Message from the Morning Man: Prep

Did I ever tell you the story of my first day on the radio? It all happened because of a guy named Nana Otu Gyandoh (who is now at Pluzz FM). He was impressed by my ideas for a cosmopolitan breakfast show that combined entertainment and information with current affairs and social issues. He didn’t care that I had never even spoken into a microphone in my life. He was willing to give me a chance, based on my passion and my promise of something new and better than we had ever heard on any of the existing stations.

I was so grateful to him for the opportunity, and I did not want to let him down. That night I didn’t sleep. I planned the whole show from beginning to end, made a playlist, laid out all my CDs and cassettes in the order I was going to play them, wrote scripts for every segment that required me to talk, read old newspapers to get the background details for all the conversations I was going to have, researched my guests – who all happened to be student leaders (now this was in 1999. There was no social media, so I physically had to go to their halls of residence to interview their friends), and hold a mock show in my room, trying out my script to see how it would sound when I spoke the words out loud. I spent nine hours preparing for a three-hour show.

That first show broke the mould. People were blown away by the inventiveness, creativity, and professionalism that was so far above the standards to which audiences in Cape Coast had become accustomed. That created a new problem for me. After such a debut, I couldn’t lower the standard. I had to replicate that success every day. So from the next two years, until I graduated, I spent no less than nine hours each day, preparing for a three-hour show. This was how I stayed miles ahead of the competition until I graduated from University and left Radio Valco.

I didn’t know it then, but I had stumbled upon one of the fundamental secrets of success: preparation. Sarkodie spends hours writing the lyrics to his hit records that only play for about four to five minutes. Michael Jackson spent three months rehearsing for a concert that would last two hours. Muhammad Ali used to train four hours a day, six days a week, just for a 45-minute fight. Usain Bolt spends three hours in the gym every single day, except one, just so he can give a performance that lasts less than ten seconds.

You get what I’m saying, don’t you? In order to succeed and excel in anything, your preparation must be wildly and disproportionally greater than your performance. Why else would students spend three years preparing to write a paper that will be over in two hours?

My friend, this principle applies to everything you wish to do well. How many hours should it take you to prepare a ten-minute presentation? How many weeks’ driving practice do you need to pass a thirty-minute driving test? How many months of practice matches do the Black Stars have to play before they’re ready for a 90-minute competitive match? How many years of lessons will it take before a young child can play just one Christmas Carol on the piano?

Today, my routine is no different. Nine hours prep for each show. And I don’t only do this because I need to remain the best, but because you deserve the best. That’s what you tune in for every day, so if I want you to choose us tomorrow, I must give you the very best show you can find anywhere, today.

Today, Ghana is grappling with the Novel Coronavirus. Once again, due to our lack of preparedness, It’s proving to be far more novel to us than it was to other countries. Nigeria has an Emergency Response Team for disease outbreaks that has been around since the days of Polio. Periodically, this tea holds simulations and drills to keep respondents abreast and knowledgeable of their protocols. Because of its enhanced level of preparedness, the most populous country in Africa has only had two confirmed COVID-19 cases. Ghana already has six.

The better you want to be, the more work you need to do. Practice until you can do it in your sleep. Anyone can do what you do, but to be the best at it, you have to wake up earlier than everyone else, work harder than everyone else, and turn up more prepared than everyone else. No shortcuts, no compromise, and once you set the pace, you must replicate the effort for every single performance. Being ordinary is easy. Being great takes preparation.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and my formula is “Prepare, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare, Perform”.