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The Secret Power of Preparation

When we become proficient at something—or even worse, a professional—proper preparation is usually the first thing to be neglected.

It was an intimate environment. Quiet. Reflective. The lights were low—a blue glow lit us from behind. The band and I were playing the last few chords of a song, so my mind was making the shift to what was coming next.

“Ahhh! What’s the progression of the intro to this next song?” I began thinking to myself. “Think. Think. Think.” At that point, I was thinking so hard that I couldn’t think of anything other than thinking. It was too dark to see the cheat sheet I had placed on the floor, and in a moment of desperation, I bent down to sneak a look.

My fears allayed, I stood and began playing the song.

At the time, it wasn’t a huge deal. It wasn’t a disruption. We went on, and the rest of the night was good.

That’s how I thought about it until I was on the other side, watching someone else do the same thing.

In that moment, when I saw it, I realized two things.

1. I do that.


2. That guy is so distracted by the logistics of the music that he is completely missing the most important part of this entire experience.

As a worship leader, my primary role is not showing up and playing songs. It’s recognizing what’s happening in a space, bringing it to light and helping people connect in the moment.

As long as I’m looking at sheet music, I know I’m not focusing on the proper thing.

I came to this conclusion in the midst of a completely nonmusical moment. Another role I have is conducting interviews for a leadership organization. I was recently asked, “How do know you’re prepared for an interview.”

My response: “I usually have a few questions written down on a note card for each interview, but if I have to look at them, I know I haven’t prepared well.”


Because preparing well is about absorbing the content so that I’m not making decisions from a conscious place of thinking.

Rather, I’ve become so well acquainted with the content that it is part of my construct for thinking.

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Cole NeSmith is the pastor of City Beautiful Church in Orlando, FL. He also creates interactive art and experiences through his creative collective, Uncover the Color (uncoverthecolor.com). He blogs at colenesmith.com and is on Twitter at @colenesmith