Out in centerfield, the game seemed too far away to matter. The cool breeze passing over the outfield deadened the sound of cheering parents in the distance. I wanted to be a part of the game. I wanted to, against all odds, catch a game-winning pop-fly with the wind at my back and the sun in my eyes. But it wouldn't happen that day. The thoughts in my head were too distracting, and I was, as they say, picking daisies.
Of the hundreds of baseball games I played, this was the one I should have been ready for but wasn't. The ball took flight and sailed my way. The cries of parents and coaches in the distant dugout made their way across the field, arriving too late and falling on my preoccupied ears. I should have caught that ball, but it landed behind me and rolled away fast, as if downhill.
Chasing after it, I may as well have run off the field, far away from my misery and my teams' disappointment. In my embarrassment, it was too hard to learn my lesson... a lesson that I would learn time and time again. That winning doesn't happen during the game; it happens off the field. That in order to succeed, you need to pay attention, and you need to be ready.
Like that ball, flying by the power of the hit and crashing under the force of gravity, the world won't wait for you to be ready. Whatever it is you are trying to accomplish, the world won't wait for you to prepare. You may want that ball, that job, or that promotion with all your heart; but if you're not ready, the world won't wait.
The world won't wait!
It may sound cold and heartless, but it is nothing of the sort. Try as we might to make important decisions, those decisions will be weak if we're not ready. We'll be proverbial "ball droppers"--disappointing others, leaving unfinished business, and giving someone who is ready the chance to fill in our gaps.
Particularly in the case of business, no company can afford to wait around for their employees to fill gaps in their talent. There are too many competitors and too many market forces. As a business, waiting means losing your edge. Waiting means allowing a rival to build your product first. Waiting means death.
So how can you be ready? First understand what it is you want to be ready for. Design your path forward and know where you want to be. Spend a few hours thinking through the next few years of your life, imagining how you'd like it to end up. Only with a specific goal in mind can you find opportunities that align with that goal.
Once you understand your goal and have defined your path, take note of any shots to bring that goal closer. Rush every opportunity that aligns to your plan, no matter how small. If you're looking for that promotion to manager, look for every chance to be a team lead, operate the management software, etc. Dress the part, act the part, and prepare for the part. Over time, your coworkers will begin to envision you in that part, and when the opportunity arises, you'll be ready for it.
Too often we sit back and expect someone to promote us, give us that raise, or praise us for a job well done. But this is a passive way of living. It's a comfortable way of living that doesn't require us to do much more than what we already know. Achieving another level of success means being ready. Being ready takes planning, foresight, and work. It requires you to learn, stretch yourself out of your comfort zone and reach for the next level of success in your career and life.
Being ready means expecting that fly ball to come your way on every play. If you're picking daisies, you'll miss the ball that comes sailing in, and people won't forget. But if you've practiced catching a ground ball, a pop fly, a line drive, you'll be ready to snag one in a game. If you've studied how each player hits, you'll be able to anticipate where the ball will fall and place yourself in a better position to catch it.
Study study study, plan plan plan, work work work, and be ready for your next opportunity. Even the small one's matter and eventually a big one will come along. Between both, you'll be more successful than you ever could have been sitting back and waiting.
The world doesn't wait. Be ready!