It was the winter of 1997 and I was dressed like the Michelin Man as I stepped out of the car crunching the snow beneath my feet. I was going skiing for the first time and there was no way in which I was going to come of that mountain not able to ski, not knowing I’d given it 100%. I was warm (toasty in fact) I had outrigger poles (ski poles with skis on the bottom to assist with stability), and I’d watched, read and dreamt everything there was to know about skiing.
This is the first time that I can remember how over preparation increases one's ability to over deliver and we’ll get back to the mountain as I end this column.
Preparation can be repetitive, it can be uncomfortable, it can challenge and it can take a lot of time but in the words of Arthur Ashe “One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”
Confidence can naturally be missing when we try a lot of things for the first time but through preparation we decrease stress of uncertainty which ultimately increases our focus for attaining that most desired result. This came true while I was mentoring a young speaker as she prepared to share her story with an audience for the very first time. What she has to share is incredibly powerful and could positively impact a lot of lives but as with many other people speaking to an audience brought up so much fear.
Fear is in the unknown so let’s be familiar in as much as we can to become all that we can. If she could step onto the stage having seen it before, knowing what to wear, knowing how long her speech was, knowing exactly what she was going to say, even having the words on stage with her it would be one less thing to worry about. In the case of a speaker the concern with preparation is that one can lose authenticity, but clarity in what we know can allow us to react more confidently to those spontaneous moments. She exceeded expectations and not once did she look at her notes, but knowing they were there, knowing she had done the hard work, knowing she had stepped through the uncomfortable stages gave her confidence on that stage.
Over preparation enables us to over deliver and ultimately surprise ourselves. This has never let me down since that beautiful sunny day at the mountain. After stepping out the car and gearing myself up I pushed of down alpine meadow to the pommer at the bottom, in no way feeling cold, not once did my outrigger poles need to touch the snow, and all those images that had inspired the action gaining a whole new meaning. I was skiing not because I was born to ski, but because I’d embraced everything that could be in my control I had the confidence to succeed.