While reading Lend Me your Ears by William Safire – a book of great speeches, I’m reminded of a lesson I learned years ago that still rings true today. Preparing for multiple future outcomes can provide many benefits in both the present and the future– when you’ll experience the not-yet-known result.
The future benefits include:
The present benefits include:
The reason Mr. Safire’s book reminded me of this topic is because within the great passages of his script, he shares the speech he wrote for President Nixon to use in the event that Apollo XI was an unsuccessful mission. When the astronauts landed on the moon, two types of speeches were written – one for celebrating the success of their return home and the other to commemorate them in the event they were unable to launch from the moon’s surface. Thankfully, Apollo XI was a successful mission and we only heard the celebratory vocalization from Nixon. If you get a chance to read the prepared message for the opposite outcome, I recommend it. It is beautiful.
Preparing for different outcomes wasn’t a new concept when that speech was written for Nixon and is still a sound strategy. Eisenhower prepared a short message to share in the event D-Day had the opposite outcome, and you can be sure than any political candidate is ready to respond to their win or defeat. However, it isn’t just a politically related concept.
Comedians formulate responses to heckling before ever taking the stage, successful salespeople pre-think of responses for the various directions a customer’s reaction could take, and parents carry huge bags full of anything they may need in the event their child displays any of several emotions while they are away from home. I read that what is viewed as cleverness or wit is often just preparedness. Remember how many times you said to yourself, “If I had thought of that right then rather than five minutes after, that would have been a wicked comeback.” Sometimes the people who have quick comebacks are just the ones who’ve considered different responses before entering the situation.
That was one of the present benefits mentioned earlier – ample time for strategic thinking. There is generally more time to think of possible outcomes and devise matching reactive strategies in the present than in the future when the result is actually occurring. Therefore, the strategies to implement during response time will be stronger.
The other present benefit is lessening fears or anxiety. I was mentoring entrepreneurs who were preparing to open their first businesses, and during one of our phone sessions we talked about the related fears with which they were dealing. My suggestion was to write down every fear or anxiety they were having. Those are usually the “what-ifs” that plague the mind. What if I fail? What if my customers hate the product or service? What if I run out of money? What if important financial or official details fall through the cracks?
After writing down their fears, I instructed them to then write down how they will deal with each of them if those fearful outcomes were to materialize. This exercise is different than the optimism we are often told to uphold instead; Be positive, don’t show fear, and push any negative thoughts out of your head. I have found it more effective to deal with the fear. Create the solution ahead of time in response to said fear and it releases its hold on you. Then if any of what makes you anxious actually does occur, you have the strategy already devised, so implementation can be immediate. The future benefits are realized; the strategy is ready to implement and less emotion is attached to the outcome.
When the reactive strategy is defined ahead of time, you won’t have to develop it in the midst of the emotions we often feel when dealing with an outcome that falls outside of our desired result. Think of any time you were emotional when surprised with an unwanted situation, and recall how effective, or likely, ineffective you were in that moment. For example, have you ever been dumped? Usually when that happens, it is unexpected. How different would your reaction have been if you had expected the “It’s not you, it’s me” conversation? Maybe you would have had a cooler head. Maybe you could have salvaged the relationship, or at the very least, come up with some strategic words to share that would have given you more closure.
Next time you are:
Take the time to think of multiple outcomes and prepare your response to each. You’ll be glad you did.
Photo curtesy of: Aaron Burden