Success Evolves

Johnny Carson once observed that Preparation H was American Home Product’s first formulation that worked.  It followed Preparation A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.

Your life plan will work like that too.

Of the people who plan at all, most are pretty good at building Plan A.  Some, after careful questioning, might admit that conditions might be adverse and that it could fail.  Only some of those few have a Plan B.  Almost none have Plan C.

Planning provides uneven results.  It works best when there are over-arching principles, a reasonable time frame and a way to measure progress. Measuring progress requires attention to the varying external real world and to the nature of the people who are participating in the plan.  The biggest mistake is to try to make Plan A work when circumstances have changed.

Without the guideposts and attention to the people and their environment, there is no easy or obvious way to know when things have begun to go astray.  Notice results and notice the context.

Fixing a failing plan is a bit like treating cancer.  Early diagnosis is a crucial element in successful treatment.

I have talked to only a single person in my career who, as a senior citizen, has said that their life turned out exactly as they had expected in the beginning.  I have assumed they are delusional.  I suppose, alternatively, that their idea of how it would turn out is confined to a single variable.  Maybe money.  Maybe children.  Who knows?

The philosophical side of me says that we adapt rather than complete the plan.  Adaptation may be better because it keeps us current with our surroundings.  Maybe life is fore ordained, but more likely it evolves and we learn as we go.

Douglas Adams, most famous as author of “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” commented in another of his books, “The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul”

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

Planning is a bit like that too.  Later iterations of the plan will be more nuanced.  They will have been conditioned by experience, knowledge and meaning.

Plan A has Adams’ intent part, but it is very weak at the “where I need to be” part.  Later plans have both.

Plans are a living thing, they need to be nurtured, watered, weeded and fertilized.  Most of all they need to be shared with the others who are involved.

A shared plan has an automatic bias to success, because the ends are developed in more ways, insight is greater, the variances are seen sooner and the evolution is quicker.

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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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