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Are You Prepared for the Unknown?

by David Allen

Something is coming up that is going to change your world.
Probably within a few days. You don’t see it yet. You don’t have any idea at this point what it’s about. But it’s there, rolling inexorably forward, destined to throw a spin into your world you do not expect.

It could show up in minutes, hours, or days. But it will show up. Trust me. (Mark exactly 4 weeks from today on your calendar “David Allen said a month ago that something was coming I couldn’t foresee that would impact me significantly.”) Prove me wrong.

Are you ready?

    Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.Henry Ford

Is that unexpected event or input going to add insult to injury, by just adding more out-of-control-ness to your life? Or are you going to relate to it as the next creative opportunity to graduate yourself into a new level of expression and contribution?

So, how are you getting ready for the surprises and the opportunities and the spin that a new experience is going to put on your status quo?

I think there are basically two levels to handle, to be ready for surprise:

  1. The Spiritual. If God is all, and you’re part of that, just relax. (Another essay sometime...!)
  2. All the Rest. For this you must Get Your Act Together, So You Can Shift Gears As Required.

“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war” is an old oriental proverb. The military model is not a bad onein the armed forces if you’re not fighting, you’re training.

Most people catch up with their life and get ready for change the week before a long vacation; when they divorce and have to sell everything they own and move; or when some other major life catastrophe occurs which causes them to rethink it all, get some clear edges around their commitments and their “stuff.” They’re cleaning up, closing up, clarifying, and re-negotiating all their agreements with themselves and with others involved.

I suggest you do it weekly. And get yourself organized enough so that when a meeting is late starting you are processing your in-basket or cranking down your FYI-to-read stack; or when you’re waiting for your spouse to get ready (like, really ready) you’re checking to see if there’s a phone call you could make to use the time well. I know very few people on the planet who care enough about their time and what they’re doing, every minute, to maximize those kind of windows. If you’re not, I’d ask yourself: Why not?

When they jump you in a dark alley, it’s too late to practice your moves.

    “When you know everything, you are like a dark sky. Sometimes a flashing will come through the dark sky. After it passes, you forget all about it, and there is nothing left but the dark sky. The key is never being surprised when all of a sudden a thunderbolt breaks through. And when the lightning does flash, a wonderful sight may be seen. When we have emptiness we are always prepared for watching the flashing.”

Shunryu Suzuki

Copyright 1999, David Allen & Co. All rights reserved.

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