How do you know when you’re ready? As I’ve often said, Adventure Doesn’t Happen by Accident, and being prepared is an important part of how we get to adventure, to the unknown, to grow, to love, to anything in life, really.
In fact, being prepared is all we can do—but it certainly isn’t everything. We have to leave space in our lives and in our selves, for adventure, for the other, for the universe, for what we can’t do, for what is not ourselves. We are more than is within us, and so it’s impossible to ever be fully prepared. Being fully prepared would prevent anything new from happening!
We need to be as prepared as we can be without being over-prepared. We need our tools at hand, but we don’t want to trip over the tool belt. There’s a decreasing return on preparation beyond a certain point, and being over-prepared uses up valuable time, before we’ve even started. Trying to be prepared for everything that could happen blocks the emergence of spontaneous, creative solutions that we would not be forced to find had we prepared for every eventuality (which is impossible anyway).
Being prepared is just one part of being ready. We also have to leave space for creativity. Being ready doesn’t just mean doing, it also means not doing. To create the preconditions for intuitive action, we have to let intuition in, and intuition needs space to dance, to feel its way to the next move.
I used to have a habit of trying to carry everything down to the garage basement at once—and then I’d often find myself dropping things on the stairs. I realized that I was being lazy in trying to carry everything and avoid a second trip, and that it was my laziness that was causing me to drop things. Being over-prepared means your hands are full, your attention is on everything you’re carrying, and not on what’s around you. You are focused inward, on holding what you have, versus focusing outward on receiving, perceiving, on options and action.
Luck is like adventure—we can be prepared for it to happen, but we can’t force it to happen. The Roman Stoic Seneca defined luck as “what happens when preparation meets opportunity” — and we have to leave space for opportunity. As with adventure, opportunity must be, at least in part, unknown, and there is no way to “prepare,” to pre-make, the unknown.
If we are focused most of all on the preparation, we are, as Heidigger put it, “waiting for” something fixed and pre-determined. Over-preparation is closure. Being just ready enough, perhaps 80% ready, leaves the window open—”waiting upon” insight, openness, mystery, opportunity, adventure, and growth.
As Nassim Taleb writes in Antifragile, “This is the central illusion in life: that randomness is risky, that it is a bad thing — and that eliminating randomness is done by eliminating randomness.” In Hamlet, we are reminded that “the readiness is all,” the lesson being that being ready is achieved by preparing ourselves as best we reasonably can, and then to “shed the burden of obsession and accept what is to be” 1https://stuffjeffreads.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/hamlet-on-acceptance-the-readiness-is-all/
Options are freedom, not preparedness. Be only as prepared as necessary to create options, not more. If you think you may be ready, you are ready. It’s impossible to be 100% ready, so be just ready enough.