Words of wisdom tend to leap out at me from the most unexpected places: my nephew at three years-old, a line from a silly movie, and one of my favorites, during a presentation on professional speaking.
A professional speaking presentation is not exactly the place I expected to find a perfect metaphor for life. But that’s exactly what happened when the speaker said, “Prepare, prepare, prepare, then throw away your notes.”
Of course he was talking about knowing your stuff so cold that you’re flowing with whatever shows up – a half empty or too-full room, malfunctioning equipment, or a church revival going on in the room next door (yes, that really happened at a conference I attended).
But the more significant point is that planning is good, but ultimately you don’t control what actually happens. And isn’t that true for everything in life?
I’m a planner. Big time. Which can be a strength, except when I cross the line from planning to control. (I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one this happens to :-).)
A few weeks after that presentation I was in the Miami airport, waiting for a very delayed flight. Walking to the counter to ask, again, if any new information was available, it hit me … this was a good time to “throw away my notes.”
As soon as I let go of wanting to control the situation (as if I could anyway!), I realized there were lots of ways to use, and even enjoy, that time – to be present to what was.
I found a coffee kiosk, leaned up against a wall, and proceeded to read half a book that had been on my list for months. It seems obvious in retrospect, but at the time I was so focused on trying to keep my plans intact that I almost gave away the chance to enjoy the opportunity that the delay was offering to me.
Too often when you’re hanging onto your plans, working like crazy to make them happen, the real opportunity passes right by and you’ve missed something good – maybe even something incredible.
Don’t stop your planning and preparation; it’s undoubtedly contributed to your success.
But next time you find yourself on the control side of the line, take a deep breath, toss your notes, and work with what’s really there.
You might just find that’s the exact moment you live your day the way you want to live your life.
“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”
~The Dalai Lama