Choosing the Right Words

I’ve taken up my position today at Nelly’s Java in Oakland’s Montclair District as I do most mornings, my quiet refuge to write and gather up the momentum to get through the day. Claudia the barista makes me my cappuccino and asks, “What’s it gonna be about today?”

“What are you preparing for?”

“The rest of my life.”

She laughs. “How long is that going to take?”

“I should have it done by 7:30, but I’ve been thinking about it for a week.”

I have now dedicated my life to words, and I am going to need to locate the perfect ones this week.

I’m reminded of any number of 80’s movie montages, where the protagonist is preparing for the big meeting – the cheesy music plays while our hero stays up late nights thumbing through books, scribbling on easels, formulating plans, his friends nodding their approval.

That will be me this week. I have two rather momentous events coming up. The first is Thursday morning, the second Thursday night – one involves my career and the other involves…my career. No pressure at all! 
If I prepare for these two events like an Olympian prepares for a competition, I will have given myself the best chance to succeed. In order to walk into the two venues where I will be “performing” (an office and a packed nightclub) with my confidence at 100%, I will need to do exhaustive preparation. I will need to know the answer to all the questions I will ask; I will need to anticipate surprises and work out reaction scenarios.

Here’s what’s going to really happen Thursday: the unexpected and unplanned will occur, the contingencies I prepared for will not be raised, and I will most likely have to wing it.

When you have done your homework, you will be ready. I tell my students at school (when discussing interviewing techniques) to have twice as many questions as you think you’ll need, then add 10 more. The preparation will erase any fears about not having enough to say, it makes you a better listener, and that creates the perfect environment for ad libbing!

Of course I’m nervous. Anyone that says they aren’t nervous in these situations is lying; there is a difference, however, in the kind of nerves you’ll have. When you have exhaustively prepared for that interview, meeting or performance, you will be challenged – when you meet those challenges you gain confidence, and now you’re relaxed…now you’re firing on all cylinders. 
There are no guarantees in this life, but it’s completely possible to be free of regret. Thursday, I’ll be ready to play.


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