How to Get Over Over Preparing
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin
Yes. I confess. I am a life long over preparer. I am one of those individuals who prepares excessively. I have a fear of being seen as someone who doesn’t know her stuff. And I carry with me a performance mentality where I have a need to be seen as an expert in my field.
The source of this is that I don’t want that experience I had as a kid when I was laughed at or made fun of because I said the wrong thing or made a mistake in front of the classroom or on the playground. This feeling still hangs on even after all these years.
A few years ago, when I was training to learn a leadership model I use, we were learning to present it in front of the other attendees. When it was my turn, I walked to the front of the room, began my presentation while tightly hanging onto and frequently referring to my notes. This enraged my instructor, who had much more faith in me than I did in myself. She walked up to me, grabbed the tightly held notes out of my hand, threw them on the floor and said, “Pat! You know this stuff. Stop preparing and trying to look good and know everything perfectly, just deliver it in your own way!”
I was shocked at the force of her action and the loudness of her voice, and I could feel the tears welling up. I took a deep breath, shook off her energy, and proceeded to give one hell of a delivery.
Why? Because she was right, I did know my stuff. This moment made me realize that up to a certain point preparing does not make any presentation better.
In reflecting on what my instructor taught me that day, I have come to realize that the less I practice looking good and the more I practice being good the easier it is for me to stop over preparing. The easier it is for me to accept that what is more important is that I stay present to others. Trying to look like the expert takes me out of the present and it is in the present that I present and connect best.
Of course I still prepare, but I’ve found it to be more fun when I bring more of my curiosity to learn and be open to others.
Besides, it saves a lot of time and if I make a mistake it allows others to watch how I recover and learn from it.
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell