I had a phone call a while ago with someone who basically wasn’t doing any action because they were in preparation. Whilst I say myself that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail, I believe there is a difference between preparation with action, and preparation for action.

Let me explain:

  • Preparation for action believes that you need to create a masterplan and therefore need your key relationships and connections in place before you can do anything. It believes that all action will be based purely on this preparation. It says theory defines reality.
  • Preparation with action believes that everything is fluid. As I described yesterday, you can’t predict what will yield a return in your life — and that preparation in a vacum without action is like trying to create a master plan and predict every turn without understanding that once you begin acting, everything changes. It says reality defines theory.

The reason why I’m thinking about this is because my 18-year old brother Todd is at a cross road, as are many young people. People his age have been paralysed with too many choices, and the trait of our generation (I’m 26) is that few get into a working habit and settle down with focus. Of course, not that you have to be settled into a day job — but these guys also generally lack the self insight to know what skills they are amassing — and therefore find themselves at 30 without that fundamental knowledge of themselves, and then having to start all over again and reboot their working life.

The truth is these guys have a wealth of transferable skills, but no one to help them see that (because often they can’t see it themselves). I am concerned that we have a stronger focus on a process of “College, Uni, Gap Year, Job”, that when it breaks, people freak out, and that also skips the whole point of learning skills and leadership through action!

The lie that we’ve created for Todd and others is that you need to follow the trail of University education and everything will be OK. But I continually have graduates asking for my advice and asking to do internships with me because they have no experience and no one will hire them. They’ve been preparing for action — not preparing with action.

Preparation with action is a mindset. It just requires you to think “DO”. I keep telling the young people I work with to start doing what they love now. If they want to be film makers, don’t wait to college to ‘learn’ — start making films now! And the same with practically every other career.

My advice is two fold:

  1. Do. (Well, Do Talk Do)
  2. Rather than thinking “Uni, gap year, job, work my way up”, think “Where can I get the next transferable skill that I need to learn?”

Your Leading Thoughts

  • What would be your pieces of advice to the people in Todd’s position?
  • Is there a framework you know of that is more fleshed out than this that I can share with my interns?

Archived Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/DelfinVassallo Delfin Vassallo

    Loved this ‘preparing by doing’ thought. Preparation is not a destination, as they told us at university, rather than a continuous process.

    As you say, this kind of ‘linear thinking’ is so common amongst youngsters. I visualize this ‘preparation with action’ with concentric, interwined circles in movement: as you plan you implement and evaluate what is the result you’re getting, everythjing at same time.

    In my case I try to prepare myself by doing and failing. (exactly what is not teached at univesrities or MBA’s, they prepare you to be successful, always) Be ready to do a lot of mistakes, but most important, learn from them and continue this cyclical process. > The only way to renew yourself, despite your age.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Delfin

    I agree with you. There’s little understanding that mistakes lead to success!

    I like the idea of a cyclical process – I’m thinking!!!


  • annholman

    Love this Scott, I couldn’t agree with you more. I am bored of being in meetings with lots of preparation and no action! I’m going to especially use this from now on in!

    Just a little addition, action with impact. You can have lots of action but if it doesn’t have an impact there is no point and you still end up going round in circles!

    Cheers Ann

  • http://twitter.com/hgholt Helena Holt

    I agree. For years I used to be in awe of people with a life plan but looking back I can trace how every meandering turn I have taken has given me the skills and experience I need to be right where I am today – I couldn’t possibly have planned it and I am very lucky to have been able to make the most of the opportunities that came my way. This is the bit to plan for: be open-minded, enthusiastic, embrace challenge and change, work at doing the best you can and learn from your mistakes but above all just have a go!

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Ann

    Of course – you totally understand this. You have the mindset that sees preparation and action hand-in-hand, informing one another – and you know that ACTION must move the bottom line.

    What I am keen to know is how we get people to understand this earlier – like my brother.

    Oisin Lunny, who spoke at Like Minds Conversation Helsinki works with a project called “Business in the Community” that does internships for young people. Seeing as I already do that, I might see if I can scale to be of more help to people in Exeter.

  • / Scott Gould

    Helena – so nice to have you come by and comment :-)

    Everyone’s life seems to follow the same story. Steve Jobs called this “joining the dots in reverse”.

    The trick, like you say, is to prepare yourself for where you might be – acquiring the skills and the mindset to be open, etc.