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Preparation + Chaos = ?

February 4, 2011

You’ve heard the following once and you’ll undoubtedly hear it again:

“Success is when preparation  meets opportunity.”

I have a few questions when it comes to this wonderfully overused phrase:

  • How do you define success?
  • Is the opportunity one you are expecting or is it one that shows up unexpectedly and out of the blue?
  • How often does opportunity really come knocking on your door? Once, twice, maybe three times if you’re lucky?

Photo courtesy of Motivated Photos

These are the questions that run through my head every time someone utters those words. This is not to say that the aforementioned phrase is confusing to me in any way. Believe me. I get it. Prepare, prepare, prepare! Because, if you do, when opportunity comes a knockin’ (and you’re hoping, sort of expecting, that it will) you’ll be ready. And, due to all that preparation, success will be waiting for you on the other side.

I get it.

I’m all for preparation and planning. My life would be in complete shambles if I didn’t prepare, plan and map things out. What I get hung up on is the opportunity part. The way that I think about that phrase is that, on some level, you’re expecting that certain opportunity to come around. Whether it does or not is a different kettle of fish. Until it does, you prepare, hope that your preparation is enough, and wait. But, what do you do if all that preparation is greeted by the unexpected? Are you going to be as successful?

Let’s change the phrase so that it reads:

“Success is when preparation meets chaos.”

That’s right. Chaos. Success is when preparation meets chaos.

No matter how many hours, days, weeks or months you’ve spent preparing, your success will, at times, be defined by how you handle the unexpected. If you can’t tackle the unexpected and handle the chaos, then you have to wonder…were those hours, days, weeks and months of preparation even worth it?

The amount of time you spent preparing for something won’t mean squat if you can’t think on your feet.

While we’re often told that our success is defined by how we handle opportunity, I think our success is better defined by how we handle life’s unanticipated ups and downs.

Over prepare, then go with the flow.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2011 10:50 am

    This was so me yesterday. Took me till 11:30 PM last night, but I dug down deep. And won! 🙂

    • February 5, 2011 11:04 am

      Good for you Lori 🙂 Those types of instances are such definers in my mind. How we handle the pressure, the stress, the unknown. Sometimes it would be so nice to bury our heads in the sand but overcoming that obstacle is an indescribable feeling.

  2. February 17, 2011 8:49 am

    So true. Success is how we handle the unexpected because let’s face it. The unexpected? Expected it! It happens when we least expected it and that is just life. What do we do then? Lay down and cry or put our big girls panties on, grab the situation by the horns and show the world and ourselves the strength and character that perhaps we didn’t know we even had. All the while growing stronger and wiser as we are now better prepared to handle the opportunities that we are “searching” for (can’t sit around waiting for them, we need to go find them if you really want to them to happen) and even more-so the next UNEXPECTED time in our life.

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