Preparation is Everything

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Chance favors only the prepared mind. Louis Pasteur

Rosamond was in her late 20s when she passed her bar exam and landed an associate position in a top city firm. Her first case put her directly under a name partner representing a large corporation's suit against a regional bank. Fresh out of law school, Rosamond arrived in her tight windowless office to a shipment of fifteen sizeable cardboard boxes jammed with bank files, statements, correspondence, sundry records—an anesthetizing Great Wall of financial figures and details. She started at box one, page one, and read every document, every line. "I'm a big believer in preparation," she said. When she reached the last box, final sheet, she started over. When she'd read everything a second time, she started through again. On the third lap, Rosamond found something important.

The day the trial started, the courtroom was dense with minions, attorneys, corporate heads, and reporters. And though a lot of leather-bound planners had been cleared for at least two weeks, the case wound up that day before noon. On her third dive into the minutia, Rosamond had found a typo that settled in favor of her firm's client.

Wrapping up the account of her first trial, Rosamond repeated her piercingly simple legal strategy: "I've always believed in preparation."

Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz is just as willing to hand off the combination to his lock on success. He says, "Preparation is everything." A few years ago, while I was working an event where Holtz was speaking, a very fit man approached me and asked to go backstage to talk to Coach. He'd played for Notre Dame, he said, but had dropped out one midseason with a bad knee and never personally told the coach good-bye. I was able to arrange a reunion and afterwards, when the former Fighting Irishman found me to say thanks, I asked him what had made Holtz a good coach.

"We never had a game as hard as practice," he said. "We never saw anything in a game we hadn't already been over." He said he'd talked to Coach in the dressing room that day for nearly thirty minutes when Lou looked at his watch and said, "Son, I go on in two hours, and you know my rules; I gotta prepare." I knew for a fact that Holtz often rolled out the same speech, but I wasn't surprised that he polished it every time. His talks were the times I found myself taking notes.

On our drives home from school, my dad used to say that anyone could show up for basketball practice, but winners practice on their own time too. In my lifetime of both practice and neglect, I've learned that preparation is an act of faith. It says that a single day's actions matter . . . that the small things will tally . . . that what we do now affects something later. But whatever the future, in our small repetitions, at the intersection of preparation and chance, we experience a part of faith.