Preparation vs. Readiness

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I once visited some friends in San Francisco who had copied our idea of renting an extravagant house and splitting the cost between the pickup artists who lived there. We called ours Project Hollywood, they called theirs Project San Francisco.

We sat around their living room, bonding over stories of the perks and follies of communal living. Chores were a sore subject. Our house was always messy– so messy that maids usually quit after cleaning up after us once. Their house was clean. How did they do it?

“Our goal is to keep our place at a nine out of ten in cleanliness.”

Nine out of ten was good enough. Who else admits, even for something small like keeping their house clean, that their goal isn’t perfection?

Crossfit, a popular (and amazing) fitness program, does. Coach Glassman, the founder of Crossfit, once said this, comparing Crossfit to other workout programs:

“We do what you do almost as well as you, you can’t do our stuff at all, and we do what neither of us do better than you can.”

A top Crossfit athlete won’t win a marathon. The guy who has trained his whole life for marathon running will win it. Crossfit athletes are okay with that. If a Crossfit athlete were to compete in a weight lifting contest, he probably wouldn’t win at that either. And, like the marathon, that wouldn’t bother him either.

Crossfit isn’t in the business of preparation. It’s in the business of readiness. A Crossfit athlete is ready for anything. He may not win the marathon, but he’ll probably complete it, even though he hasn’t ever specifically trained for it.

You can prepare for a trip, or you can be ready to travel. The prepared traveler who goes to Costa Rica will have a snorkeling mask, two bathing suits, and sun tan lotion. He’s ready for Costa Rica. He knows he’s staying at a resort, so he has two suitcases full of stuff. The porters will carry it for him.

On the other hand, I’d show up to Costa Rica with a completely different set of stuff. My small backpack can’t accommodate a snorkeling mask, so I’d have to borrow one. I have one Speedo, which I might have to wear even if it’s still wet from the previous day’s swimming. The prepared traveler’s experience in Costa Rica will be slightly easier than mine.

The benefits of readiness kick in when I buy a last minute plane ticket from Costa Rica to Alaska. The warm clothes I pack may have been useless in Costa Rica, but they keep me warm in Alaska. Not as warm as people who packed big down sleeping-bag jackets, but warm enough. A nine out of ten.

I base my whole life around readiness. I’m not a master of any language other than English (and even that could be debated), but I can get by in three or four others. I’m not a master chef, but I can cook a pretty good meal out of just about anything. I probably couldn’t get a job as a programmer, but if I need a program or web site written, I can do it myself.

Embracing readiness is accepting that life is chaotic and random. The more things you’re ready for, the more opportunities you can take and the more you can squeeze out of life. Readiness grants you resilience, and the ability to operate off the beaten path, whether you got there by choice or by accident. By adopting a goal of readiness, you become best prepared for life.

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