Preparation 5 — What Being Unprepared Looks Like

Preparation 5 — What Being Unprepared Looks Like

This is part of a presently ongoing series about Preparation. Each post has been made more or less self-contained, and refers to other portions of the series and elsewhere when helpful. They can be read in any order, though they thematically still build on one another in sequence, and I recommend reading them from the beginning. To be notified when a new entry is released, and to receive instant notifications for any other updates on the site, please head here. Feel free to give me feedback on any of them as well, either in the comments below them, or by contacting me—particularly if there is something specific that should be addressed as the series progresses.

What Does Being Unprepared Entail?

Now that we’ve answered the question of “what is preparation?”1, we can better recognize what being unprepared entails before moving on to address what the best way to prepare is2.

Being Genuinely Unprepared

We throw the word around in various forms to ourselves and others, but there’s something to be said for what it actually means to be unprepared, particularly regarding things related to Rhetoric:

Being unprepared means believing we lack some crucial part of the circumstantial equation needed to prepare or engage with an audience.

Being genuinely unprepared is distinct from dreading something so much that we rationalize away our believed ability to accomplish it in order to better live with ourselves and our avoidance. We can call that whatever we’d like, and volumes of books have been written that try to romanticize the experience, but it isn’t being unprepared — it’s being afraid. Though fear is a common element to both, just as we don’t consider ourselves unprepared when a bear shows up to our picnic, we shouldn’t consider ourselves unprepared because we’re nervous about any type of Rhetorical engagement.

Not ready yet

Not ready yet

Being genuinely unprepared means lacking some crucial piece of information, experience, practice, or prior activity that needed to be done but wasn’t, and now we’ve a gaping hole in our bucket as we go to quench everyone’s thirst. That can be caused by poor choices on our part, changing circumstances within or without our control, and any number of things, but the gist is that — to liken our preparedness to the Golden Gate Bridge — more than a few deck pieces, supports, and arches are missing, and we can go no further without falling off into the Bay, taking everyone foolish enough to be following our lead in along with us. If we tip-toe carefully enough or are quick, we can squeak by without disaster in small numbers, but that doesn’t change the underlying structural issues that are now obstacles laden on the one road we’ve committed to travel. Rhetoric can help us do just that, but is usually better spent by addressing our problems before they blow up, not minimizing the damage after they’ve already exploded.

I can entertain and engage a group of executives all day, for example, but if I’m supposed to be presenting them the sales data from last quarter, or something else that’s necessarily specific and has a preexisting expectation to it, I’d rather not stink up the room with Bullshit to mask the fact that the data isn’t there. If a star pupil or I needed to show up for a debate or negotiation, we can likely wipe the floor with the majority of people on the planet because people that practice this kind of thing — or even have a vocabulary for it — are about as rare as common sense has become. We’d still do better when we’ve taken the time to know what we’re taking about, having done relevant research, thinking, and planning upfront, and in general put in the time and effort needed to have something to say, regardless of how well we end up saying it.

oopsBeing unprepared is like forgetting the ball when we show up to a basketball game. It isn’t quaking in our pumps before we head out onto the court. The latter is a symptom, and something to be dealt with, but it isn’t the underlying problem or its cause. We’re unprepared when we aren’t who we need to be to do our best work.

Getting good at Rhetoric opens up our options to exponential extents, and can save our ass in ways that will continually surprise us, but it still can’t compete with applying it well in situations we needn’t be saved in to begin with, as well as avoiding placing ourselves into the role of damsel in distress through our poor decisions and worry. And though we refer to setbacks or pitfalls in our preparation as being ‘unprepared’ by default, there are plenty of things we can do and not do during our preparation that will hinder us, some of them involving preparing too much3.

Footnotes, References, and Citations

Series Navigation<< Preparation 4 — Preparation Defined--|--Preparation 6 — Being Over-Prepared >>
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Steven Rhyse has spent a great deal of time working in many colorful variations of Maker, Marketer, and Manager on a freelance and consulting basis, doing everything from editing to art on all manner of projects. His clients range from market leading companies and startups to small business owners and individuals. Designing, planning, and implementing new media solutions to business and marketing problems tend to be his primary roles, but he regularly makes use of his strong production and teaching background. Business, Entertainment, and Technology tend to be the industries he frequents most, often finding himself in the realms of Education and Health as well. He's also found great success as a private educator servicing all of the occupations and industries he just mentioned, among many others.

He enjoys learning, making, and teaching things. Though he works internationally, he's based in the Bay Area, trained and operating by the University of California, Berkeley. He's considered a leading authority on the topic of Rhetoric.
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