What we hope ever to do with ease,
we must learn first to do with diligence.
– Samuel Johnson
It’s hard to be consistent and earnest when we want to improve ourselves. We are tempted to cram for exams and presentations. A fake it ‘til you make it philosophy is just that, fake. Do you hope that getting it done doesn’t require you to prepare? Diligence is a habit. It is what transforms a disaster into a master. Diligence separates work from worry, concentration from contemplation and acting from action.
Amateur speakers try to fake out their audience by pretending to be prepared for their presentation. Diligence is about excellent preparation, not perfection. You can’t know everything, but you can be prepared for anything. A diligent presenter thinks about every situation they may encounter and plans how to respond. They go way beyond worrying about which questions they might be asked and make a list of questions they are terrified to get. Then, they go about finding and practicing their response. They consider disruptions, and plan for them. What are you going to do when someone in your audience has a medical emergency? What will you do if the fire alarm goes off? What will you do when your PowerPoint fails? Presenters who think this won’t or can’t happen aren’t ready to take action when the inevitable happens.
Thinking about some things is very different from thinking things through diligently. How thoroughly do you know your topic? Imagining your audience before your presentation will cause you to feel something. You may feel fear, excitement or even fascination depending on whether your worry about what will work or work on what worries you.
Worry feels like concentration but it is really negative contemplation. You are thinking about what could go wrong. Do this diligently enough and you will act out what you are worry about. Working on your presentation reveals the problems, so you can work out the solutions. Worry finds the problems, and then amplifies them. Most of us image that we will fail at something, before we even try. Yet, most of us succeed to some to degree, every time we make an attempt. Working prepares you to taking chances. Worry limits your chances.
When your actions come from concentrated work, what you have done is due to diligence. Diligence accepts that you must do something often before your can do it well. Dilettantes amuse themselves and hope their listener will be amused as well. Diligence takes what you find interesting, amusing and important and refines it into something worth sharing. Earnest and consistent efforts are the cornerstones of diligence which transform your efforts into excellence.