Zig Ziglar said, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” We can’t control opportunity, but we can be prepared for it. Preparation occurs when simplicity meets stewardship.
As much as I enjoy the Zig Ziglar quote, it’s pretty empty if you take it by itself at face value. I’m sure that when he originally said it, he went on to define opportunity and preparation. I’m sure that he also went on to explain why he believed success was made up of those two ingredients. But I have never heard or read the original context of the quote. I have only ever heard that one line by itself.
So for the sake of argument, I am going to assume Zig’s definition of success had something to do with achieving meaning and stability beyond oneself. Success has as much to do with helping others as it does with helping yourself.
Another Ziglar quote I often hear is “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” Because helping others is meaningful, I am going to assume that his definition of success included meaning, significance, transcendence, or whatever you want to call it.
The point is that success is bigger than just you. Success includes your tribe. Success is also bigger than just your tribe, it includes other tribes.
I am also going to assume that Zig’s definition of success included stability. You could say that I am being redundant, because there is a lot in common between “stability” and “preparation.” But for the sake of argument, I am going to say that you work from a place of preparation in order to get to a place of stability.
Preparation is the point of origin, stability is the destination.
I could just say that to be prepared is to be ready. But that is… obvious. What exactly does that mean? I think it will be most helpful to break preparation down into what it looks like internally and externally. I also think it will be helpful to think of preparation as an ongoing process, rather than a one-and-done achievement.
Preparation = Simplicity + Stewardship
The basic principle of simplicity is to clear clutter from your life. Simplicity is the cutting down phase of preparation.
The basic principle of stewardship is to save your extra resources now for when you might need or want them in the future. Stewardship is the building up phase of preparation.
If you have implemented simplicity and stewardship in your life, then you have extra gas in the tank to “go the extra mile” when the opportunity arises. Anyone can say that “going the extra mile” leads to success. I think what Ziglar was getting at is that you have to have gas in the tank (preparation), and you have to do it at the right time (opportunity).
Can you tell the difference between an opportunity and a temptation? Can you tell the difference between a good idea and a distraction?
It is your spiritual preparation, your world view, your growth, that will help you to be discerning, and to make good decisions. You need a filter to screen out the temptations and distractions while letting in the opportunities and good ideas.
How you build that filter depends a lot on your learning style and spiritual temperament. If you’re bothering to read a blog, odds are you’re a bit on the intellectual side. If you want to build a strong discernment muscle, spend your time in the wisdom books of scripture, and surround yourself with people who do the same.
I can’t resist. Call me immature.
Isn’t Viagra’s whole advertising scheme based on “being ready when the time comes?”
Okay, moving on. Olympians train hard for their sport so that their bodies can handle the punishment of competition. Parents get worn out from lack of sleep and blow up at their kids.
Filling your physical tank means getting good rest, good food, and good exercise. If you’re not sleeping, not exercising, or you’re putting garbage in your body, what are your chances of being prepared to:
- Make love to your spouse?
- Play tag with your kids / grand kids?
- Defend yourself in a fight?
- Work extra hours when it’s needed and appropriate?
Physical simplicity pretty much rest. Sleep. Creating habits that allow your body to clear the clutter (which is mostly what sleep is for). Check out the book Sleep Smarter for specific suggestions.
Physical stewardship is diet and exercise. Putting in the right fuel and tuning the motor so that you’re ready for whatever race you need to run.
Filling your emotional tank means dealing with negative emotions and maximizing room for positive emotions.
To handle your negative emotions in a healthy way, remember the GEMS (Kay Bruce):
- Gyst of what happened (or is happening)
- Emotions associated with it
- Meaning assigned to it
- Strategies for change
Dealing with negative emotions, or clearing emotional clutter, will create space for positive emotions. You can do a lot of work to deal with these yourself, or you can talk to a safe person in your life about them. Don’t handle your negative emotions by ignoring them, because they will only get more intense. Don’t handle your negative emotions by numbing them, because you’ll numb the good feelings too.
Emotional simplicity is handling your negative emotions in the right way.
Emotional stewardship is reminding yourself of good feelings. Take time at least 3 times a week to ask yourself, and write down the answers to these three questions:
- What are you thankful for?
- Who have you helped recently?
- What have you learned recently?
Unless it’s a habit that you’re highly motivated to maintain, or it’s part of your “normal,” don’t do those questions too often. If you do, the practice might lose its potency and become ritualistic.
These questions are a part of my bed-time-prayer routine with my daughter. They’re a part of her normal. I hope it’s something that she takes with her when she is older. I am highly motivated to participate and to set an example. So for us, it works really well to do this daily, but it might not work for other people.
This is really the same drum that I’ve been beating for the last month. Just in case you missed them, you might want to read my past two posts on simplicity and stewardship.
Finances are the area that I hear the most about simplicity and stewardship.
If you have a lot of debt that drains your weekly or monthly cash flow, you won’t be able to build a savings as quickly. If you don’t have an emergency fund, you won’t be able to fix or replace things easily. If you don’t have a savings, you won’t be able to pay for large expenses, or to survive a season of unemployment.
You can’t start a business if you don’t have start up funds. You can’t donate to a cause if you don’t have discretionary funds.
Have you ever made the excuse “I’d love to, but I don’t have time.”
A simple schedule is not an empty schedule. A simple schedule just reflects the right priorities.
Stewardship of your schedule is saying “I’ll make the time” instead of “I can’t find the time.”
Rory Vaden’s “Focus Funnel” is a great visualization of that illustrates both of these. It’s created for a business context, but with smart phones and mobile apps, it’s totally possible to automate a lot of tasks at home too.
Relational preparation is a lot like emotional preparation.
Simple relationships are low drama relationships. I did not say low conflict relationships. I said low drama. Drama happens when a conflicts are not handled well. Both people in the relationship have bad habits for handling their own negative emotions, and they bring those bad habits into the relationship.
If both people have good habits for handling their negative emotions, then they will have good habits for conflict resolution. Conflicts will be addressed when they are small.
Stewarded relationships have a lot of positive memories. Both people have stored up things to be thankful for in the relationship, and they have quick ways of referring to them. Both people have stored up things they’ve learned, and they are quick to remember those lessons. Both people remember when one of them was a better fit for a challenge they faced together, or one was stronger than the other.
Add Your Voice (comment below)
- Which area of life are you least prepared for?
- What are you doing to implement simplicity or stewardship in that area of life?
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