Of all my years of experience, there is rarely a time when I've seen anyone win a battle or a fight without good planning and preparation ahead of time. There are plenty of Hollywood stories about heroes who just walk into a situation and win at anything they touch. It's fantasy. Even the biggest guys get thumped by opponents half their size because one side was ready for the fight and the other was arrogant and cocky. Everything we did in Special Operations had a plan behind it as well. The right equipment, the right training, the right people and the right skill sets for the job were picked every time where possible. Our planning was key to our success, and sloppiness is what got people hurt.
Whether you’re out for a hunt, a big sport game, or a tactical activity, you need to start first with educating yourself about everything available on what you will be doing. It's not enough to know how to do your skill or sport, you need to research and get any information available about your situation. If it's sports, you should be tracking down any info about your opponent. What's their performance like, who are the best players on their team, how is their endurance, and so on. If the event is tactical, then you need to know the region, topography, weather, people in the area, culture, history and general influences. All of these things can be easily found on the internet for most situations. If the event is work related, then you need to get your internal organization information and review it ahead of time. You need to know who the key players are, the resources available, and the unofficial limitations that may apply in general.
"...know the region, topography, weather, people in the area, culture, history and general influences."
Know your goals. People say they know what they are after but 50 percent of the time they weren't paying attention at a briefing or meeting and then they go after the wrong thing. Know your goals and your targets and what it will likely cost to get them. Be prepared to pay those inputs from the start. Don't do a half-arse job going in or you're going to feel it under pressure when performance counts the most. Have your targets reviewed so well you can spit them out verbatim on cue.
Use the right equipment and choose correctly the first time. Folks don't always have the benefit of having every tool they could possibly want, but there are plenty of ways to get the right equipment for the job and be properly prepared. Be efficient in your setup and take what is needed, not what is convenient. The last thing needed on an event is to be distracted by shoddy equipment that doesn't do what it's supposed to do.
Finally, maintain your endurance. You don't have to be the strongest, fastest, smartest person in the bunch. These types often end up being prima donnas that burn out fast in the clutch. Those that perform consistently from task to task have high endurance capacity, mental toughness and can weather long periods of pressure and challenges without weakening and without getting shaky. Endurance is an often undervalued skill but it makes a huge difference in health and safety during operations. Look at wild land firefighters. They aren't the biggest football players on the bus, but those guys hike up and down mountains all day long, cutting miles of fire line in hard, packed dirt with picks and shovels, and then hike back down to do it all over again the next day. That's endurance that keeps them going instead of curling up like a ball in muscle cramps and pain the next morning.
The keys to operational success are planning, knowing your goals and targets well, using the right equipment for the job, and maintaining your mental and physical toughness to last through challenges. Your brain is the most powerful tool you have, so use it. Get these factors down, and you will find almost all projects, contests, activities and tactical events are doable, no matter what sort of curve ball is thrown at you.