Preparation without finding answers to hard questions doesn’t count

This article is written by Abhyuday Agarwal , COO, iPleaders.

Preparation is one of the most underrated attributes for success. At least it is least spoken about and the content of it is seldom discussed.

Many coaches and gurus have said that success occurs when preparation meets opportunity, which is a really insightful quote, but what exactly is preparation and how can you prepare better?

Ironically, preparation involves hard thinking (as opposed to repetitive donkey work).

When I look back, I see that I used to spend a lot of time on unproductive activities as a child and then a youngster, which I considered to be ‘preparation’.

In school, I was an opening batsman for the school cricket team. Inter-school cricket tournament started in November every year. Apart from regular cricket coaching from the month of August, my preparation only involved visualization of how I can stay motivated and score a century on the next day. I was so needy and desperate that I could only honestly and urgently think of this goal, and beyond thinking there was not much I did.

I did not focus on the real stuff which I needed to prepare for, such as:

The vast disconnect between my goals and the actual work I put in. Cricket coaching typically lasts 90 – 120 minutes, and where a person gets only 5 – 10 minutes of net practice. That was my favourite part of the training, but I could not figure out how to train more. When I did not get it, I didn’t bother to figure out a way.

My highest score was a 70 not out when I batted for an entire inning and we lost, I did no specific preparation on what kind of strength, stamina and skill it takes to sustain my calm and score a century within the 45 over the game

I did not look at how I can play different kinds of bowling (especially good length balls) or those of good spinners who bowl on the stumps

After a certain period of time (about 12 – 13 overs), I’d get tired because of my batting stance and that would lead to reduced concentration, which in turn led to loose shots

How to ensure I play grounded shots for a loose ball – sometimes the other side would set the field according to the bowler and the slightest miscue (or even a correct hit) would go to the fielder

As you saw above, I did the repetitive donkey work of going for cricket coaching every day and 24 hours of creative visualization for a match (which is important), but no hard thinking to identify specific actions I could take to improve my weaknesses and capitalize on my strengths (despite having a cricket coach for our school team).

Had I done or even attempted real preparation, there was a chance of discovering new and effective actions to improve my batting. I could have noticed how my batting improved match after match and year after year.

I am able to look at this now, but I had no idea about this back then. As a result, the challenges and pitfalls I faced while batting in Class 10 were the same as what I faced in Class 7. There was no improvement.

Since preparation did not give me results, I got fed up and stopped preparing altogether. Results didn’t alter.

Ultimately, in the end, I thought I am not capable of performing certain kinds of tasks – like connecting with people, convincing them with my new ideas, or articulating my thoughts clearly. In my view, whatever I said always had so many holes and loose ends.

This was the case until I realized that what I considered to be prepared was merely time spent going in circles of thought around difficult loops and in anxiety. I realized that real preparation is something else.

Many law students prepare for job interviews and exams like that – they are in a lost mode and listen to what their friends, seniors and peers have to say and rely on that, without working on the following:

  • Identification of specific requirements and detailed skills necessary for the job,their own strengths,
  • identification of necessary areas of improvement,
  • identification of resources which they can use for their training

Most law students prepare last-minute for their recruitment. There is a palpable tension and pressure which they experience, and they give it due credit and keep themselves busy and say they are preparing. However, they do not always recognize that this is not preparation.

The absence of clarity creates this tension in your mind. What happens at this stage is that we go about in circles, reading up one thing and the next from what we have, and then hope that this is sufficient.

Deep down, we are clear that we have no idea about whether this will work or not. Hence, the anxiety.

That is why I call this a state of no-preparation.  

Why? Notice which of the four ingredients of preparation you missed.

First, let’s look at the identification of specific skills and requirements for the job. This step is almost always missed or performed poorly. Typically, students ask seniors how they cracked an interview, who’ve just about started getting an idea of working in a law firm. They will not be at the root cause of what ingredient gets a person recruited. Similarly, someone who is very senior may say that what is required are the ‘basics’ or ‘common sense’. That is really vague.

In that case, how can you identify specific skills and requirements for a job you want?

You can speak to recruiters who regularly make hiring decisions and have hired hundreds of people at your level (as a fresher)

You can speak to experts in training and development, who actually have trained hundreds and thousands of people to get such jobs successfully

Do you have access to these people?

You may not have immediate access, but you can search for them, find them on LinkedIn, reach out to them and then build a professional relationship. You can then ask them these questions. Keep in mind that you will not get an answer instantly – you may need to speak to ten or twenty such people just to identify what they need. This exercise can easily take you anywhere between 3 to 6 months. It is not easy to get the answers you need but it is possible if you perform all the steps correctly.

Second, you will need to translate what they need into ‘what you need to learn, study or practice’ to have successfully acquired those skillsets. This will require some experience and judgment.

Everyone is capable of performing the above tasks, but people don’t. That is exactly where they don’t prepare.

Third, you will need to identify which resources are available in the market – typically in the form of books or additional courses that will provide you with the right kind of training so that you build the skills that are required.

A second approach is that you directly do your research and find out a reliable training provider who can train you in these. For this, you can look at various books and sample study materials provided by various online training providers, speak to people from those companies and also speak to people who have pursued those courses and secured a career benefit from them.

Whatever you do, you need to do follow at least one of the two approaches. You cannot hang in the middle or follow a path incompletely.  

What is my take on this? As a co-founder and COO of Lawsikho which provides online courses you can take up to succeed in various kinds of job interviews and build different kinds of careers in law, you may think my opinion is biased. However, I firmly believe that your job is to succeed in your career and prepare with the maximum depth and velocity possible. Many people get caught up in the idea of making it on my own and decide not to take any external support. I think that really harms you and distracts you from the real goal of achieving the success you want. It actually makes your job harder. I have this view not because I run a company that provides such training, but because I myself take help from various coaches, online and offline programs in different aspects of life. Currently, I am a part of three coaching systems for effectiveness in different areas of life.

Let’s look at it with a simpler example – if your goal is to be a great batsman, will you focus on net practice and play more and more cricket matches, or will you start manufacturing better bats because you don’t want to be dependent on someone else’s bat to hit sixes and fours? You’ll trust the experts, right?

Instead of reinventing the wheel, you can actually simply skip the first and second step and trust experts who have trained others in doing this. It shortens the duration of time (easily 3-6 months) and effort you need to undertake to identify what to do, and the risk that you may make mistakes in figuring out some of the aspects. You would have done three to six months of research, whereas we have been doing this for six years.

I can offer you a simple way to start. Lawsikho consultation calls are free. You can call us, have a free career counselling session where you share your questions about your future and figure out whether the conversation actually makes a difference. You can study free materials for any number of our courses and then review if your learning has actually improved. You can check with your friends or in your network if someone has taken a Lawsikho or iPleaders course and benefited.

If you have more clarity through this process than what is already available in your environment, you will know which direction to proceed.

Now, I am not asking you to trust me – you can use the long way as well.  Both methods will work. Ensure you don’t straight away skip to the third step of preparing based on anything and everything you hear from your peers. That can be overwhelming and even misguide you.

You need to choose one method and follow it completely, else your future will be at stake.

Therefore, choose a way.

How to know whether you are really preparing?

When you are walking on the path of preparation, it is important to know whether you have made progress or not. How do you recognize whether you are spending time being worried about something or actually in preparation?

Most people get stuck around the same issue and go in circles around the same thing without resolving it, so the uncertainty of something remains. They bury the question or refuse to look at it. As a result, anxiety persists.

If you look back, take stock of things and you recognize that you have made progress, then you know that you have been really preparing. If no progress or movement is measurable, then you have not been preparing.

Irrespective of whether you take up a course to prepare or prepare on your own, you will be able to measure progress.

Preparation, Performance and Results

There is a vast difference in performance when you are prepared versus when you are unprepared. In two distinct performances, a person can look like an idiot when he or she is unprepared and a master when the person is prepared – you won’t even recognize that it is the same person.

Performance makes others ‘judge’ whether you have merit or not, but what goes unnoticed is that the differentiating ingredient is not an innate quality of merit but preparation.

Even with respect to the areas where you question your own merit, where you delve into the question of whether you are good enough or not, preparation could be the ingredient that makes a difference.

As you can see now, success is heavily influenced by preparation.

After reading this, how do you plan to prepare? What are the hard things which are buried away and which you need to think about?  

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