Preparation Alone Doesn’t Cut It

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

We like to think of ourselves as gifted individuals who can conquer the business world with good education, elaborate plans and fine strategies. Academics and experts confidently tell us everyday what works and what doesn’t. We listen to their convincing theories, and we presume that business success is predictable, just a matter of careful application of these known business principles.

This approach to success causes many businesses to experience desperation at one point or another. “What more can I do to make my product sell?” cries the owner. But after countless debates and trials, with no results, he ends up sitting back, hoping that some day business will take off.

If success has a predictable formula, why do businesses have to go through this frustration? If we have so much know-how, shouldn’t we just be able to apply it and succeed?

In an attempt to understand why the world doesn’t actually work this way, I came across Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard, the author of the much acclaimed book, ”Stumbling on Happiness”. The findings of his research help explain the disconnect between theories of success and its realities.

According to Gilbert, we are particularly bad at predicting the future and making decisions for ourselves.

Apparently, since we can’t predict what will happen, the best way to understand what works and what doesn’t is simply to try it. But trying requires tolerating failure, and most of us are hard wired to avoid that at all costs. That is why we pay big dividends to those willing to risk this kind of failure, to go wherever chance and experimentation may lead them.

We need that trial and error to lead the way through the new worlds in business, because business as we used to know it is long gone. The old ways aren’t enough anymore.

Rapidly evolving internet technologies and communication styles are one of these new lands, and they have changed the dynamics of business forever. For a long time, we’ve said “the customer is king”, and now it has finally come true.

In this kind of environment, there is no straightforward formula for success. It turns out success also depends on a healthy dose of luck. When you’ve done all you can do, you have to stop pushing, and just go with the flow. No amount of hard work is going to force open luck’s door. But given how our brain is wired, waiting for it to open on its own is not easy to do.

When luck does finally knock at the door, it comes completely out of the blue. It comes not because we are brilliant or uniquely talented, but because we just happen to be in the right place at the right time.

But then, as somebody once said, luck is when opportunity meets preparation. To take advantage of it, we have to have already put in the hard work, so we can have that defining moment.

People give different names to moments like these. Some say kismet, others fate.

Regardless of what you call it, when an opportunity falls in your lap, it is up to you to make something of it. It is up to you to seize it and turn your hopes into success.

Consider Daniel Dae Kim, who rose to international stardom on the hit TV series “Lost”. In an interview with The Korea Times, he explains his fame in these words: “To be on a show alone is lucky, but to be on a hit show that wins awards and to be recognized all over the world, that’s maybe once in a lifetime.”

He continues, “Work hard. Because if you only get that opportunity once in your career, you have to be able to seize it … because you may not get another chance. Because if you’re not prepared, that one chance might miss you and that will be the end.”

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