Here’s what I’m experiencing lately in an interesting little object-lesson called "moving aboard our new sailboat." The experience is purely personal, but I think it reveals some things about the mind that are 100% applicable to the professional world.
Preparing is sort of a safe little fantasy world. You tell yourself stories about what is going to happen when you start doing -- the great things that will happen, the ordinary things that will happen, and even the challenging things that will/might happen. Then you get organized for those things. You play out those stories in your mind, and you come up with new stories, and you document and buy and stage things to be ready. But, there is a vast existential chasm between the mental life of these stories and the real life of...well, living.
One of the hooks in preparing that makes it so sticky is similar to the old adage about life: the more you know, the more you realize how little you know. In planning/preparation, it’s easy to get into the mindset of trying to prepare for everything. It’s a fool’s errand, but it catches many people in its grasp -- because (1) it seems responsible and (2) it does not actually carry the risk of DOING.
Anyone who has worked in large companies has seen this phenomenon: over-planning, over-preparing -- because you can always justify your preparation as prudent in the face of some bogey-man risk...but REALLy because you are petrified of walking across the threshold from your fantasy world into the real world, because deep down you know that the real world is going to be different from the predictable world of “planning.”
At some point, after you’ve read the manual on switching power sources for the refrigerator
between shore power and generator power, you actually have to ... FLIP SOME SWITCHES AND HOPE YOU DON”T BLOW UP SOMETHING. You have to crank the generator, which means you have to do a few other things. You have to route power to places and turn on pumps for heat exchangers and other things. And, either your plan works and you can have ice cream while at anchor off Saba, or it doesn’t and you are buying lots of expensive new gear. But, here’s the mindset that matters:
If I am reasonably smart and reasonably prepared and have a reasonable idea for how to do something, I WANT TO KNOW THAT IT WORKS IN THE REALWORLD...NOW. You have to reach out and flip some switched -- not stupidly and randomly, but still you have to flip them -- and SEE WHAT HAPPENS.
Either you will find that you are in fact prepared, or you will find that you were living in Plato’s cave. From where I sit today, either of these outcomes is superior to admiring shadows on the wall.