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Semper Paratus: Working Ahead to Get Ahead

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you stay mentally ready to exercise your leadership skills.  Reading time: 4:56.

          Take a ride into small town America and you will find water towers dotting the landscape like huge golf balls sitting on top of 150-foot tall tees in a land of giants.

          These tall structures have a tall order : maintain the water pressure especially at high peak times so that when you turn your faucet to take a bath or to make a cup of coffee, the water flows.

         Preparation is the key to making that water tower work. Nothing happens without FIRST doing the necessary work to pump the equivalent of some 50 swimming pools of water up to the top of that huge golf-ball shaped tank before it’s needed. Water Towers are Semper Paratus –Always Ready–the motto of the United States Coast Guard.

           Likewise leaders are Semper Paratus. They are always ready to do their duty. Like the water in those towers, their leadership principles have been pumped, prepped and placed BEFORE they are needed.

            Always Ready for Prime Time

            Now these primed  leaders are ready for prime time. Ready on demand. Ready to be tapped to lead in times of change and crisis. As Benjamin Disraeli said: “The secret of success in life is for a person to be ready for their opportunity when it comes.”

           Primed leaders are ready more than simply prepared to lead.  Leaders understand that readiness demands a more urgent and more deliberate focus than simply being prepared. The Boy Scouts motto “Be Prepared” is necessary but not sufficient to lead.

            To attain and retain a state of readiness leaders must seemingly simmer in their own juices of integrity and conviction for extended periods of time. The greater the state of their readiness the more significant their performance. After all “The pinnacle can be no higher than the base upon which it stands,” noted Henry David Thoreau. Broadening that base of readiness takes time and effort. Gaining a state of readiness to lead  is much like pushing of an enormous flywheel as Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great.   It takes time. It takes hustle. It takes muscle.

Leaders ‘Always Ready’ With Hustle & Muscle

          Champions work ahead to get ahead. Coach John Wooden pushed that flywheel and primed his pump 15 seasons coaching UCLA before his University of California at Los Angles basketball teams won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years that included a 61 game winning streak. And Dale Carnegie pushed his flywheel and primed his pump 24 years teaching his course in public speaking and human relations before publishing his best seller: How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Water Tower in Detroit, Michigan

           Indeed, the most effective leaders I have known push harder and longer. These persistent leaders embrace the research that shows top performers devote five  times more hours to become great than the average performer devotes to becoming competent, according to  K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University’s Human Performance Laboratory.

       Leaders Pay Their Dues

         These persistent leaders welcome the chance to pay their dues like the 497 leaders in classical music who took 10 years or more to publish their first work, according to a study by John Hayes of Carnegie Mellon University.

        These persistent leaders become champions with more than the will to win; they have the will to prepare as former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight observed. Consider the priming and prepping champions like basketball star Larry Bird and baseball legend Ty Cobb.

       Bird  routinely started pushing his flywheel and priming his pump at least twice as long as other players before each game. Bird would start practicing two hours before a game. And Cobb who set a base stealing record that stood for 47 years practiced base sliding BEFORE each game and in the off season he would walk 20 to 30 miles a day with heavy metal on his shoes. Talk about walking the talk!

       No wonder that when it came time to perform champions like Larry Bird and Ty Cobb were Semper Paratus! Always Ready.  Like all leaders, they knew they had to fill their tanks full BEFORE they could fulfill their dreams.

     May your water towers always be filled with your passion and purpose. How do you stay ready to roll? Use the Comments sections below.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Preparation is the key to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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