I recently came across the blog post, “Unprepared” by Seth Godin that hit home for me, not just as someone who suffers from chronic procrastination but also on a deeper level. In the posting, Godin argues that being unprepared is not always a bad thing. He points out that there are two types of unpreparedness that we often conflate as one.
The first type of unpreparedness is what we commonly think of with dread. The thought of writing an important test without studying and not knowing the topic, or walking on a stage and forgetting your line makes most people shudder.
But the second type of unpreparedness is a space of creativity. When doing something for the very first time, everyone is unprepared. This is the unpreparedness of surprise, of breakthrough, of innovation and love. No one can prepare for moments of genius that often come in the middle of a shower or driving down the highway. These moments of inspiration and the leap of faith required to see them come to fruition is where unpreparedness can propel us to growth, discovery and success.
Creating the Conditions for Being Unprepared
Being unprepared means allowing yourself to jump at opportunities and new experiences that you never imagined you could do and that starts with dreaming of bigger possibilities for you, your life and your business. Many studies and articles (including these Times and Atlantic articles) have been published recently highlighting the intrinsic value of daydreaming.
Although mindfulness and meditation have been touted as a way to improve our stress levels and improved cognitive function, psychologists are now insisting that it is equally important to allow your mind to wander. Although daydreaming is often associated with being inactive, trends showed that daydreaming often leads to insights and connections that allow us to become increasingly goal-oriented and future looking.
Daydreaming allows us to reconnect to our imagination, our self-awareness and begin to plan for the future. By allowing ourselves the downtime required to daydream and think outside of the box we can begin to connect with the larger dreams and goals we have for our lives.
Being unprepared also requires a certain degree of detachment. We often stress about the need to always be completely prepared for all situations. As business owners and professionals, we sometimes hold ourselves to impossible standards and micro-manage situations. In our need to always be in control and hyper-prepared, we can cut ourselves off from the possibility of new opportunities and new ideas.
However, this may not be the key to success. A number of business magazines and thought leaders have written about the importance of letting go, hiring people who compliment your skill set and who you trust enough to give almost complete autonomy (see Inc.’s article on Why the Best Leaders Learn to Let Go). Understanding that you cannot prepare for every situation and let go of the need for constant control will allow you to focus on future plans and make them into reality.
Godin’s point is not that we should be unprepared for meetings, for a large presentation or even for our average work day. Rather, being unprepared means being open to the possibility of new things; of bursts of creativity, of the possibility of something new. Often the way we can grow most in life is by taking a leap and doing something we would otherwise never dream of doing because think we are ‘unprepared’.
“If you demand that everything that happens be something you are adequately prepared for, I wonder if you’ve chosen never to leap in ways that we need you to leap. Once we embrace this chasm, then for the things for which we can never be prepared, we are of course, always prepared.”
– Seth Godin
In the end, as Godin points out, we can all handle far more than we think – we are always, even if we don’t know it, prepared.