Dare to Prepare
Dare to Prepare
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RONALD M. SHAPIRO, cofounder of the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, was called “one of baseball’s most respected agent attorneys by USA Today and has represented a record five Major League Baseball Hall of Famers. He has been recognized by Smart CEO as one of its “Twenty Most Admired Leaders,” and The Sporting News also named him one of the “100 most powerful people in sports.” Ron is the coauthor of The Power of Nice and Bullies, Tyrants, and Impossible People.
GREGORY JORDAN is a writer from Baltimore. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, The Hill, and Crisis magazine.
PUT ME IN, COACH
You know the feeling–you first got it as a kid. Say you are a young musician taking lessons. You listen to your teacher play the piece for next week; you practice the most difficult chords with her; and you go home and nail it like Wynton Marsalis or Yo-Yo Ma. You tell yourself you’ve mastered it and decide to watch a sitcom instead of practicing more. You show up at your teacher’s house seven days later, stretch your fingers, and utterly flub the recital.
Or say you’re on the bench in youth basketball or in the Little League dugout, and you want to play. You can nail that shot; you can hit that pitcher. Coach turns to you; you get your chance; you rush in; and you miss the basket altogether or strike out on three pitches.
Most of you remember experiences like this as a kid. Comical or trite, they stick with you. And they serve as good analogies for trying to close a multimillion-dollar deal or sale, give a big presentation, do a negotiation, interview for a job, or pick a doctor. The exclamation "Put me in, Coach" didn’t become a piece of Americana for nothing. It is the American way, in fact, to see or hear something done once and believe you can do it better. Immediately!
Whenever I hear John Fogerty’s 1985 song "Centerfield," I laugh at the way I still feel the eagerness of a kid in the dugout when it comes to taking on a task. So hummable, the song captures the youthful zeal we can still feel when a big task is at hand. "Centerfield" became a favorite of my client and friend, the late Kirby Puckett, during the joyous ascent of the Minnesota Twins in the mid-1980s. Kirby had that Little League enthusiasm, and he made you feel as a fan that you could do it, too.
But let me tell you something: Kirby Puckett practiced, sportsese for "prepared," like his life depended on it. He was right up there with Cal Ripken Jr. in terms of a certain paranoia: I doubt either ever said "put me in, Coach" without feeling completely assured that he had prepared for all the possible dimensions of the at bat or of fielding the ball. Each man tempered his boyish zeal for the game with a studious devotion to preparation. On the scale of perspiration and inspiration, Cal and Kirby spent 50 percent of their time preparing and 50 percent performing. They perspired methodically during hours of practice and inspired monumentally when we were allowed to glimpse them perform.
For many reasons, the lionization of the master preparer seems to have waned. Performers are admired for their results, but not necessarily studied and emulated for their preparation. Enron was obviously a product of this do-it-quick culture. We live in what is perhaps the most results-driven era in history. Earnings, whether real or imagined, and performance, whether real or inflated, do not necessarily result from thorough preparation anymore. But, as a moralist at heart, I still believe that enduring success results from effective preparation. You can try to sneak around preparation, develop shortcuts, or come up with clever schemes. But succumbing to a shortcut culture will usually catch up with you.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS:
WHEN YOUR MOTHER OR
FATHER PREPARED LIKE THERE
WAS NO TOMORROW
Doting elders of my family told me that I was going to be president of the United States. Most of you probably got that treatment, too. I was president of my high school and college classes. I began to believe the incessant familial hype and couldn’t wait to turn thirty-five to qualify. Put me in, Coach, I can be president.
Your head is filled with images of winners. Particularly during the technology boom of the late 1990s and the real estate boom of this decade, people were becoming multimillionaires like never before. Understandably, a lot of people want to skip steps and rush into fame and fortune.
It took a wise man to slow me down. Soon after law school my uncles and aunts started asking me for tax advice, and I would give them answers based upon what I had learned in my studies. But as a lawyer for whom I worked, Robby Goldman, said to me: "Don’t give advice unless it is based on your knowledge and experience." Robby forced me to learn to think and know before I spoke. He essentially was saying that even his own instruction was insufficient unless I practiced it myself.
Preparation mentors never stop coming into your life; when I started the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, I was in my fifties. Mark Jankowski, my partner, was in his thirties. I recognized Mark’s skills and generational advantages and looked to him as a mentor. He taught me how technology could help a business become more productive and organized. We tend to think of mentors as our elders, and this is usually the case. But I realized you could open yourself up to mentors of any age; their experience, and your lack of it, should be the determining factor.
The greatest preparation mentor I ever had was my father. He was an immigrant from Russia with a primary school education and winning business skills. He owned a plumbing supplies company. When I grew old enough to work for him, I expected I would fill in alongside him in the office with my fancy brain and new calculator. But he put me in the warehouse to help manage the inventory and delivery of pipes and fittings. I loaded and unloaded trucks in the summer heat.
He said to me: "To do this business right you have to understand the underbelly of it."
I resented it, just as many of you no doubt resented your father or your first boss making you pay your dues. I resented it for a long time.
And then one day I understood. He kept me from rushing into the game; he forced me to prepare.
The apprenticeship process seems to be fading. This is emblematic of a broader departure from preparation, as you are pressed to multitask and produce more work product. You feel forced to find shortcuts for doing things. We all want to get into the game sooner. Of course, people still wink at preparation and work ethic, but a wink or a nod isn’t what my father and his preparation generation had in mind. Along the way, we’re losing some of the satisfaction and thoroughness that came with good, old-fashioned preparation.
Like some of you, I was lucky to grow up a son of the preparation generation. The preparation ethic was easier to instill because there simply were fewer distractions or excuses available to avoid it. My dad taught me to ignore the impulse and pressure to say "put me in, Coach." In essence, his message was: don’t curb your enthusiasm, but harness it with a method. And don’t make excuses about why you can’t.
THE THREE EXCUSES, OR, WHY WE SAY WE DON’T NEED TO PREPARE
There are three common excuses for not preparing methodically and thoroughly:
1.I don’t have time.
2.I’ve done this before.
3.I know how to do this.
"I DON’T HAVE TIME!":
THE GOTTA GET IT DONE TRAP
You probably remember a high school teacher or college professor’s admonishment: you that you actually save time at the back end of a paper or project by preparing more thoroughly at the front end.
After a few frustrating efforts, you probably realized they were right: you actually have a less frustrating experience and superior result by slowing down at the beginning in order to thoroughly outline that term paper or presentation.
It’s good advice that everyone knows makes sense. Why don’t we follow it? The answer, I think, has a lot to do with technology that pushes you to multitask and engage in our speed-dial way of life. You have tools for instant access and instant response. You are told you can do more in less time and several things at once, so you do. It is incredible how busy you feel, and how little of substance you sometimes feel you actually produce.
In fact, I think I remember from high school physics that the key difference between speed and velocity is direction. Speed can take you in any direction, including round and round in a circle; velocity has a fixed direction. A preparation method transforms your excess speed into velocity. It harnesses your energy into direction.
Multitaskers are speedy. You’re working your BlackBerry, cell phone, and computer; you’re reading the stock market results; you’re glancing at the newspaper–all at once. I actually used to read the newspaper at ball games or in the morning while I drove the car. So in my case, multitasking was not only a threat to the quality of my work, but to my clean driving record and health!
Once upon a time, e-mail was supposed to allow you to respond to some people on your own time. You could wait to respond to the e-mails until you were ready and had reflected on their queries or issues. Then along came the BlackBerry. E-mails acquired the urgency of phone calls.
Even recently I would leave the BlackBerry in vibration mode when I was in a meeting or even giving a speech. And nine times out of ten I would know who was calling and switch with the multitasker’s second mind to think about the issue facing the caller while speaking to a dozen people in a conference room!
I still have concentration issues, and I’ve struggled with them since I was a young, up-and-coming multitasker. There was a television in my room and I would do my homework with it on. I had a little trick–a string on the off switch that I would pull when I heard my father’s footsteps coming down the hall. I was already multitasking because of the intrusion of technology into my life.
Multitasking can result from technology or from peer pressure or from sheer hyperactivity. But you’ve got to shut it down and restore the methodical steps of preparation to turn speed into velocity. A preparation checklist (like the Preparation Principles Checklist in the appendix of this book) will help you do this and probably reduce your blood pressure along the way.
The heartening fact is that you will not only make fewer mistakes, but you will also enjoy what you do more. You will feel less rushed; you will feel like you have more time. And you will be able to say with confidence instead of arrogance: put me in, Coach!
The Two Powers of Nice–How Can That Be?
A recent coincidence reinforced my belief in the importance of methodical preparation. My first book, The Power of Nice, was about negotiations and was translated into four languages. My consulting firm, the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, trademarked the title of the book and still uses it as the program title in some of our courses. The title became a fundamental part of our brand and was closely associated with our consulting.
So I was surprised one day in the early summer of 2006 to receive a call from a friend who had read in Newsweek magazine about another forthcoming book entitled The Power of Nice. How could this be, I wondered? Was someone blatantly exploiting our trademarked phrase? Was it an effort to appropriate our brand?
I read the article and learned that the authors were the executives of Kaplan Thaler Limited, the advertising group in New York City. They were probably best known as the creators of the winning Aflac duck advertisements in which the woeful duck is always getting abused.
Although the article pointed to their Power of Nice as more of a life advice book (so not competitive with mine in terms of content), this was still an important issue for me and my firm. But, as usual, I was busy–about to leave with my wife on a vacation in Oregon. Adding to the time pressure was the fact that my partner Mark Jankowski was caring for his wife who had experienced a devastating illness. I just didn’t have the time to dig into the matter and knew what I wanted to do right away. I told myself: I don’t have time to deal with this!
So I contacted the authors to ask them to consider using a different title that would not confuse readers with my book and my company’s trademarked product. When I made the call, I hadn’t fully prepared my strategy or scripted the conversation. The response from the person I spoke with was not good, and I was treated in a way that made me feel a wee bit like the abused and underappreciated Aflac duck.
During the call I was sitting in my office looking down at Baltimore’s harbor. Water encourages reflection, and I realized–and not for the first time–that I had failed to practice what I preach.
By not sitting down with my team and thoroughly assessing the situation with a preparation method, I failed to methodically define my objectives, understand the other party’s interests, forecast potential outcomes, and write a script to prepare for my encounter.
Now, I had plenty of good excuses to have rushed things. But no excuse is good enough to account for not preparing. Fortunately, it is never too late to prepare. Mark helped me recognize my error, and I rededicated myself and my team to preparing methodically. We analyzed the matter with the preparation checklist.
Methodical preparation transformed us from ugly ducks into well-prepared negotiators. We requested a copy of the authors’ book in draft form and confirmed that the substance of each book was very different. We determined that the authors did not plagiarize our writing and ideas, but used a title without researching its prior use. And we realized we could propose a settlement that would avoid litigious nonsense and instead bring us a bit of a win from their book. Mark helped me to look at the issue succinctly when he said in an e-mail: "In order to continue to expand the brand of The Power of Nice, we will try to leverage a settlement agreement with these authors into an even higher profile for our book and concept."
By heeding my own advice and preparing methodically, we got the result we wanted. Kaplan Thaler agreed to acknowledge us and our trademark on its book’s website with a link to our negotiations site; the authors mentioned the distinction between the two books in their book, and they provided other disclaimers. All of these concessions turned into additional marketing for a book that we published eight years ago. By scrutinizing our objectives, we prepared a proposal that made more sense than fighting over four simple words. By abandoning the excuse of having no time to prepare, I was able to aid our cause more effectively.
Over the course of a forty-year career in the worlds of law, sports, business, and politics, Ron Shapiro has worked with and advised an incredible variety of people. What he’s found is that the secret ingredient for getting into the winner’s circle is simply the discipline of methodical preparation: that old-school, step-by-step way of having all your ducks in a row, whether you are an executive getting ready to do a deal or make a speech; a pitcher studying the traits of opposing hitters and keeping a meticulous notebook of their strengths and weaknesses; an international trade negotiator who knows all about the issues and the people on the other side before sitting down at the table; or a surgeon who rehearses like a classical musician.
Deep down, you know you should do it. But how often do you wing it and fly by the seat of your pants because “Gosh, I don’t have time . . . I’ve done this before . . . I know what I’m doing”? It is obvious that you have to get ready for whatever game you’re playing, but all too frequently methodical preparation is the missing ingredient in today’s world of instant analysis, easy access to information, and glibness that sounds good at first but is unconnected with the reality at hand.
In Dare to Prepare, successful people such as wine guru Robert Parker, investment legend Bill Miller, pianist Leon Fleisher, Goldman Sachs partner Lisa Fontenelli, broadcaster Bob Costas, firefighter Ann Marie Tierney, New York Mets manager Willie Randolph, and many others share the way they apply discipline in preparing for career-changing games, deals, meetings, and interviews. Cal Ripken Jr. played thousands of games in the major leagues but prepared for each like it was his first. NPR host Liane Hansen has interviewed countless people but approaches each interview with the same meticulous research time and time again.
Make sure there are no slips “twixt cup and lip” as you get ready for your next personal or professional challenge by daring to prepare.
"Dare to Prepare, draws on Ronald Shapiro’s extraordinary career as one of American’s top negotiators and lawyers. Full of real-life examples, Shapiro shows how meticulous planning can raise the odds of success in business and in life."
—Norman Pearlstine, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and editor in chief of Time Inc.
"Ron Shapiro’s emphasis on preparation is dead-on. The proven strategies he shares here, drawn from both his successful life as a businessman, sports agent, and a father, and numerous fascinating successful leaders in a variety of other industries, can help anyone be better at his/her endeavors. This book is a must-have for anyone looking to get ahead in life. Ron Shapiro has always had a lot to teach people about success in work and in life. Dare to Prepare might be his best guide yet."
—Billy Beane, General Manager, Oakland Athletics, and the subject of the bestselling book Moneyball.
“Ron Shapiro offers the reader valuable insights and methods that have universal application for facing the diverse challenges of life. He explains how thoughtful preparation empowers one to succeed in important personal and professional endeavors.”
—Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President, Republic of Liberia
“Dare to Prepare conveys Ron’s down-to-earth wisdom about the critical first step in the success cycle… and it has application to every challenge we face in life, work and relationships.”
—David Barrett, President & CEO, Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.
"As a psychiatrist and teacher I love this book. It does three things better than any other. It offers a thoughtful structure for thinking through a life problem to its solution. It provides stories with fascinating plots and outcomes which make each of the steps in the structure clear and memorable, and it promotes a feeling of relief through revealing to readers like me that we are not so different from everyone else in often failing to make a plan primarily because we’re not sure how."
—Dr. Paul McHugh, Henry Phipps Prof of Psychiatry Emeritus, Johns Hopkins University
“Using interviews with "master preparers" and high achievers like Jets coach Eric Mangini, a heroic woman who battles wildfires, a high powered television executive, and historian Taylor Branch, Ron Shapiro shows how their preparation secrets, properly utilized, can pave the way to success. Whether you are an entrepreneur planning to build a better mousetrap, a businessperson entering a negotiation or a historian starting a new book, I believe that you can learn -and profit- from Ron Shapiro’s winning strategies. I did.”
—Kenneth C. Davis, New York Times best-selling author of Don’t Know Much About History“Once again Ron Shapiro puts into focus the concepts we all think about, but often do not practice. Dare to Prepare is the blueprint for obtaining results. Ron is the master at assembling the tools for success, organizing them in plain speak and delivering them to us so we can score. This is a must read.”
—Randy Levine, President, New York Yankees
“Ron Shapiro has written a passionate, timely and highly effective guide to business endeavors. His zeal for preparation and powerful anecdotes are a formula for success. I will borrow from it shamelessly.”
—Len Kennedy, General Counsel, Sprint Nextel
“This book reflects years of experience, and of wisdom gained, through the careful preparation and resulting success of professionals in a variety of fields — from athletics to the arts… Anyone who wants to be a successful negotiator, speaker, fundraiser, or leader will find these stories both enlightening and entertaining.”
—Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
"Shapiro presents a compelling case for how 8 simple steps can make you, your team and your partners all winners – if you only have the discipline! And if that is something you’re lacking, he’ll show you how to overcome that too!"
—Liza Cartmell, Group President, Aramark Sports and Entertainment
“Ron has done it again; Dare to Prepare is an excellent and interesting read. Real life stories emphasize how critical it is to properly prepare for any important negotiation. From sports examples to business and even hostage negotiation, Ron makes a compelling case to take the time and prepare the right way and “win before you begin.”
—George Kilroy, President and CEO, PHH Arval
“Ron Shapiro provides a clear and compelling read for everyone. This book conveys the obvious but often overlooked fact that preparation is the key to success. And he makes his preparation system compelling with stories from highly successful people from all walks of life.”
—Fred Wilpon, Chairman and CEO, New York Mets, and Chairman of Sterling Equities
“Ron Shapiro makes clear that–in any industry, in any sector, whatever the objective–there simply is no substitute for preparation. That is certainly true for educators. But it is the way this point is illustrated–with spare, precise advice from people who have learned in often-dramatic ways the age-old saw that failing to prepare is preparing to fail–that makes Dare to Prepare such an engaging, enjoyable, and ultimately indispensable read.” —Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools
“Ron Shapiro, the torch bearer for the Power of Nice, reveals with great insight another key to success, the Power of Preparation. Vivid accounts from Ron’s career and the careers of an array of interesting people show convincingly that achieving positive outcomes through preparation applies to all personal interactions whether with family, friends, neighbors, or business.”
—Kurt Schmoke, Dean of Howard University School of Law, Former Mayor of Baltimore
“This is absolutely essential information for anyone from business leaders to business students. Ron Shapiro has done a wonderful job of immediately engaging the readers and never losing them, as he shares lessons learned about the value of preparing with deliberate purpose…the purpose to succeed. One only has to Dare to Prepare in order to stay ahead of the competition.”
—Dr. Kathy Player, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Grand Canyon University
“Whether you are educating a sales force, managers, or front-line company representatives, or just looking to improve your own efficiency and success rate, this book is a great resource”
— John Cochran, Senior Executive, Bank of America Card Services
“This book shows that leadership is not just about instinct, charisma, and rhetoric; it’s even more about preparation, planning, and perspiration. We owe it to the next generation to think before we speak and to plan before we act. With the use of compelling real-life examples and anecdotes from leaders from all sectors, Dare to Prepare is an indispensable primer for effective decision-making and impactful action.”
—Lee Fisher, Lt. Governor of Ohio
“Once again Ron Shapiro shares important principles drawn from the personal experiences of many about how to achieve winning results. Example after example makes it clear that more preparation, organization and the application of a well thought methodology will help us all be the best that we can be.”
—Susan Keating, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling
“In Dare to Prepare, Ron Shapiro assembles compelling narratives from his broad experiences that will inspire you and provide you with practical tools to be a winning preparer, negotiator and communicator.”
—Brendan Tuohey, Co-Founder and Executive Director PeacePlayers International
“The journey is the destination for Shapiro’s loyal readers. In the same way that professional athletes prepare completely, this book provides the insights for business strategists to play at the top of their game. Two types exist in the business world today. Those who read Shapiro’s book and heed his advice will hike their success rate in practice. And then, there are the others…”
—Linda Ginzel, Clinical Prof of Managerial Psychology, The University of Chicago
“Ron Shapiro takes what you might think you know – the idea that it is wise to have a plan – and fills it brimful of life by showing how a wide variety of people actually act on the idea. A book with a chapter titled ‘I would like to thank the Lord Jesus Christ and Eric Mangini’ contains many delights.”
—George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist, journalist, and author.
“Leadership is about responsibility. Accepting this responsibility changes the game in any leadership role……and being ‘in charge’ means you have an obligation to everyone you lead to be the best. Don’t be fooled ….it all starts with preparedness. Ron Shapiro’s Dare to Prepare finally captures that evasive element of leadership in a way that all leaders …present and future….can utilize in reaching their goals. Bravo…required reading for any leader!”
—Jon Luther, Chairman and CEO, Dunkin’ Brands, Inc.
“Explicitly recognizing the importance of preparation and then learning from examples how to do it effectively can be tremendously valuable. Dare to Prepare is a great way to do this!”
—Catharine Bond Hill, President, Vassar College
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