Ten Cents and a Handkerchief


It's not the will to win that matters . . . everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters. -Paul "Bear" Bryant

As a Boy Scout, I was taught early in life to "Be Prepared." At our weekly meetings, we were required to present 10 cents and a handkerchief. The dime was so that we could make an emergency phone call at a phone booth (yes, it only cost 10 cents to make a call back then, and we still had pay phones). The handkerchief was for emergency first aid, to stop bleeding or use to tie a splint. More than forty years later, I still carry a handkerchief in my back pocket and my cell phone is never far away. Who knows when I might be a first responder at an accident and save someone's life with my compress and phone call?

A huge part of leadership is preparation. Coaches and business executives frequently use the phrase "failure to prepare is preparing to fail." Organizations fail because their leaders are inadequately prepared and don't prepare their employees for the future. The best leaders:


  • Are constantly preparing themselves and their teams for new adventures and challenges. These leaders "do their homework," making sure they are knowledgeable about people, companies and their industry.


  • Are usually good negotiators, because they are well prepared. Prior to any negotiation, a leader has to spend days or weeks to ensure he or she is fully prepared. I trained under one of the best negotiators at Disney. We role-played multiple scenarios of point and counterpoint and thought about every negotiation item, anticipating what the counterparty would ask for and how we would respond. We determined our "walk away" position and how we might reengage the negotiation if we did walk away. It was an extensive, exhausting process, but when we finally went into the negotiation, we got a great deal. Through great preparation, we won the battle before it was fought.


  • Run great meetings. Effective leaders know they should spend 3-6 times the length of the meeting in preparation time. Effective leaders ensure a topic requires a meeting, as opposed to a call or e-mail discussion. They prepare a detailed agenda with topics, time for each topic and the person responsible for presenting. A presentation is often sent out in advance for the participants to review and consider. The day before, the meeting is confirmed with an e-mail and any new information. All actions and decisions are summarized at the end of the meeting, and a confirmation note is sent out to all participants.


To excel beyond measure requires you to prepare beyond measure. Your level of preparation determines the level of your leadership. What are you doing today to prepare for your next assignment?

Action Points
Do your homework.
Prepare for negotiations extensively, using role-playing and multiple scenarios.
Spend 3-6 times the length of a planned meeting in preparation time.
Always send a detailed agenda and preferably the presentation in advance.
Summarize meetings with a follow-up e-mail that includes action items and due dates.
Set aside time in your week to prepare for the future.
Always have a handkerchief and your cell phone!

Faster career advancement, financial success, greater confidence in all situations

Excerpted from Chapter 30, Ten Cents and a Handkerchief, of The Surpassing Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence, thesurpassinglife.com.

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