Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight” is an idiom which means:

  • To be unprepared for something.
  • To be insufficiently equipped to accomplish a goal.
  • To be unprepared for a confrontation of some kind.


Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were caught off guard and in way over your head?  Have you ever found yourself completely unprepared for a crisis or conflict of some kind?

What does it feel like to be caught unprepared with a knife in a gunfight?

  • Stressed
  • Afraid
  • Uncertain
  • Doubtful
  • Inadequate
  • Defensive

When in life does it pay to be prepared?

  • When facing a crisis (eg. You mean my job is ending?)
  • When making a decision (eg. What will I do with my life?)
  • When experiencing a major interruption (eg. motorcycle accident)
  • When locked in a disagreement (eg. With your spouse or child or boss)
  • When approaching the end of your life (eg. No one gets off this planet alive!)
  • When faced with transition (eg. I’m retired, now what?)

Preparedness has many angles and applies to all areas of our lives.  For some general ideas on preparedness go to an earlier post – How Prepared are you for a Storm?  

Here are five ways to be better prepared for a conflict or confrontation of some kind.

Five Ways to Prepare for a Gunfight

1.    Grow yourself regularly.

Spend time improving your people skills (listening, being a non-anxious presence, asking non-threatening questions) during peaceful times so when you find yourself in a conflict, you are better prepared to handle the pressure.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (Benjamin Franklin).

2.    Get tools and learn to use them.

Having the proper tools in your toolbox and knowing how to use them is critical to being well prepared for a conflict. One tool you can add is 10 steps for resolving conflict – general

The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining (John F. Kennedy).

3.    Gut check often.

Preparing for a crisis or a conflict means preparing yourself emotionally so you don`t explode or allow your emotions to control your response. Learn to gauge your emotional levels by doing a “gut check” on a regular basis.  Then, when the heat is on, you’re well practiced and able to stay calm and at peace during a disagreement.

By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail (Benjamin Franklin).

4.    Get with God before entering the arena.

You may or may not be a person of faith but if you are, spending time in prayer before you enter a conflict helps keep things in perspective. Prayer also serves to connect you with the source of unlimited wisdom and strength for the conversation ahead.  

What we do upon some great occasion will probably depend on what we already are; and what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline (H.P. Liddon).

5.    Greet each conflict with love and optimism.

Love for people helps you separate the problem from the person.  Optimism helps you keep a positive result in mind.  Love and optimism don’t guarantee a resolution.  But they help you approach your challenge with an attitude that increases your chances of success. 

As we see people, we treat them;
and as we treat them, often they become

On a scale of 1-10 (1 being totally unprepared & 10 being well prepared) what number do you give yourself?
What action would increase your preparedness by one number?

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About Cam Taylor

I'm help people live inspired, focused and tenacious lives. I work as a coach, facilitator, author, and speaker.
This entry was posted in Adversity, Attitude, choice, Conflict, Emotions, forgiveness, Growth, learning, Opportunity, Optimism, Preparation, self-awareness, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

  1. Shirlene Henning. says:

    It takes one incident, or a crisis, or an interruption in our comfort zone, to maybe increase the number to a 5 or 6, to be somewhat prepared. Good thoughts,again.

  2. I love this thread …. what a marvellous metaphor. Thanks again for your thought provoking comments.

  3. Pingback: Looking Back on 2012 |

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