By Gino Blefari
This week my travels first found me in Minneapolis for a HomeServices of America leadership conference. I spoke to the group about leadership and the West Coast Offense for running a real estate brokerage, and it was inspiring to spend some time with our organization’s current and future leaders. Next, I flew to Nashville for a creative review that will help us prepare for our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices 2020 Sales Convention and as I write this, I’m preparing for a HomeServices of America board meeting on Monday, where we’ll present the budget in preparation for the year ahead.
If you haven’t yet noticed, there’s a common theme throughout this week: preparation. In Minneapolis our team helped leaders prepare to lead with even more clarity and strength. In Nashville, we prepared the creative assets and strategy that will make our LIVE IT Sales Convention an unforgettable event. And on Monday, we’ll be reviewing the details of our 2020 budget.
For any leader, preparation is key. In fact, it might be the single-most effective way you can accomplish your goals. There’s a saying that goes, “I’m a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more luck I have.”
And it’s absolutely true.
We all encounter certain opportunities in our lives that are serendipitous. These moments in time become tipping points in our respective journeys because they’re found at the precarious juxtaposition of our current existence and change. But for a tipping point to move us anywhere, we must first be adequately prepared for the ride.
As my good friend Dwight Clark, former All-Pro wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and five-time Super Bowl champion used to say, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” The very idea of “luck” is really just a fortuitous event met with the proper preparation, enabling us to capitalize on its latent potential.
When Dwight was a senior at Clemson University, he was about to leave his off-campus apartment to play a round of golf and the phone rang. He was renting the apartment at the time with Clemson teammate Cliff Bray and Clemson quarterback (and ACC Offensive Player of the Year) Steve Fuller. Just as he thought he’d let the phone keep ringing and go golfing, he realized it might be someone calling to speak with Steve, so instead, he picked up. The man on the other end of the line was Bill Walsh, calling – as Dwight had rightly guessed – for Steve. After a brief conversation, Bill asked if Dwight would be willing to join Steve’s workout to run routes and catch the ball. (Opportunity.) Dwight said he’d be happy to. During the workout, Dwight’s years of dedicated practice paid off. He caught everything Steve threw, and the ball couldn’t help but find his fingers. (Preparation.) As the story goes, Dwight sealed his fate that day and on May 3 and 4, 1979, the NFL draft took place and Dwight Clark went in the 10th round to Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers.
Dwight’s story is a testament to preparation at work and play. When you prepare, great things happen. Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., reiterated a very similar sentiment when he said, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”
The riskiest initiatives are those for which we haven’t adequately prepared. Just like a house cannot stand without a solid foundation, we as leaders cannot find success unless we lay the groundwork of preparation, enabling us to build something exciting, innovative and new.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers: The Story of Success,” he defines success as the result of outliers who become the best in their industry because they devote an incredible amount of effort and time to achieve extraordinary results. (His theory is that it takes 10,000 hours of preparation to master anything – he calls this the 10,000-hour rule – and explained even superstars like The Beatles were able to rise in the ranks of musical history because early on, they put in 10,000 hours playing in places like the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany before ever stepping into the spotlight of the world’s stage.)
So, what’s the message? Successful leaders understand that success itself is an equation of opportunity plus preparation. Some opportunities we cannot control, others we can create but preparation is 100% ours and ours alone. We decide if we’re arriving to the meeting prepared or not. We decide if we’ll devote ourselves to continuous improvement to become more knowledgeable and more productive. We decide if we’re willing to prepare today for an even better tomorrow.