Making a Difference Through Preparation

Author:  Alexander Patananan
Institution:  UCLA

I once heard the story of ten medical students that went forth to their biochemistry class. And five of them were wise and five were foolish. They that were foolish, took their cell phones and laptops, but failed to bring their pencils, erasers, and calculators. But, the wise always took their pencils, erasers, and calculators with them. While the class proceeded, they all listened attentively. And, during the middle of the class was a cry made, "Behold, the professor cometh with a surprise exam!" Then all of the students arose, and got ready their material. And the foolish said unto the wise, "Give us your pencils; for we have none of our own." But the wise answered, saying, "Not so! Lest there be not enough for us and you: but go rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves." And while they went to buy, the exam commenced and the professor shut the door. Afterward came also the foolish students saying, "Professor, open the door to us." But he answered and said unto them, "I know you not."

In the story we have ten students that were very much alike. They were all students in the same biochemistry class. They all had the same aspirations to get a good grade, and all of them listened attentively to the professor. But with all these similarities, one crucial distinction existed,preparation. It is often said that those who fail to prepare are preparing to fail. In this life, immense advantages exist for those who prepare, and an incredible disadvantage exists for those who do not prepare. Preparation is the difference between triumph and failure in countless ways. Would you want to be driven by a bus driver who is prepared to drive a large vehicle or one that is not? Would you trust your life with a pilot who is prepared to fly an airplane or one that is not? Each day, we are all presented with a unique set of opportunities, with preparation being the difference maker between success and failure. Please allow me to take a few minutes of your time to discuss four key points about preparation.

First, preparation is frequently the difference between wisdom and folly. On the morning of June 15, 1904, 1,400 souls boarded one of the most extravagant paddle boats of its time, the General Slocum, in New York Harbor. It was a picture perfect day, with deep blue skies, crystal clear water, and endless smiles. As Captain William van Schaick steered the ship into the East River, the passengers crowded onto the deck to enthusiastically wave to their family and friends before starting on the dream trip. It was a good day. At 9 o'clock, a deckhand heading to the galley noticed a very small fire on the floor of the ship's storeroom. He quickly threw some charcoal over the fire, and went to alert his friend. However, by the time his friend arrived at the scene, a fierce fire had emerged. As the alarms pierced the tranquil air, it quickly became apparent to everyone that the ship was on fire and in deep trouble. Twenty minutes after leaving New York Harbor, bursts of crimson red flames licked through the ship's deck. As he frantically attempted to steer his ship to dry land, Captain van Schaick watched in horror as his passengers realized that all of the cork life preservers were so old that they had turned into nothing but mere dust, and that all of the lifeboats sank as soon as they were placed in water. Deckhands, who had never prepared for fires, soon discovered that the water hoses were so old and frail that they simply disintegrated in their hands. As the deck collapsed, the screams of hundreds of people soon gave way to the roar of intense heat. Forty-five minutes after leaving New York Harbor, Captain van Schaick beached his vessel. However, out of the 1,400 passengers, less than 500 survived. Other than September 11, 2001, this was the deadliest incident in New York history. For the Captain, preparation was an incredible difference maker between wisdom and folly. Friend, it has often been said that what we postpone today is usually what we abandon. This is not only true in this story, but also in our own lives. When we prepare, we are improving our chances of getting better grades on exams, producing great scientific publications, and having successful friendships. When we use each day to prepare for our tasks at hand, our futures will be filled more with wisdom, rather than folly. Are you prepared? Second, our actual preparedness is exposed in times of calamity. As previously mentioned, the students in the story were alike in so many ways. Although everything seemed to be the same, a crisis (the surprise exam) was all that was needed for inward distinctions to be exposed on the outside. It has often been said that we are all like teabags,when it gets hot around us, what was once on the inside now comes out. My friend, the world today makes it appear that we are all the same. We all get up in the morning and go to school or work. We all take tests and turn in homework. After school or work, we all head home and go to sleep, ready to begin the cycle again. But let me share with you one thing,we are not all the same. As you are reading this realize that there are two types of people: those who are prepared and those who are not. When crisis comes, who you are is going to be exposed. At that point in time, will you be wise or foolish? Are you prepared?Third, many important traits of life cannot be borrowed. In the story, 10 students sat in the

exam room. They were probably all excellent students. But, because of neglect and failure to prepare, the foolish students suffered greatly. In life, you can easily borrow my money or my car. You can easily borrow my food or my textbook. You can easily borrow my chemical reagents or my desk. But in life, you can never borrow my character, knowledge, or preparation. Character and knowledge are traits that require time and a personal dedication to form. Consequentially, what you decide to do with this day will shape your future tomorrow. Benjamin Franklin once stated, "one today is worth two tomorrow." What we are doing with our lives today is what we will become tomorrow. If you want to make the correct choices tomorrow, then make them today. If you want to get an A+ in that class, then make preparations for the class today. As described, none of us can borrow another person's preparation. Are you prepared?

Finally, some lost opportunities in life cannot be regained. I am writing this article on June 17, 2009. June 17, 2009 is a great day. But, once June 17, 2009 closes, no matter how hard I try it will never come back again. In the story, the door was shut on the foolish students. Let me ask many times will you be a 19, 20, 21, or 22 year old? Just once. How many times will you have the summer of 2009 to expand your knowledge and grow in character? Just once. How many times will you have this period in your life to simply develop new knowledge and prepare for a professional career? Just once. Most things in life are available just once. Let me illustrate this point as follows. Spring is a time for college graduations. Many times it is associated with a lot of crying because of the closing in a chapter of life. But let me ask you something,why not do some smiling? Did you not do as well on that class as you would have liked even though you tried your best? Did you not get the grade on the final exam that you wanted? Don't go around depressed, but smile. Friend, one day our greatest regrets will not come from what we have done, but from what we have not done. Don't cry because it's over, but smile because it happened. Take advantage of the experience and of this day to make a difference in the future.

This morning I woke up at 4:50. I looked out my window and the rays of the sun were just piercing the dark horizon. When I woke up at 4:50 this morning, my door for June 17, 2009 was wide open, with boundless opportunities before me. "I get to write an editorial today! I get to do some experiments and teach others about science today! I get to prepare for my teaching assignment today! I get to talk to friends today! I get to do something great with my life today!" At 4:50 in the morning, the door was wide open. Right now, as I finish this editorial, it's about 1 PM in the afternoon. The door that was once fully open in the morning is now half way closed. At 10 PM this evening, the door on June 17, 2009 will close, and this day will forever be lost to eternity with no chance of coming back again. Here's my question to you: what did you do with June 17, 2009? What are you doing with today? Are you procrastinating and postponing tasks today, or are you getting something valuable from it? This evening will come, and the door on this day will shut. For some people, only the door on today will shut without accomplishing very much. For others, the door will shut on a couple days, a month, or a year without making any positive differences in their life. And for some, their entire lives will go by wasted with the door slowly and unnoticeably closing, never to reopen again. You can't stop the door from shutting. As you finish this article, you have a choice to make. There is still some of this day remaining. Some may say "I'll make that decision tomorrow when I am fully rested." or "That can always wait.." Boom, door shuts. "I meant to study for that exam today but I got off track...I'll do it tomorrow!!" Boom, door shuts. "I meant to do that homework today, but I needed some time off!" Boom, door shuts. "I meant to revise that publication today, but I can always do it tomorrow.." Boom, door shuts. "I meant to ask that question in discussion today, but got too nervous to ask it!! I can always ask someone else in the future!" Boom, door shuts. There will come a day when you won't have another chance of going through an open door, and all the doors of life will be shut. Friend, use this day. Don't waste time on frivolous tasks! This is the day that the Lord hath made. Rejoice, be glad, and make a difference with each and every second of this day. No reserves, no regrets!

This editorial was inspired and based on a presentation by Dr. Troy Dorrell. The views presented in this piece are strictly those of the Editor-in-Chief and may not be representative with those of JYI. If you have any questions concerning the topic of preparation, please feel free to contact me at