Each day our lives completely consume all of our senses. On the day we’re born, it’s all we can do that day to simply show up. On the day we are married, it’s as if the entirety of our lives led up to that event.
But this is also true of ordinary days, too. On an ordinary Thursday morning, right before an interminable staff meeting to discuss regional inventory, it’s as if the entirety of your life occupies the space beneath bad fluorescent lighting along with everyone in the space with you. When you’re pumping gas at your local stop, it’s as if the moment grabbing the grimy handle is the entirety of events in the whole world. You grab the handle, think about how you’re going to avoid getting grease on your slacks, and fill the tank. Even when we’ve forgotten about getting gas two minutes after pulling away from the pump, the act of doing it is our entire world during the moment it’s happening. No matter what racing, churning, distracted thoughts we may have about much more important things, our senses tell us where we are.
Intellectually, of course, we understand that no event comes without being connected to those that come before. A legendary, hairy-eared philosopher famously remarked that the future is always in motion, but the past is about tangibility and sensation, tears and celebrations, kisses and calamities. How we think about what’s yet to come shapes how well we do when that moment arrives. The more we rehearse our actions and our emotions—even if only in the private spaces of our minds—the more prepared we’ll inevitably be to navigate events as they unfold into the present.
People who don't spend their days in creative enterprise sometimes marvel at those who do. To the majority who do not, musicians and dancers and photographers appear to just act, just create, just make stuff emerge into the universe as if it were some sort of intangible solidification of pure ether. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody shows up on the movie set and simply yells "action". No choreographer simply shows up in an empty room and walks out hours later with a complete dance. For all creative people, including those who do not typically find themselves in traditional artistic pursuits, preparation is the great thumb on the positive side of the outcome scale. It’s only through focused, intentional preparation that we devise strategies to outwit our moment-by-moment sensory inputs. And outwit them we must! Our senses are the great motivators of life. They are the engines of our dreams, the stimulators of our ideas. But given authority over our decisions, especially complex decisions, our senses are the great bamboozlers of our time. Preparation is all about learning how to listen to our senses to figure out what we want to do, and then asking them to step aside for a while so that we can think clearly. Preparation is the difference between practice and improvisation. Preparation is the invisible shield held by pros. Want to make something look inevitable, look easy? Prepare, my friend, prepare.