Skip to content

Be Prepared

Minimizing Disruption is Key to Success


“Success depends upon previous preparation and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” -Confucius

On August 14, 2003, I was leaving Manhattan with friends when the traffic lights failed. The entire electricity grid had gone down in the city and surrounding areas. Fortunately we escaped the inevitable disruption that continued for many days as we were well on our way out of town. As we drove north, however, many cars were having to pull over because they’d run out of gas. We were more fortunate. The friend, who was driving us, always kept the tank topped up so we arrived safely.

I learned a big lesson that day. Up until then I only thought to fill up when the warning light came on. Had we been in my car we might all have been stranded on the side of the road in need of rescue. As it was the inconvenience was minor and we were able to help others in need. All thanks to one person who had the foresight to be prepared.

Twenty years later, with constant news of dysfunction and disruption in the headlines, as we deal with unprecedented weather, polarizing ideologies and global health issues, I’m reminded of this lesson from twenty years ago and its relevance today. The better prepared we are to deal with these challenges as they impact our lives, the more successful we will be.

What can we do to be better prepared? It is no coincidence that today’s major disruptors share a common thread: we are all connected and what affects one of us affects us all. We know that every choice we make affects others positively or negatively; to be responsible is not simply for our benefit. It’s essential for the success of us all.

Because today’s challenges seem daunting, a prevalent strain of victim culture permeates the atmosphere. It’s far easier to blame others than to assume responsibility for our own preparation. This is a natural human response. When we feel this way (and we all feel this way at some point or another) it is harmful for we place the burden on everyone else to pick up our pieces.

This disrupts our relationships and compromises our support structures. We all know how upsetting it is to feel used, abused or disadvantaged when those around us are unprepared. The collective result is more dysfunction and disruption; stress levels show up as overwhelm, anxiety, depression, passive aggressive acting out, anger and even violence. The consequences can be long lasting and even catastrophic for if people have a choice they are not going to want to be around dysfunction and disruption. Unprepared people create a level of distrust and dislocation; they are unreliable and can compromise our success.

Here are some proactive and doable steps we can take every day in our lives to do our part in helping calm today’s turbulent waters. To prepare involves making the conscious choice to take thought-out actions such as: do your research, make a plan, communicate clearly, never make assumptions, do what you promise, pay attention to the present moment, be punctual and care for your mental and physical wellbeing.

Of course we have no certainty what the future has in store. But we do know, in the words of Confucius that, “success depends upon previous preparation and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Our responsibility then is to prepare and organize for ourselves and others; none of us can be truly successful alone.

The more successful we are, the more success we will have to navigate the challenges we face today.