Thursday, August 9, 2012

How do you know?

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
Our life can be our insurance policy.  It doesn’t work for everyone; however, it can work for you if 1) you think about it, 2) prepare for it, and 3) use it.
We purchase life insurance, automobile insurance, and house insurance, and we spend a great deal of our money on these insurance policies.  Seldom, however, do we spend as much money on any other kind of insurance policy.  It is, perhaps, because these are obvious, they are what everybody does, and, as much as possible, they protect us from unexpected disasters, calamities, and accidents.  Word of mouth from others who have been protected from such situations by their insurance policies is often sufficient testimony to convince us of the need for it.
But there is another kind of insurance policy that we can “purchase” on a daily basis — that is, we can regularly pay a portion of the premium — and we seldom give it a second thought.  We don’t think about it because it is not obvious, it is not purchased by everyone, and the times when it is used and needed are not always in public view or even publicly acknowledged.
The key question is “how do you know?”  Our future is not written in the stars; it is not foreseen; and there is no force that controls or determines our future.  Think about it, our lives could be considerably better (more predictable!) if we had accurate, fact-based, realistic information about our future.  Knowing it would not just allow us to prepare for it in a specific way, but it would help us develop a precise, clear-cut, step-by-step plan for achieving it.
The point is: we don’t know our future, and we can’t know our future.  That should be a prompt, however, for a whole different set of thoughts and behaviors, and that is what this essay is all about.
How can our life be our insurance policy?  Only through preparation.  In my textbook, Communicating Effectively (McGraw-Hill, 2012), I actually label this concept “strategic flexibility.”  The reason is that every reader of my textbook already communicates; thus, the purpose of the book is to add tools to each reader’s toolbox in order to give him or her additional possibilities, further tools, added flexibility, fresh insights, and extra options.  That is precisely what preparation throughout our lives can provide.  Let me give you an example from my own life which has had a predominant place and a dominant influence on everything I have done.
I never thought of becoming a writer, especially the author of books, at any early point in my life.  It wasn’t on my radar screen then or at any point ever!  I think that if that had been a goal, perhaps, I would have begun preparation early, and I certainly would have prepared much more specifically — to be read, differently.
Now, this is the point of this essay: My education, background, and experiences — all completed as part of what I thought as a normal upbringing — served as the preparation that made this opportunity (becoming a writer and author of books) occur and made it something possible.  Who would have guessed?  Who could have guessed?
In addition to my formal education, background, and experiences, there was another significant contribution: getting along with others.  Of course, I had no idea where it would lead or how it would get me somewhere, but I made friends, interacted positively with classmates, and got to know most of them by name.
There was no way I could have predicted how my positive interaction with Saundra Hybels (whom I did not know personally at all) in a graduate class at the University of Michigan could have resulted in the life I have led.  This was not a special class; it was not an unusual acquaintance; it lacked specialness or distinction in any way.
One day — out of the blue — Saundra gave me a call and asked if I wanted to co-write a book with her.  I never asked her what prompted her to call me, what qualities she saw in me that even appealed to her, or how I might compliment her in this co-writing effort.
It was precisely at this point in my life — when I said “Yes” to Saundra — that I even thought about writing a book.  At that point in my life, I have to admit, I did not feel the least bit qualified to do this.  I had always put authors of books on pedestals.  These were people who had years of experience, who were experts in their fields, and who had experiences that qualified them to write with a high level of skill.  I didn’t have the expertness, prowess, proficiency, competence, knowledge, mastery, ability, nor aptitude to be an author.  Not only that, it wasn’t on my agenda nor horizon.
Saundra and I divided up the task, began work at once, and produced a book just six months later.
I know in retrospect that had I not taken my education seriously, done very well in school, strove for excellence in everything I did, and made friends with classmates, this opportunity would never have come to me.
I thought about this essay when I was exercising this morning, and I realized that the preparation I used throughout my life is exactly the same as that I use when exercising.  Sure you tone your body for good health (to live longer and better), and you do aerobic exercises because it is good for your brain, heart, and body.  But there is another reason and it comes back to the insurance policy discussed earlier.  There have been so many moments — some of them entirely unpredicted — when I have had to call upon my body and brain.  I needed them to be in tip-top shape, and I knew that I could count on them to be at their best.  Why?  Because I kept them prepared and ready.  To be a good, responsible, active, involved citizen requires that all of us act and think to our best ability.
Preparation was the reason for learning how to type in the eighth grade, and following
up on early swimming lessons with the entire stock of American Red Cross sponsored WSI (Water Safety Instruction) classes.  It can be the motivation for learning any basic life skills like playing an instrument, learning to dance, reading, writing, mathematics, etc.
The idea of being able to face any aspect of your life or any new experience with all of your skills and abilities at their peak can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  That is, if you know that your engine is tuned and fully fueled, you are ready to compete with any other vehicle in its class, and that information allows you to be confident, self-assured, and ready for action.  It is as if your success is pre-conditioned and that strength then energizes you to be the winner that you are.  That is when your life becomes your insurance policy, and the answer to the question, “How do you know?” is clear.  I know I can face any obstacle, any problem, any predicament, and arrive at the best solution possible — because I have all the skill and ability I need!
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Sherri Kruger has a great essay, “4 Ways to Prepare You for Life’s Curveballs,” at the web site Business  Her four suggestions include 1) Non-attachment, 2) Be open-minded, 3) Make little changes, and put them out there, and 4) embrace change.  Her essay is all about agility, and here is some of what she says: “Being able to quickly change direction, refocus, and get back on track are key qualities to establishing agility in your life. By being agile you're better able to act on ideas, opportunities, and you can quickly start taking these ideas forward.”

At the web site Mind Tools, James Manktelow and Amy Carlson have a short essay, “Building Self-Confidence: Preparing yourself for success!”  They let readers know: “Self-confident people inspire confidence in others: their audience, their peers, their bosses, their customers, and their friends. And gaining the confidence of others is one of the key ways in which a self-confident person finds success.”  They offer specific suggestions and advice that will be useful for anyone.
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Copyright August, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.

1 comment:

  1. Maximillion Ryan IIIAugust 9, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    Good insight! In this economy and with the uncertainties we face, being adaptable (agile) is so important!


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