Imagine having all the tools, technology, and talent at your disposal, yet still falling short of your goals. Why is it that some people soar while others stumble? This introspective episode of the “How’d It Happen” podcast might just hold the answers. Taking a leaf out of Andy Kessler’s insightful Wall Street Journal article “1% Inspiration, 99% Preparation,” Mike engages you in a rich discourse on the inextricable role of preparation in the pursuit of success. From Thomas Edison’s timeless quote to the essence of merit, you’ll find yourself resonating with the power of diligent preparation.
Ever wondered how sports stars or successful business moguls seem to effortlessly achieve their goals? Well, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Mike offers a glimpse into the significant role of merit in success, and how it’s so much more than just ticking boxes on a to-do list. Furthermore, he introduces you to a Netflix show called “Quarterback,” which beautifully illustrates the power of preparation in the sports realm. Be ready to be inspired, motivated, and moved to action.
Check out the video version of this episode below:
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0:00:07 – Mike Malatesta
Hello, welcome back to this Friday free thinking solo episode of the how to Happen podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today. If you’re new, I appreciate you being here and if you like what I’m doing, please like, follow or whatever to get this into your podcast feed. The time I release an episode, on Fridays, I do a short solo episode, like around 10 minutes or so, about something that I found that interests me and I’ve heard about or someone’s told me about and I think it’s going to interest you as well. And on Mondays I do a longer podcast with a guest and we talk about their success and we dig into and get to the roots of how it happened for them but, more than that, why it matters to you and maybe to the world. These are great conversations with awesome, very talented people and I just have a blast doing them and I think there’s a tremendous amount of value to you to listening to them and to impacting your life with what you learn from my guests. So, anyway, that’s on Mondays and, if you are a long time listener, thank you so much for being here and supporting me and this podcast and sharing my ideas and my guest’s ideas with your networks and your centers of influence and whomever else, maybe your colleagues and teammates. Anyway, today I am channeling one of my favorite authors. His name is Andy Kessler I have done this before on the solos and Andy is a venture capitalist, but maybe a former venture capitalist, now more of a columnist and an opinion writer, and this is from the May 15, 2023 Wall Street Journal article that he wrote in the opinion section, and it’s called 1% Inspiration, 99% Preparation, and this was something that he sort of made up as if it was a message to graduates, because May is the time that colleges typically graduate their classes, and so that’s the sort of background from a timing standpoint on this. But I found that the message that’s in here is particularly it particularly resonates with me, and I think a lot of you will also resonate with a lot of you, and I think it’s something that needs to be talked about more and reinforced more, and you’ll figure out why I think that as we go along.
So he starts, the expression genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration is often attributed to Thomas Edison, but apparently around 1890, a writer and academic named Kate Sanborn gave a lecture saying genius was a combination of inspiration and perspiration, and talent is perspiration. Even without Twitter, ideas floated around and permeated society. When Edison was later asked what genius was, he answered 2% is genius and 98% is hard work. And you’ve probably all heard that. When asked if genius was inspired, he blurted out bah, genius isn’t inspired, inspiration is perspiration. So he came up with Kate Sanborn’s quote there. And so Andy goes along and he says, let me update this for the 21st century, success is 1% inspiration and 99% preparation.
So he got rid of the perspiration and it’s kind of funny. He’s like well, you know, it is the 21st century, so we don’t really perspire as much anymore. But success is 1% inspiration and 99% preparation. Ideas are shooting around faster than ever, but most are worthless because no one does the hard work to implement them. Implementation requires hours and hours, not of sweat, but of preparation. You must do it all reading, researching, falling into one rabbit hole after another on the internet to find the right series of precedents and test cases and quotes to make your point, pitching your idea coherently and succinctly. So it doesn’t sound pie in the sky, but practical Preparation is everything. Forget football’s old timey three yards in a cloud of dust After a 2021 touchdown.
Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Cup shared his read of the defense and it went like this they had a little three deep fire zone, brought the nickel off the edge, safety dropped down. They didn’t look like they were doing a replacement fire zone. That level of understanding required preparation, memorization and practice. And news flash Steph Curry draining half court shots isn’t luck. And, by the way, fast forward, there’s a very cool show. I think it’s a cool show If you’re a football fan. It’s called Quarterback. It’s on Netflix and this year’s it’s seven or eight episodes. This year features Patrick Mahomes, marcus Mariota and Kirk Cousins and it basically takes you through their season both at home and on the field.
But one of the interesting things and I think you get a quick kick out of it after listening to that Cooper Cup thing is the way that particularly the Mahomes and the Chiefs call plays and the names of the plays and how long the plays are. It’s just, it’s kind of a. It’s funny and fascinating that they can actually make sense of all of that. So now back to the article. Watch the amazing 2021 video of the Perseverance Rover landing on the surface of Mars. The onboard camera shows the terrain After landing. I’m pretty sure one of the scientists claims hey, that’s my rock. In mission preparation, the entire landing area was digitized. The planners knew the placement of every rock and dip in terrain. We’ve come a long way from Neil Armstrong with a joystick no room for error. Prepare, simulate, fix and prepare again.
Churchill famously memorized his speeches and practiced giving them over and over in his bathtub and pacing his room while chomping on a cigar. Some of this was to overcome his stutter, but it was mainly to get the intonation and alliteration just right. Nothing was off the cuff. His speeches didn’t sound like they were read from a piece of paper. They felt like a stream of consciousness. In his finest hours he showed the value of preparation. And isn’t that amazing when someone can talk to you or speak to a large group and it seems like it’s coming just from a stream of consciousness, when in fact it’s the byproduct of many, many, many, many, many, many hours of going over it in your head, saying it out loud, preparing for it, changing this, that and the other until it just came out perfectly. That really makes sure. I mean, when you hear something like that, it really like gives you goosebumps. You know, you just kind of at least me. It’s awesome, it’s an awesome feeling. So back to Andy’s article.
Sadly, there is an all out war on merit and a push for equality of results. No matter how much work you put in, you’ve lived it. Deemphasize grades and aptitude tests, holistic admissions, identity hiring this is anti progress. Whenever I hear the overused expression woke, I think, w-o-k-e war on knowledge excellence. The opposite of merit is mediocrity, the default of the lazy. I believe that first part so much, I just wanna say it again. The opposite of merit is mediocrity. Don’t fall for it. Instead, stand out and prove your merit by working, by preparing. Yes, preparation is merit. They’re devalued in the pretend world of admissions and politics. In the doggy dog world of real life and careers and advancement and progress, preparation and merit are the currency of the realm.
Use all the tools at your disposal books, search, mobile screens and now artificial intelligence and large language models but aren’t those distracting? Sure, but you’ve been training your whole life for this Multitasking lectures, tiktok feast, standing tweets and playing video games, often simultaneously. Use it to your advantage. But you may ask, why put in any extra effort? Chatgpt can pass advanced placement tests, entry exams for law and medical school and even the bar exam, andy says that probably says more about how lame those tests are than about AI’s ability. But even though AI can answer almost any prompt you throw at it, it’s worth us in an elevator when your boss asks you what you think about new product ideas or sales prospects in Omaha and I love the way he just cut to the chase, to the real world there.
When you’re asked for something from people, they expect your opinion, and they expect your opinion to be based on preparation that you’ve done, and that’s where merit comes from. That’s how you earn the right to do more, to be more, to become more successful, to be more helpful, to be a better resource and all of those things. So there you have it 1% inspiration, 99% preparation. I thought that was a good lesson. I thought it was well written. If you want to follow Andy, you can. I think it’s Andy Kessler, k-e-s-s-l-e-r. I’m sure you can find his website easy enough and he is a great writer. He’s written several books as well, and check it out, and I hope you got some value from this today.
I do thank you for investing your time with me. I am very grateful that you do and I want to deliver, so I hope I delivered something today that inspires you, gets you back on the merit train, gets you realizing that mediocrity is not what we’re about, and I don’t think it gets us anywhere close to where any of us want to be, and it’s not something, by the way, that we accept in any other part of our life typically. So why would we expect that accept that from ourselves or from our colleagues? It doesn’t make any sense to me. So, anyway, thank you so much.
If you like the podcast, please follow or subscribe, and if you want to give me some feedback, leave me a review, send me an email. You can go to my website, mikemalatestacom to do that, and until next time, please maximize the greatness that’s inside of you. Thank you, own your future, make it your property, something that you are very psyched and very proud to own. Until next time. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this show and before you go, I just have three requests for you. One if you like what I’m doing, please consider subscribing or following the podcast on whatever podcast platform you prefer. If you’re really into it, leave me a review, write something nice about me, give me five stars or whatever you feel is most appropriate.
Number two I’ve got a book. It’s called Owner Shift. How Getting Selfish Got Me Unstuck. It’s an Amazon bestseller and I’d love for you to read it or listen to it on Audible or wherever else Barnes, noble, amazon you can get it everywhere. If you’re looking for inspiration that will help you unlock your greatness and potential, order or download it today so that you can have your very own copy and, if you get it, please let me know what you think. Number three my newsletter. I do a newsletter every Thursday and I talk about things that are interesting to me and or I give more information about the podcast and the podcast guests that I’ve had and the experiences that I’ve had with them. You can sign up for the podcast today at my website, which is my name mikemalatesta.com. You do that right now. Put in your email address and you’ll get the very next issue. The newsletter is short, thoughtful and designed to inspire, activate and maximize the greatness in you.