Overpreparation – The One Skill That Can Ensure “Extreme Success!”



When I was 13 or 14 years old, I very badly wanted to make it to the local cricket team as a pitcher. The one thing I learned was that the team needed a fast pitcher. For a frail boy of small proportions, hurling a leather ball weighing 5.5 ounces was not an easy task. The only thing I was good at was running fast, that too when the wind was behind me!

So I went about looking for a heavier ball. This was not easy, since the ball had to be of a certain size. My quest for such an object took me to the railway yard, where the foundry was located. One kind gentleman who worked there melted some iron into a spherical shape and handed it to me. I guess it weighed almost 8 pounds  and I could not throw it with ease.

Next I managed to locate an isolated spot under a bridge where there was a lot of sand and a huge rocky wall (which supported the bridge). This was my own practice spot. For at least two hours a day, I would hurl the metal ball towards the wall. Most of the time the throw would end up being a lob and he ball would fall short of the wall. But this was good enough for me. I did this routine for almost 4 to 6 months and was ready for the trials.

Needless to say, I was outstanding at the trials.  I was the fastest pitcher on trial by far and easily made it to the team.

“If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”. You must have heard this quote.

I want to take this quote a step further.

If you want to achieve extreme success, then you must over-prepare, methodically!

In the example above, I did not know my own speed, and thus did not have an idea of how much pace I needed to add. All I knew was that I badly wanted to make the team. And I went all out in my preparation.

Now I want to caution you about two things:

Firstly, you must prepare in the correct manner (go in the right direction). Over-preparing in the wrong direction will take you further away from your goal, much quicker! Adequate due diligence is required so you know exactly what to do.  This is methodical over-preparation.

Secondly, you have to pick and choose those activities, initiatives or assignments where you badly want to excel. You cannot do this for all your endeavors.

As another example, when I was getting my application ready for business school, I knew that the one thing that could catapult me to the top of the list were my essays. Having waited a long time to be ready for business school, I made the essays my top priority. Every day for two hours or more, I would refine the essays. I read and re-read any post on the internet about b-school essays. Most of them were bookmarked as my favorites. I even began reading posts on essay writing for admission to law schools. I built my own framework on how to go about the b-school essay-writing process. I must have had at least 30 iterations on my essays. I was quite proud of the final product and when the admission came, I was not too surprised. I can easily say that my essays were the single-most important contributor to my admission.

In short, I over-prepared.

I wanted to get into the school very badly. When you have such a deep desire, you tend to pull out all stops and methodically over-prepare. The results then magically fall in your favor.

As a leader, one way to be effective and get stellar results is to over-prepare. When the team sees a tremendous effort and time put in by the “over-preparing” leader, they also follow suit out of respect, admiration and team-spirit.

Do share your thoughts on this topic and what other techniques have worked for you when success is a must!

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