PREPARATION: an organizational strategy aiming to minimise the use of hope

There is no substitute for preparation, which is a process that uses planning and organization to put strategies in place to cope with the unexpected. For each and every aspired outcome, from attempting to obtain a qualification, winning a competition, creating a work of art, becoming a leader or putting humans on another planet, hope is no substitute for preparation. Whatever the domain of consideration, be it teaching, sport, politics or gardening, success or superior performance is owed in the main to considered and thorough preparation. It is the proven pragmatic behaviour that enhances the raw probabilities of success. Whilst this is scarcely surprising, what is mystifying is the number of individuals who seem unable to comprehend this reality and prefer rather to place their expectations of success on the uncertainties of hope. They buy lottery tickets, pray, wait for miracles and basically assume that they have little or no control over most of the vagaries of existence. In fact, any time allocated to 'hope' is entirely inconsequential. In most cases, undertaking an enterprise in a state of unpreparedness... when time and resources had been available but underutilised... will result in an outcome which is fully deserved and is unlikely to evoke very much sympathy.

Preparation is the process whereby anticipation and foresight direct the choice of strategies to maximize the possibilities of achieving a selected outcome. Some preparations are obvious, such as the time and effort a wasp invests in the construction of a nest to protect her eggs, but to the casual observer much preparation is invisible and unimagined. The preparation required to create an image of a wasp on its nest involves everything from a minimal knowledge of the behaviour of the animal and the patience and ingenuity to create a situation where the recording of an image is possible, thru to the almost unimaginable involvement and skill of innumerable individuals who contributed to the technology which was able to construct the device which actually did the recording. For a climbing guide, the accumulation of clothing, food, ropes, climbing equipment and emergency supplies is the final phase of the preparation for an alpine expedition, which probably extends back over years of preparatory experience.

Time and effort input into preparations should at least be proportional to the importance attached to the outcome. The more important the selected outcome is considered, the less time is available to be devoted to other activities. If your life depends upon it, be very circumspect about what diversions you allow yourself. Check the fuel levels in the aircraft before you load the luggage. After changing a wheel on your motor-home, tighten the nuts up before you go and have a cup of tea with unexpected visitors. The greater the significance that the outcome is held to have, the more the time and effort needs to be invested in getting systems in place that can cope with anything that the cosmos can throw at it.

Regrettably, due to the unlimited random resourcefulness of the universe, preparation has its limitations. The unexpected is exactly that, and no amount of creative anticipation can ever prepare for the phenomenon of improbable intrusions, whereby the most extraordinary of events can thwart the most carefully considered organization. Most weddings, funerals, concerts and sports meetings don't make much allowance in their preparations for earthquakes, broken gas mains or an invasion of locusts, but they happen quite regularly never the less. Many a boat, plane, bridge or medication has been designed and constructed after meticulous preparation and attention to detail, only to come unstuck because of an unknown or unappreciated phenomenon... like metal fatigue, resonance or biochemical intolerance. No matter how thorough the rehearsals and the backstage organization, a random fire-alarm or an exploding fuse-box can dissipate the atmosphere of any dramatic production. The most elevated of tragedies can be reduced to unforgetable farce, if a demented theatre rat runs up the toga of the leading actor.