Op Ed: Able, Willing, and Ready

By Lindy Earl

Do you remember the phrase, Ready, Willing, and Able?  I recently heard it and it took me back several years.  It seems like it’s not a commonly used phrase anymore. It’s still a good phrase, but it occurs to me that it’s in the wrong order.

So often we’re ready—let’s go!  We’re willing—why not?  And, sometimes, able just means we have two arms and two legs that work.  So, why are we waiting?

Shouldn’t it be able, willing, and then ready?  I’m thinking about entrepreneurs, or those starting a new venture, whether professional or personal.  If you enjoy being behind the scenes and being hands-on, and have a high beta-factor, then you might be one who has been willing and ready, therefore jumped, before you were really able.  It may have worked out well for you, or you may have crashed and burned.  Let’s take time to consider being able, willing, and then ready.

Before we begin, please consider some time in your life when you jumped before you should have.  It may have been personal, as in a marriage; or having a baby before your maturity was where it belonged.  It may have been professional, taking a job or promotion you really weren’t ready to handle.

I remember one incident from several years ago. I was asked and encouraged to take over teaching the 4 year old Sunday School class at Church.  My eldest at the time was 4, so this seemed to make sense to everyone, including me.  I’ve since learned, however, that it may make more sense to keep mothers of pre-schoolers away from pre-school classes when volunteering.  Moms with young children all day, every day, may need a respite during Church.

In my case, while I was happy teaching that class, I really wasn’t the one to do it.  In fact, I was ready, willing, and able.  That doesn’t mean I was the best choice.  When a friend learned I had taken over the class, she was sad, because that was a volunteer job she wanted, almost coveted. She had compiled a huge curriculum for this age group, because having teenagers at the time, she missed children of this age.  She was able, willing, and ready, so  I happily gave the class over to her, and she may still be teaching it, a decade or more later.  She loved it, and the children loved her.

So I propose that the first word in our adage should be ABLE.  Of what are you, today, capable?  Are you a singer, a writer, a worker?  What natural talents and abilities do you bring to the table? That’s where you’re most able.

What education and experience do you bring?  Here’s a question—how many people, a decade after College, are in the industry for which they were educated?  If you still are, and are happy, that’s great.  Use that education to your advantage.  But if you’re still doing what you were trained to do, and don’t like it, concentrate on your abilities and experiences, not your education.

Don’t limit your experience to work, either.  While you have been working since you graduated, you’ve also done other things.  Backpacking with your family or friends can show great organizational and leadership skills.  Volunteering can teach you a plethora of skills you may have never needed in your last position, but you still possess.  Concentrate on what you enjoy, because that’s where you’ll be most able.

So what’s next?  I think willing should be our next step.  Just because someone is capable of doing something doesn’t mean they are willing to do it, especially for the wages some jobs bring.  Here’s a thought:  if there’s a job you’re willing to perform for free, it may be where you’re most willing to be paid to work.  Sadly, the job may not be available, but you still need to look.

For instance, not being capable of carrying a note, I do recognize that others sing and actually enjoy it.  Not everyone shrinks inside when asked to stand as a group and sing (yuck).  So, if you’re a singer, and would happily sing for free, you’re probably willing to sing at work.  So, where can you go, what can you do, where your musical abilities can be put to work?  Don’t limit yourself, but really think about what you enjoy doing, because then you’ll be willing, and you may never actually work another day in your life, to borrow a thought from Benjamin Franklin.

However, willingness can be dependent on many things.  Just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you’re the only one able to step up.  Be aware that you’ll still need a plan to put yourself in your new industry, because other people, with as much or more experience, are probably already there.  Don’t allow that to deter you, but do be aware of it.

Another challenge is that some people are able, and willing, but aren’t asked, and are uncomfortable stepping up when they see others who are always in the lead.  So when you are willing, take that step forward, put your hand in the air, cough loudly and get someone’s attention, and say that you’re willing to help.

That leads us to ready.  Are you ready?  You may think so, but the world may not be ready for you.  If, like me, you have been ready to volunteer to lead the charge, but others got there first, it may be because you really weren’t ready yet.

I love my job.  I love writing, speaking, and teaching.  I enjoy being in front of a group.  I truly believed I was ready to begin my company a decade before I really launched it. I even tried. I collected what I needed, created brochures, and sent them out.  No response.  While I felt I was ready, I wasn’t.

Then one day, I was speaking to a business woman and sharing my background, and the next thing I knew, I was being hired.  Just like that.  I was suddenly being paid for things I’d known for years, but now somebody was willing, even asking, to pay me for my thoughts and time.  I knew I was able, and I was definitely willing, and when the opportunity presented itself to me, I was ready.  I still had some reality checks, but at least I was on my way.

One reality check should be whether your family, time, and financial responsibilities allow you to do something for which you’re able and willing.  To return to our singing example, if you’re able and willing, but know you won’t bring in sufficient income to be fiscally responsible, you better wait.  Or if what you want to do is going to take so much time that you won’t be able to fulfill other obligations, you’re not as ready as you’d like to think.  Good things are worth waiting for, so even if you’re able and willing, it’s better to wait to be ready.

We shouldn’t even want to jump into any type of job, career, entrepreneurship, relationship, or even volunteer opportunity until we know we’re able, willing, and ready, in that order.   Whether you’re in transition or just ready for a change, stop and consider of what you’re capable.  Capable doesn’t just mean able, it means work at which you’re beyond competent and you enjoy.  Willing means you enjoy the job so much that you’d be willing to perform the task for free.  If you’ve volunteered anywhere for a while, you’ll understand what I mean.  I’ve known many people who quit full time jobs to accept paid positions where they once volunteered.  And ready means you’re set up in such a way to be able to make the change without risk to your family or finances.

The same applies to our personal lives as well.   Turn Ready, Willing, and Able into Able, Willing, and Ready when choosing each direction of your life.

Lindy is a Speaker, Columnist, Author, and Consultant.

* Contact her at LMEarl@EarlMarketing.com about business consulting or speaking at your next event.

* Purchase any of her books, including her latest book, Surviving Holidays and Events After Divorce at http://www.lindyspeaks.com/Products.html for $8.00 (half off Amazon’s price).