause’! We were a hit! So I learned that preparation pays off.
Preparation usually isn’t a lot of fun. The fun part is the game, or the performance, or the meeting, or the presentation, or whatever it is. But here’s the deal, the fun part sucks if you haven’t prepared, and it can be better than you hoped if you have.