CHANCE FAVORS THE WELL PREPARED: LESSONS FROM 9th WONDER & HIGH SCHOOL HUMILIATION
I WAS NOT READY
I attended the illustrious, world-renowned Jack Yates Senior High School in Houston's historic Third Ward. I chose to make a daily trek from the suburbs into the city from the tenth through twelfth grade because I believed in the value of my Yates education. I knew the school would equip me academically and culturally in a way that Pearland High School just could not.
I was right.
During my time there, the prestigious School of Communications was the magnet program. The brightest, most popular and most promising students were a part of the program. The "Talented Ten" students of this program regularly shared the morning announcements on the school's intercom system.
The students shared the announcements in a measured, controlled tone, accenting certain words, using a unique cadence. We made fun of it. We criticized it for being unnatural. One day, while running my mouth in class, a teacher challenged me to read the announcements and do it better. Over-confident, I accepted the challenge.
Y'all I humiliated myself. It resounded through every classroom and office on the campus. I did not practice, did no preparatory reading, and didn't even warm up. I just got on the mic and started stuttering and stammering like Porky Pig. I came out to stunned faces. "What happened in there?" a friend asked with bewildered eyes.
I was not ready.
As I support entrepreneurs who are transitioning to live their dream full-time, my heart and focus are to create the conditions of readiness strategically. I'm learning how to do this better for myself and others.
HOW TO GET READY
What are the metrics of success?
What have people who are already successful in the field of your dream accomplished? Determine how many hours of practice, what kind of certification is required? How many people are they reaching? While it is unreasonable to mimic someone else's unique journey, it's nice to have an idea of what has worked so that you can innovate it. I should have asked, ‘How many afternoons should I practice to do well at the announcements?' ‘How long does the best announcer read the announcements and practice before grabbing the microphone?'
Who are the gatekeepers? There are people who make the decisions to engage the folks who do what they do well. There are folks in charge of calling, requesting, hiring, they oversee the budget; you get the idea. In the writing world, these people are publishers, editors, agents. In the art world, there are curators and gallery owners. Who are the gatekeepers of your industry? Who do you need to know, and who do you need to know you? My gatekeepers for the announcements were the kids I was criticizing and the Communications teacher. Had I talked to them, had I recognized their position at the gates to my success, it would have gone down differently.
CHANCE FAVORS THE WELL PREPARED
My question for you is:
What fruit can you produce as a sample of your work?
Musicians, where can someone go right now and hear your best song? Television personalities, what clips can you send as an example of what someone would see if they hired you RIGHT NOW? Accountants, whose financial life have you made easier? Where are their testimonials?
Harvard University Fellow, Producer and DeeJay 9th Wonder tells the story of working with Hip-Hop Mogul Jay-Z for the first time. " Chance favors the well prepared. I had 29 beats for that man to listen to. And I had 3 other CDs with 50 beats each!"
I agree with 9th.
My current work is supporting experiences and offering opportunities for folks to incubate and experiment with their good ideas. Those experiments turn into samples of work, "proofs of concept" and letters of recommendation filled with stories of relevant work experience. I get to see these people turn passions into purposes and purposes into generative plans. I have also seen others grinding, striving, forcing their products on family and strangers alike, and becoming embittered at a lack of opportunity.
If you were given the chance of a lifetime, how would your preparation serve you?