Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail

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As a general rule, I don’t like to write advice pieces because who am I and what have I done to warrant offering advice to others, but here’s something I want to share because it’s important:

If you are going to attempt to pass yourself off as a professional in a given field, you need to learn the ropes of your field before you feign a stance as an expert. We all go through growing pains as we find our footing in our careers, and we all make mistakes from time to time. However, if you are going to request to share your knowledge of a specific subject at a professional gathering, proceed to demonstrate zero knowledge of that specific subject, and then get called out publicly for not knowing what you are talking about, instead of acting pompous and superior, go back and do a little research into your profession. Furthermore, once you have revealed how little you know, just stop talking. Don’t proceed to paint yourself as an arrogant buffoon by attempting to explain your ignorance away. It’s better to save face by showing a modicum of humility than to keep saying ignorant things.

We live in a highly competitive country. Moreover, in this age, creative endeavors are some of the most difficult fields in which to establish one’s self. Fans who attend conventions tend to take things seriously and have high expectations for creative folks. Mediocrity will not last for long on the steep climb, and ignorant pomposity will be met harshly by fandom. It’s not a sin not to know something on the periphery of your specialty, but it is a sin to volunteer to share your knowledge specifically about that periphery and then show up empty-handed. In the information age, it is unpardonable to show up to a professional presentation and not even know the basic definitions of the topics you asked to discuss. If you are going to climb into the arena, you had best train for the fight ahead of time. If not, don’t be surprised by the ass-kicking you receive.

To all of my friends, readers, fellow writers, and former students, please know that I share these words of warning out of love because I want you to be successful in your endeavors. I’m not going to share details or name names, so please don’t ask, but the person who committed this particular blunder last weekend should be glad that it happened at a first year show with only a handful of audience members at the panel, and not at Dragon*Con with a packed room. The latter could be career suicide. The former will pass by mostly unnoticed, but it serves as a teachable moment. When you choose to represent yourself as a professional in any field and are in a public venue, please for the love of all that’s decent in this world, show up prepared.

One thought on “Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail”

  1. I had an “I didn’t do my homework” moment. I was late to one panel (Maslow got me!) and naturally, it was the one I was moderating..and didn’t know it. However, I’m enough of a panel vet that I could bounce right in and say “All right then, let us do this thing.”

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