I like to work harder than the average Joe when it comes to getting my stuff done. I double majored, triple minored, took 2 jobs throughout college, and joined a mentorship program to mentor underclassmen transitioning into college. My summers were spent in internships and working out, making sure that the dreaded Sarcopenia doesn’t hit me in my 30s and beyond as extensively as someone who hasn’t been physically active.
Everyone wants and has the will to win, but not everyone puts in the preparation and work that’s needed to actually win. Winners aren’t born, winners are made.
Is it Hard to Over-Prepare?
The thing about over-preparing, the very definition is to put in more effort than another. If you’re not in a competition with others then assume you’re competing against yourself and put in more effort in than you normally would have. The beauty about effort is that it’s not hard or complicated.
It’s putting in more hours than the next person. It’s not hard to stay an hour later than the next person. It may be tiresome, annoying, or just plain out something that a person may not want to do, but it’s not hard to put in the extra hour.
You may be asking “What’s an extra hour going to do?” and in the short term, it’s probably not going to make a significant impact. However, one hour extra a day is 260 hours (52 weeks * 5 hours extra) over the year. I’m a firm believer in the 10,000 hour rule, which states that to be the best at something, it requires 10,000 hours to be comfortable doing so. The idea is by Malcolm Gladwell.
Why Under-preparing Doesn’t Work
It’s better to be over-prepare for everything that you do that could put yourself up for success, such as a presentation, job interview, etc. I would always be wowed by people who have natural talent and say “I accomplished this with the minimal amount of effort.” Because I was so impressed, I changed my behavior and would try to figure out how to optimize my time to do the least and get the most.
This is exactly like timing the market. You will have no idea exactly how long an activity would take to complete and by trying to optimize (i.e. timing the market to try to get the most returns) your time and put in the minimum amount of effort, results could suffer. If you get it right, you will have fantastic efficiency, but just like timing, you never know. Never sacrifice results for efficiency.
Over-Preparing is a Natural Hedge to Being Fired
GE was famous for its use of “rank and yank” where the bottom employees got fired and the cycle repeated. I personally wouldn’t thrive in this pressure-filled type of environment but I am pretty sure my boss is watching my every move in terms of work performance and seeing if I deserve to be with the company in the next year. The pressure exists whether I like it or not.
Doing things half-hearted and half-willed is not going to make my boss recommend me to not be fired or be promoted for that matter. The ones who perform (and I’m talking all around performance, office politics, job functions, and revenue generation) are the ones who get awarded the carrot, more often than not.
Yes, it’s surprising that office politics have to be there but it’s necessary. A professor once told me “you don’t want to play office politics? Good, leave it to others who want to get ahead play it.” I didn’t want to play it because of my ego, I felt that I didn’t need to play office politics and that only my direct performance with the job will matter but I am wrong. I can’t let my ego get in the way of my goals so I quickly changed my view as soon as my professor said that.
Over-Preparing is Everywhere
Why go through a presentation after putting the PowerPoint slides together at the last minute? For naturally good presenters and talkers, it might be easy to get away with it in the short term. However, the higher up the good presenter goes, the easier it is for management to figure out if he or she actually knows the material.
In the short term, it’s very easy to get away by giving off the impression of knowledge by talking greatly in length. In the long term, it’s very easy to get penalized by giving off the wrong impression. The more involved senior management is in the project, the harder it will be to BS.
Why only put in 5-10% into a 401k for retirement? Will the government will take care of elders through Social Security? What if they suddenly change the laws canceling it? I wouldn’t be dependent on the government for money, especially when baby boomers these days are going to take all of the social security funds.
It wouldn’t be smart to under-prepare for something that could make the difference between living comfortable and not after putting in 40 years worth of sweat, frustration, and stress. Yes, it could mean less frequent trips to the bar but does going out doesn’t add too much utility. I don’t think drinking, eating unhealthy food, or adding to the money stress is worth it.
Readers, what do you think about over-preparing? Do you put in the work in order to succeed?
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