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Are You Preparing for Success, or Just Waiting?

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Are you preparing for success, or, to paraphrase Shakespeare, waiting for success to be thrust upon you?

My first job in television was basically that of a glorified secretary (and by “glorified” I mean “unglorified”). My primary function was to answer viewer mail. At around 2:00pm on my first day, while I was answering the 50th inane request for the Chicken Kiev recipe that some local chef had made on our morning show the previous day, I recall thinking what a perfect use this was of my brand new Bachelor’s degree. Still, I was hoping for more. So when quitting time rolled around, rather than go home, I found my way to the engineering department and asked them if they had a manual for the video editing machines. They gave me one, and I spent the next eight hours teaching myself how to edit. I did this for the next four days; then, the following week, I did the same thing with the video cameras. And then, I waited for someone to get sick.

Eventually, somebody did get sick, and because I had prepared, I was ready and able to step in. That led to some small producing and editing assignments, which led to bigger assignments, which eventually led to a national career and 29 Emmy awards.

Now, in all honesty, some of that career was due to talent and skill, and a whole lot of it was due to luck. The point, though, is that none of it would have happened if I hadn’t taken it upon myself to prepare for future success. Nobody was going to come up to me and ask me if I wanted to learn how to edit, or how to shoot video. That wasn’t my job; my job was answering viewer mail. But while doing the job I had, I was preparing for the job I wanted to have.

When I was producing my own television show and hiring interns, I was amazed at how few of them took it upon themselves to really prepare for their future. They had an entire TV station at their fingertips, and didn’t take advantage of it. Instead of figuring out what they might need in the future, and then going after it, they waited for somebody to come give it to them. And, almost without exception, it’s the interns who were proactive, and who did prepare for success, who are now enjoying successful television careers.

When the Beatles were first starting out, they didn’t have a lot of gigs. What they had was a lot of downtime. Did they spend that downtime waiting for somebody to come along and thrust success upon them? Nope. They kept practicing their instruments, learning new arrangements, and writing songs. They were preparing for their future success—and when the opportunities finally starting coming along, they were ready.

No matter where you are in your career, there are things that you can be doing—right now—to prepare for future success. Until the economic recovery really starts to kick in, many of you may be experiencing some downtime. So what are you going to do with it? Are you going to sit around waiting—hoping—for somebody to come along and change things for you? Or, like the Beatles, are you going to figure out what you’ll need in the future, and then go get it?


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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  1. Jerry Dreessen  January 15, 2010

    Bill, you need to take just this ONE message to the high schools. The Jr. Class would be the best, and get it planted in their DNA.
    Unless you have an “owner’s” mentality, you’ll always be an employee stickin’ it to the man…

  2. Bill Stainton  January 15, 2010

    Jerry — I love the idea of an “owner’s” mentality! You, of course, as the owner of a highly successful chiropractic practice would know that, but it’s lost on a lot of people.

    I’ll consider your idea of taking this message to high schools–although high school students are just about the toughest audience there is! Strange that a guy who makes his living speaking to thousands of businesspersons in corporations and associations around the world would be intimidated by a bunch of 16-year-olds!


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