ROI of Preparation

Gerwig 2014-08-20

Are you a sports fan? I am. While not a “rabid” sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, I definitely like to watch sports. Football. Soccer. Baseball. Basketball. Lacrosse. Hockey. Tennis. Auto racing. Futbol. Especially, futbol. Your sport of choice may be gymnastics, figure skating, the luge, or curling. But my favorite is futbol, or soccer if you live in the United States of America.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I love futbol. The World Cup, for me, is absolutely my favorite. Above the Olympics, above the World Series, above the Super Bowl. I’d rather watch an English Premier League match with Manchester United versus “anybody else” than Wimbledon or the Daytona 500. I even have favorite clubs in La Liga and the Bundesliga that I follow on regular basis.

You might not be a sports fan at all or, if you are, you might follow horse racing fan or cricket or poker (how is that really sport anyway?). But regardless, you would undoubtedly agree that great athletes and great athletic teams excel in preparation.

The same is true for all professions, hobbies, and activities. Exemplars, those who truly excel, prepare. World-class chefs prepare. World-class actors prepare. World-class pastors prepare. World-class musicians prepare. And on and on and on. If you want to be world-class you must excel at preparation.

I have friends, colleagues and family members who are great, if not world-class, at writing, martial arts, swimming, writing, story-telling, cooking, photography, running, teaching, and piano playing. How did that happen? Yes, some are born with talent. Some, but few, are born as savants. But most of us who excel at something do so because we’ve prepared.

When I was a middle-school student, I was fortunate to be a member of a swim team. My parents encouraged me to join the team to build confidence, get in shape, and stay active. I didn’t even know if I could make the team. But I did. And I practiced. I swam in the morning. I swam in the afternoon. I trained. And I worked on perfecting my stroke. I prepared. Eventually, I got better. My times started dropping. I won some heats. Then some finals. I practiced more. I was an alternate on an all-star team that traveled for an international meet in Japan. I practiced more. Prepared more. Won some medals. Traveled to Hawaii. Swam in the Junior Olympics. Won 7 gold medals.

Was I gifted? No. Was I a physically gifted swimmer? No. I had a good coach and I worked hard. I prepared. It wasn’t by luck I set 32 swimming records. It was preparation. It wasn’t because of luck that I was undefeated in freestyle and butterfly for nearly two years. It was preparation.

By the way, that was nearly 40 years ago and I’m not trying to say I was Mark Spitz or Michael Phelps. I’m saying that if you want to be good (or great) you have to prepare. If you do, there is a payback. I call it the ROI of Preparation.

You already know how it works. Study hard. Get good grades. Practice hard. Become a starter on the team. Prepare hard. Make the sale. Pay your dues. Reap the reward. And so on.

Whatever your dream, if you want to truly achieve it, you must prepare. You must do your homework. You must put in the “sweat equity.” Not everyone is gifted musically. Not everyone is gifted athletically. Not everyone is gifted intellectually. But you have gifts. And whatever they are, if you want to be good (or great), you must prepare.

Recently my wife and I went to a soccer match along with one of our sons to watch the Columbus Crew play the Los Angeles Galaxy. On the field were a handful of players who play for the U.S. Men’s National Team. These guys were recently in Brazil representing the United States in the World Cup. They’re good. And the other players on the field were also good. They may not be the very best in the world, but they’re still really, really good. They’re professionals who are the top of their profession. They’re making a living playing soccer. Think about that for a minute.

And how did they get there? They prepared. Yes, some have incredible natural talent, but even they practice. They work hard. They run. They do drills. They work out with weights. They stretch. They watch film of the other teams. They prepare mentally. To get to the top and stay on top requires preparation.

Want to be a good father? Prepare. Want to be a good leader at work? Prepare. Want to be a good student? Prepare. Want to be a good pastor? Prepare. Want to be a good chef? Prepare.

Of course the opposite applies as well. Want to be mediocre or average? Don’t prepare. Be lazy. Be apathetic. Be lethargic. The choice is yours. My hope and prayer for all of you is that you care enough to prepare, that you choose to make the preparation investment and that you encourage others to do the same. Your family. Your friends. Your colleagues. Your children. Your neighbors. Your spouse.

What is your story about preparation? What have you achieved because of your diligence and hard work? What ROI on preparation have you received?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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