Life doesn’t always go according to plan. And plans don’t always go according to plan either.
I’ve read variations of this line attributed to everyone from Winston Churchill and Benjamin Franklin to Jillian Michaels and Alan Lakein: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” And it’s true. You should absolutely have a plan in place, no matter what it is you’re trying to achieve, because otherwise you’re just going in blind and flying by the seat of your pants. But you also have to understand that a plan on its own is not going to be enough.
My good friend Anthony C. Taylor of SME Strategy recently published a new book geared towards leaders and managers of small to medium-sized businesses and organizations. It’s called Alignment: How to get your people, culture and strategy on the same page and the core objective is not only to have a clear vision in mind for the company, but to ensure that all the stakeholders buy into and agree with this vision.
If you want a plan to work, you need to make sure that all the moving pieces are in alignment.
But here’s the thing. Even if you have a great plan in place, life doesn’t always work out that way. You might be doing exceptionally well in school and you think you’re headed down an incredible career path, but then you get pregnant and your whole world goes into an unexpected tail spin. It’s not that parenthood is bad; it’s that it wasn’t what you had planned.
I thought I was going to move out and buy my own humble one-bedroom condo within six months of graduating from university. That didn’t happen at all. When my wife has a day off from work, I think it’s my chance to be super productive but things don’t always go as planned and we end up cruising the aisles of Costco instead. It’s not that spending time with my family is bad; it’s just not what I thought I had planned.
“We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details,” Amazon’s Jeff Bezos once said. “If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.”
You should keep making plans. You should continue to develop a good idea of where you want to go and how you intend to get there. This will give your life a sense of purpose and direction. At the same time, you need to be flexible and build contingencies into your plan so you are better able to deal with the situation when life doesn’t go according to plan.
Fortune favors the bold, they say, and you’re more likely to have luck on your side when you are suitably prepared for its arrival. And when it doesn’t, you’ll have a plan in place to deal with it.
Alignment by Anthony C. Taylor is available now on Gumroad for $27.