Preparation is not an excuse for procrastination

This post will be most useful for people who experience a tendency to overthink. In The Score Takes Care of Itself, Bill Walsh writes that luck would decide 20% of the final score of the average football game. While that 20% was out of his control, he could still prepare and plan for the other 80% of the game. 

You could apply this heuristic to your work and life. It may be starting a new job, making a new creative work, or pretty much anything—you control some percentage of it, and the other percentage is out of your control.

Bill was a championship NFL coach, with decades of experience, when he made this estimate. So if you bring that level of expertise, then the percentage in your control will be high, like 80%. 

If you have much less experience, that percentage will be low, perhaps like 20%. If you’re brand new to something, you may be at 0%—which you can easily fix by having conversations with more experienced people, reading books with credible authors, and listening to podcasts with experts.

You should, of course, always prepare as much as you can. Try to keep that percentage as high as possible.

Keep in mind though, even with Bill’s experience, he could never bring that percentage to 100%. Nobody controls the outcome of a football game. That also applies to what you’re doing—no amount of preparation will enable you to fully control the outcome. 

When you try to prepare to control the outcome of your creative work, there’s a good chance you’re procrastinating. In a smart way, you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t feel good about this, I don’t want the pain of fear or criticism.” 

Sometimes, you’ll have more time to prepare, and sometimes you’ll have less time. It’s too bad, yes, but nothing to be ashamed of. Complete the work, publish it, and then move on to the next one. You’ll do better next time.

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